Turning the Page

Empowering your Mental Health - Faith: Hope: Love with Barry Pearman

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Sunday Sep 03, 2023

I want to know, and because I want to know I will ask empowering questions. Ones that open up the treasure chest of the heart and mind.
It felt more like an interrogation than an invitation.
Questions poured out. Demanding, angry, harsh questions that sent me into a state of frigid shock.
I had no answers. This was the neighbourhood bully. This was the cat having perverse pleasure with a cornered mouse. This would not end well.
You would think a simple conversation wouldn’t be traumatic, but questions amplified with verbal and non-verbal tones can decimate a soul.
But questions framed in gentleness, love, and respect can also be one of the most healing gifts we can offer.
I call these gifts ’empowering questions.’
A brief history of empowerment
I came across the term ‘Empowerment’ back in the 1990s when I started working in the field of Mental Health care.
Large institutions that housed people with Mental Illnesses were closing down. 
People who once lived in isolated separation from communities were now living in houses next to your own. 
It had a big, long fancy word – deinstitutionalization. 
Deinstitutionalization – in sociology, movement that advocates the transfer of mentally disabled people from public or private institutions, such as psychiatric hospitals, back to their families or into community-based homes. Britannica
Coming from an environment where much of ones personal powers had been taken away, this was a time where people had freedom to choose. 
A new buzz word appeared in the conversations of everyone in Mental Health care. 
Empowerment meant to equip, encourage, and foster personal choice. 
I remember supporting a young man in his early twenties. He had been living in an institution for probably five years and his aging mother had managed his money all his life, giving him some pocket money each week. 
I asked him if he would like to manage his own money and he said he would. So he and I began the slow empowering process of opening a bank account. A completely foreign idea to him. We also talked about budgeting. 
We talked about this with his mother, and she was furious. She believed he was totally incapable of managing money. She withdrew him out of our support. I can’t tell you the rest of the story because I simply don’t know. 
Empowerment for me became the undergirding word for everything I do. Still does. 
Where are you walking?
French writer Albert Camus puts it well.
Don’t walk in front of me… I may not followDon’t walk behind me… I may not leadWalk beside me… just be my friendAlbert Camus 
I would suggest to Albert that to empower someone is to even be a fraction behind the other so that they feel they are making the advances.
Being in front means they are simply followers, walking in your wake.
Being behind them, they may feel isolated, alone, vulnerable.
But walking beside and slightly behind is an invitation to trust and to step forward.
Feet slightly behind.
I think this empowering pose is captured in the post crucifixion story of Jesus’ walk to Emmaus
Now that same day, two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.
They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. Luke 24:13-16
Jesus joined them on the journey. He walked along with them.
There is an invitation for us to be empowered by the risen Christ.
Jesus asks empowering questions 
It has been reckoned that in the stories we have recorded of Jesus’ life, we find him asking over 300 questions. We also have his beautiful parables that contain within them questions created to empower us into a multitude of new thinking paths. 
One of the Jesus stories that shouts ’empowerment’ to me is that of  Bartimaues.
They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 
Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ 
Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’ 
So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 
Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ 
Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. Mark 10:46-52
It should have been obvious that he would want his sight to be restored, but no, Jesus still asked an empowering question. He put the power back into the hands of Bartimaeus.
How to ask empowering questions
Look above, look below, look behind and look in front.
I think of a large iceberg floating in the ocean.
Look above the waterline refers to what is being presented right here and now. It’s obvious, you know it they know it, it’s easily seen. Bartimaues is blind and a beggar. 
The look below is the below the surface level observation. What’s going on under what is being presented. What is supporting the obvious ‘above the surface’ level? Bartimaues is alone, poor, crying out for mercy. Deep pain.
The look behind is a question of where has this iceberg been? What has shaped this person? What’s the story? What was Bartimaues journey to this place of need?
The look in front is where is this iceberg going. Where could it go? What is a compelling vision for this person? Where is Bartimaues going within the current he lives in?
Jesus asks ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
Empowering questions open up the exploration. 
Empowering questions give the other power to be honest, vulnerable and even wrong in the face of love and possible rejection. 
I believe that we all want to be known, explored, discovered, and touched. There is something deep within needs presence more than the problem solving.
I want first things first.
I wonder if Bartimaues wanted his sight to be restored so that his life would be better or that he would be able to see Jesus.
Now that’s a big question! He got both.
Augustine and C. S. Lewis
Two quotes for you to consider.
“Suppose God proposed to you a deal and said, ‘I will give you anything you want. You can possess the whole world. Nothing will be impossible for you … Nothing will be a sin, nothing forbidden. You will never die, never have pain, never have anything you do not want and always have anything you do want–except for just one thing: you will never see my face.’Augustine closed with a question: “Did a chill rise in your hearts, when you heard the words, “you will never see my face?” That chill is the most precious thing in you; that is the pure love of God.”
Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things. C. S. Lewis
Deep empowering questions discern, with a gentle curiosity, what is first and what is second.
What is it you most want? Restoration of sight? A better life now? To be in control when all seems to be mystery and fog?
I like to ask empowering questions because they reveal the Emmaus walk that I am part of with others.
So, what’s it like being you?
I’m curious? 🙂 barry@turningthepage.co.nz 
Quotes to consider
 The quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of the questions you are asking yourself. Anthony Robbins
Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. D.T. Niles
When we become quiet enough to let go of people, we learn compassion for them. We can be with people in their hurt and need. We can speak a word out of our inner silence that will set them free. Richard Foster Simplicity 
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
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. Peter Drucker
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. Isador Rabi.
Questions to answer
How does it feel when someone asks you deep, empowering questions?
What would it take for you to learn to ask empowering questions?
What is it you most need right here and right now?
Further reading
Barry Pearman
Photo by Lauren Richmond on Unsplash
Read this further here FOLLOW ME!Email me: barry@turningthepage.co.nzWebsite: https://turningthepage.co.nz/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/turningthepage1atatimeTwitter: https://twitter.com/barrypearmanInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/barry_pearman/Podcast https://turningthepage.co.nz/podcast-listen-mental-health/Support Turning the Page with a Donation https://turningthepage.co.nz/give/

The Plans God Has For You

Friday Sep 01, 2023

Friday Sep 01, 2023

Midst the struggle you wonder about the plans God has for you. I thought it was all about prosperity, but this is far from that. 
Some things don’t make sense.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. I didn’t see this as my future. How did I get here?
Questions and ponderings flow through the brain, and we wonder if God is there at all.
People say things that feel like grains of sand being rubbed into an open wound. 
You need more faith
Pray more
Give more
God intends for you to prosper
Try harder
You’ve got sin in your life
You need to forgive
God has plans for you
You wonder about the end product. Where is all this going?  
Can anything good come out of this mess I am in? 
You try to work it all out, but it’s all a bit of a puzzle. A jig-saw puzzle.
Jig-Saw puzzle 
I think when I’m 94, if I make it to that age, I might be able to see how a few pieces have fitted together and something Godly good has emerged. 
At this moment, I still wonder how. It’s a mystery. 
I think it’s a bit like being given a 10000 piece jigsaw puzzle without the accompanying picture of what the puzzle will look like. Mountain scene, tropical birds, an old house. You have no idea. 
To complicate it even further, there are no straight edged pieces. This puzzle could seemingly go on forever. No easy parts for you to make a quick start with nice neat borders. 
So you make a start and find a few pieces that connect. This one fits in here and maybe this one will go here.
You notice that a lot of the pieces look the same. In fact, it looks like this complete puzzle has only slight shade differences to it. There is a lot of sky!
I thought this life was meant to be easy. No complications. Straightforward and simple, yet it’s more like a vast blue sky puzzle.
Did you ever think that mystery was in the plans God has for you?
Held in someone’s thoughts
I often receive requests for prayer. (email me at barry@turningthepage.co.nz if you want)
There is pain, loss, and desperation.
First, I believe, they want God to act in certain ways. But I also think there is a deep, probably unconscious, need to feel that someone else knows the struggle. 
That they are being held in someone’s thoughts.  
They want to be held, known and loved by at least one other person. Being alone and completely abandoned is the worst of crimes we can do to each other. 
I hold people in my thoughts during the day. Prayers form around Spirit nudges for this person and that person.
Their puzzle is jig-saw messy, like mine.
Then someone quotes Jeremiah 29:11, and especially the translation that has the word ‘prosper’. 
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
At this point, I understand why Jesus got angry and picked up a whip. 
Bitterly cold comfort to someone dying from cancer, or having had their house burn to ashes. 
We hear the word ‘plan’ and we think blueprint, map, already laid out for us.
We hear the word ‘prosper’ and we go to what the world considers as prosperity – the good life of health, wealth, beautiful people, and anything advertised to us as what will bring us personal fulfillment.
Yet here we are, like Job, sitting in an ash heap picking at our sores.
Quite frankly, I wish some people would just shut up and keep their band-aid clap trap verses for their own happy face mask wearing friends. 
In the original Hebrew, this verse would most likely be read in this way.
For I know the thoughts that I think towards you says Yahweh thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you a future and a hope Jeremiah 29:11
Thoughts that God thinks towards us.
Thoughts of peace, a future, a hope.
Reality hits that we are not there yet.
We, like the people of Israel that this verse was originally intended for, are in exile from the home always intended for us.
There are some words, that we may know from hearing them so often because people have said them to us as little mantras.
Forsaken, I believe, could be one of those words.
He will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
Forsaken means to be remote, absent, depart from. 
In God’s thoughts, you always held, loved, known, even though you may feel in exile and in a strange land.
God is on the move with thoughts and intentions to bring you to jig-saw puzzle completion with no pieces missing or in the wrong place.
Jig-saw pieces move and clip together. Sometimes awkwardly, sometimes with ease. We look at our life and see how God’s thoughts have been shaping the puzzle.
Amid the pain of the present day, we know we are held, loved and known.  
Perhaps you have to change your thinking about the plans God has for you.
Quotes to consider
The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. Rob Bell 
When you stand before Me [God] in mystery, you will eventually rest within Me in trust. When you can’t figure Me out, you will give up the illusion of predictability and control and discover the joy of freedom and hope. Larry Crabb 66 Love letters – Job
Control eventually gives way to mystery and the letting go of control. Suddenly, we are not in charge. Rohr, Richard . The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Chaos, Reorder
Real silence, real stillness, really holding one’s tongue comes only as the sober consequence of spiritual stillness. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Questions to answer
When you hear the words ‘I have thoughts towards you’ what is your first reaction? Why that reaction?
A jig-saw puzzle unfolds itself as the pieces come together. Have you seen this happen in your life?
What does prosperity look like to you? How is it portyaed to you through modern media? What do you think Gods view of being propserous looks like?
Further reading
Barry PearmanPhoto by Jonny Gios on Unsplash
Read this further here FOLLOW ME!Email me: barry@turningthepage.co.nzWebsite: https://turningthepage.co.nz/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/turningthepage1atatimeTwitter: https://twitter.com/barrypearmanInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/barry_pearman/Podcast https://turningthepage.co.nz/podcast-listen-mental-health/Support Turning the Page with a Donation https://turningthepage.co.nz/give/

Tuesday Aug 29, 2023

When no one understands you, it can create a deep sense of loneliness. Perhaps there are reasons for the lack of being known. Forgive them anyway.
They were carrying something precious. Their inner world. Thoughts, feelings, motivations, desires, pains, and joys. Everything that goes on within their life and sometimes it’s heavy, very heavy. Too heavy for one dusty human to carry.
They needed a soul carrier. Someone who they could download the struggle to, safely. But the strongest memory of when they had done this was that their vulnerability had been thrown to the pigs.
It’s like you have found the most beautiful pearl in the world and you sell everything to buy it. You carry it with you and only show it to those you think will value it like you do. But instead they look at it, dismiss it as garbage, and then throw it to the pigs who grind it to sand.
Who is safe? Who will listen? Who cares about the beauty of the pearl within? Who is safe for in-to-me-see?
I want that. We all want that.
I want them to understand the hurt they have done. There is anger growing inside of me because of their actions, but I know that my pain will be shot down even more. There’s no point.
This is the dilemma. The tension point that I hear so often in people that download to me.
The loneliness, frustration, pain at not being heard or understood. Underneath is a desire to be known, but it’s like everyone has shields raised to stop the penetration of anything that might be uncomfortable.
It might be helpful to understand why people act in this way. Why they don’t understand?
When no one understands you.
Here are some potential reasons.
Too busy. They simply have too much going on to be able to listen to the depth you need. Forgive them anyway.
Your stuff is triggering. You say a few words and instantly something gets triggered in them. Unbearable feelings get generated. They go to pain places in their own lives. Naturally, they put defences up. Forgive them anyway.
There is a consequence on them. What you’re saying means they have to take responsibility for things they have done. They don’t want to. Forgive them anyway.
Cognitive difficulties. They may not have the cognitive ability to understand.. I think of those with A.D.H.D., Autism, Alzheimers and other cognitive disabilities. They simply struggle to understand. Forgive them anyway.
You think differently from others. I think of the cartoon character Yogi Bear, saying about himself that he was “smarter than the average bear”. You’re not better or worse than others. You and your personality type are simply different from others. You’re different to the ‘average bear’. So others are going to find you difficult to understand. Forgive them anyway. 
They are trapped within F.A.S.S. mentality. You don’t want to be F.A.S.S.ed – Fixed, Advised, Saved, or Set straight. You simply want to be heard. But if every problem is a nail and they are a hammer, then they will always treat you as a nail. Forgive them anyway.
They don’t know how to ask gently curious questions. They simply have’nt learned how to ask gently curious questions. There is a learning that hasnt happened. I wonder why they have’nt learned this yet? Forgive them anyway. 
They are uncomfortable with mystery. They like logic. No mystery, nothing unsolved or unresolved. You come with questions and mystery, and it confuses them. Forgive them anyway. 
You’re talking in another language. Not just language, but in terms, words, and concepts they do not understand. Forgive them anyway. 
They haven’t been there themselves. You share a story that they cant connect to their own life experience. Forgive them anyway. 
Impatience. They want you to move faster, get to the end. You feel a pressure to keep things light. Forgive them anyway.  
Can you forgive them?
I think Jesus deeply felt the experience of not being fully understood.
My thoughts go to the night before his crucifixion. Anxiety and pain coursing through his veins so much so that he sweated blood.
No one understood him. Even his closest friends, his soul mates, went to sleep on him. He was utterly humanly alone.
He forgave them anyway. He knew their human weaknesses.
Even as he was dying, he defended our human fallibilities. He didn’t seek rightful justice and retribution against our dust.
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.
Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ Luke 23:32-34
So often the people we hope for understanding and closeness are the ones that hurt us the most. Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.
A World of Listeners
I hope that one of the outcomes of my writing and podcasts is that the world will have more listeners. People who might know a little more of what they are doing.
It seems to me that to find someone who will listen you deeply to a place where you feel you understood requires payment. Therapists, counsellors, psychologists etc all have a role, but I wonder if much of what they do could be done by people who know how to listen well.
Maybe we also need more older men and women on front porches. I remember a psychologist lamenting the loss of the old lady on the porch, welcoming the young mums into their homes for earthy wisdom. Older men working with younger men, and a passing on of the baton of age old wisdom.
We also need more third places. Places where we can go to for relationship, conversation, and hope.
But most of all, it’s over to you to be what you want from others. To be the deep listener and not an ‘average bear.’
When people present to you the beautiful pearl of themselves (Matthew 13:45-46), please don’t dismiss it and throw it to the pigs. Matthew 7:6
Quotes to consider
I want us to relate to one another, not as moralist to sinner or therapist to patient, but as saint to saint, father to child, friend to friend, as true lovers, with the confidence that we can help each other believe that, by the grace of God, there is something good beneath the mess. Even when all we can see is the mess, I want us to believe that we can nourish the good and encourage its release.  Larry Crabb Connecting
Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself” C. S. Lewis The Four Loves
Sensitive listeners respond to comments with words that convey an interest in hearing more, sentences that open the door to information.  Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1. ‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.’ Larry Crabb Encouragement: The Unexpected Power of  Building Others Up
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
Questions to answer
What happens to you when you don’t feel heard and understood?
Out of all the eleven reasons given, what resonated the most with you? Could you add a twelfth reason?
Why are we so quick to Fix, Advise, Save or Set straight?
Further reading
Barry Pearman
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Read this further here FOLLOW ME!Email me: barry@turningthepage.co.nzWebsite: https://turningthepage.co.nz/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/turningthepage1atatimeTwitter: https://twitter.com/barrypearmanInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/barry_pearman/Podcast https://turningthepage.co.nz/podcast-listen-mental-health/Support Turning the Page with a Donation https://turningthepage.co.nz/give/

A Life Controlled by Lies

Monday Aug 28, 2023

Monday Aug 28, 2023

Events happen in life, and we can get controlled by the lies we believe as truth, but there is hope. 
It is a memory seared into my brain.
I’m at an age now I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, but this is among those memories that I doubt I’ll ever forget. And it is a memory I want to retain, painful as it is.
It was my night to be the on-call chaplain at the hospital, and I was summoned to the emergency room because a man had been brought in, and the staff needed me to interface with his family as they arrived.
First to arrive was the man’s daughter, who was probably 11 or 12 years old, and her brother, who was perhaps two years younger, along with their stepmother. I guided them to the family waiting room and told them there was no news from the medical staff yet.
The daughter largely ignored me the rest of the evening. She was the perfect hostess for the other family and friends arriving. Her brother mostly stood silently in one corner of the room, staring blankly into space.
I made several trips to the treatment room and knew the man would not survive. When a patient did not survive, it was the doctor’s job to inform the family, but in situations like this, it was my task to pave the way for bad news by saying things like, “It’s not looking very hopeful right now,’ and then doing my best to comfort the family.
About 45 minutes passed before the doctors finally conceded that they could not revive him, and the primary ER doctor summoned me and asked me to pray with him before we went back into the family waiting room to give them the terrible news that their husband, son, father, and friend was dead.
If I had been a better daughter
The doctor assured the family that every measure had been taken to save his life but that they could not revive him.
There was an immediate outpouring of profound grief, but the young daughter finally turned to speak to me for the first time. With tears welling in her eyes, she asked me, “Chaplain, if I had been a better daughter, would Daddy not have killed himself?”
Then she collapsed against me and began to sob. Huge, uncontrollable sobbing. Her younger brother came over to me, collapsed against me, and began sobbing. 
I felt my tears join theirs, and I looked up to realize that the man’s mother, the children’s grandmother, was looking at me through her tears. She had now lost a second son to suicide. She asked me a question.
She was not angry. She just really needed to understand. She asked, “Why Chaplain? How can a good God let things like this happen?”
She didn’t expect an answer, thank God. She just needed to express what she was feeling.
I have no idea what I could have told her then that would have helped.
I have no idea what I could have told the man’s daughter that would have helped.
When her sobs abated somewhat, I finally was able to tell her that what had happened was not her fault and that sometimes people do things we do not understand, and that what her father had done did not mean he did not love her.
I am curious to know if it sank in.
I have doubts that it did.
Children’s misconceptions
Children usually think everything is about them, and words do not usually prevent that misconception from taking hold,
I’ve often thought of that young girl over the years. She would likely be in her early 40s by now.
Has she lived under the terrible burden of believing her father’s suicide was her fault?
Have her relationships suffered because she feels like she is damaged goods?
Did she ever find the comfort of Christ?
That has been my prayer for her – that somehow she experienced the love of Christ, who is the only one who can heal soul wounds like the one she suffered.
Her grandmother has likely moved on from this life, but I wonder about her, too.
I’m sure, like Job, she never got an answer to her questions, but did she, like Job, experience God in such a way that the questions did not matter anymore? That was my prayer for her.
A life controlled by lies
So many of us live a life controlled by lies life tells us.
Life seems tilted that way.
Advertising only serves to reinforce those lies.
I watched a little television recently and intentionally watched the commercials for a time.
I learned some interesting things about myself. I was too fat, my gray hair was off-putting, and I needed to restore it to its original dark brown.
Because I suffer from ED (Erectile Dysfunction), I’m less than a man, and no woman would ever want to be with me.
I drive the wrong car, use the wrong toothpaste, eat the wrong food, wear unhip shoes, wear the wrong clothing, and use the wrong telephone.
Apparently, I’m of no use to anyone.
If it weren’t for the love of Christ that assures me that I am loved, I, too, might be tempted to end it all.
So what lies still govern your life?
You probably have to dig into your childhood to find the root of many of the lies, but, like the grandmother in this story, some lies attach themselves to us as we go through adulthood, too.
The enemy lies to us continually.
Jesus warned us that he would. He called him the “Father of all lies.” John 8:44
Jesus though is the truth, and, as he said, the truth sets us free. John 8:31-32
Many of us do not understand that the truth that sets us free isn’t some spoken concept – it is a living person – Jesus. It is an ongoing, vibrant relationship with Jesus that keeps us free from the lies the enemy wants us to believe.
I’ve struggled with guilt and shame for much of my life because of things that happened to me when I was young and the things I’ve done as a result.
When I mess up as an adult, those feelings of shame and guilt can well up inside me again, and it’s easy for me to think I’m nothing but a failure.
But the words of Paul at the end of Romans chapter eight have become bedrock for me, calling me back to life and reminding me who and whose I am.
“For I am convinced that neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
Thank God for the One who is the truth!
Quotes to consider
The warfare that the Christian is involved with is the battle between true and mistaken beliefs. It is warring for reality against the delusional world of lies. Which side will you take? David Riddell
The chief thief is the belief beneath, the subconscious is always the power behind the decisions we make and the outcomes we experience. David Riddell
God meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be or wish we were.  My job is to pay attention to where I am.  When I enter my reality (my red-dot truth), He brings His reality, His truth, into mine.  Truth is a two-way street.  When I avoid my truth, I nod politely, and I might even smile or say amen when I hear His.  But not much happens.  God’s truth does not set free a pretending or hiding heart. Larry Crabb
The journey into total mental health begins with a commitment to come out of delusion into reality, no matter what the cost. D. Riddell
Questions to answer
What experiences have you had where you have realised you have been living under a false perception or a lie?
What does advertising want to tell you about yourself?
What was your heart reaction when you read that little girl’s belief that if she had been ‘better,’ then her father would not have killed himself?
Further reading
This is a guest post from Bruce Swartz
Bruce Swartz is a husband, father, and grandfather to a family he loves. Both he and his wife are abuse survivors. God eventually lead him to undertake training as a trauma therapist. Even in retirement, he occasionally walks beside a wounded person who needs a companion in their journey of recovery. He lives in Champaign, Illinois, USA, and can be reached by email.
Other posts by Bruce –
Photo by Fernando Rodrigues on Unsplash
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What is Emotional Pain?

Sunday Aug 27, 2023

Sunday Aug 27, 2023

It’s a long way from there to there. Stuck in the middle, we have emotional pain, but we can also have presence. A comfort to the pain of now.
They wanted some relief. It wasn’t so much the highs and lows of a roller coaster; it was more like dragging a heavy sack of struggle around with them.
For others, it is like a dark shadow that has come over them. Engulfing them, creeping with unending persistence over the little light they have within them.
How would you describe emotional pain?
Emotional pain. It’s different from physical pain. You can tell the doctor that you have pain in your right leg and they can offer medical suggestions – physiotherapy, exercises, medication.
But what exercise can heal a broken heart?
What medication can resolve anger and resentment simmering in the soul?
There is physical pain and there is emotional pain and they seem to intertwine themselves where one feeds the other.
My back pain can resource my feelings of misery.
A merry heart can be like a medicine to the body. Proverbs 17:22
Have you noticed the intertwining between body and soul?
Are we there yet?
Christmas day and it was a two and half hour drive between my childhood home and my grandparents’ home.
Two and half hours of monotony and boredom.
Weaving around corners and up and over hills. Passing through towns, I would look out and see children playing on new bikes they had got that morning.
My new red bike was back at home. I had a snatched look and a smell of that new bike, and then we were in the car for that long drive.
I watched those children with envy.
My grandparents’ home was not my home. It was nice to see them. Get slightly spoiled and experience life in another home different to my own. But it was not my home.
But in a couple of days, we were back in that old Morris Marina and on the road. There was a quiet excitement and hope to return home.
Home, that’s where I long to be.
Or as Bono would sing ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.’
What is emotional pain?
Emotional pain is rooted in that experience of not being there yet. All of those feelings of anger, grief, loss, sadness, loneliness all have the smell of knowing this isn’t what we were meant for.
We were created for something we have never fully experienced. A garden of intimacy, delight, joy and peace.
I still have wafts of it in the relationships I have. I also still see it in this creative glory box God has made for me.
Creation, like myself, groans for what once was.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning together as it suffers together the pains of labor,  and not only the creation, but we ourselves. Romans 8:22-23a 
That emotional pain is the groan. I know something better. It’s unconscious, but I’m not there yet.
There is also a groaning for what will be.
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.Death will be no more;mourning and crying and pain will be no more,for the first things have passed away.’ Revelation 21:4
I long for a fullness of presence like a deer pants for water when the sun is beating down hard.
There is a kind of archetype in all of us.
What’s an archetype?
In Jungian theory it’s a primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious. Oxford reference
It’s a simple thread of knowing that has been passed down through generations. Deeply unconscious to my awareness I still long for something of another world.
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. C. S. Lewis
Listening to groans
So what do we do with the emotional pain?
The most common medication is self comfort. We self soothe to the point of addiction.
The obvious addictions are drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, gambling, shopping, gaming, eating, etc
The not so obvious are those of demanding control, religious observance, success (however you define that), hobbies etc
But in every self soothing effort I have tried, it feels like there is a bungee cord wrapped around me. One of those huge rubber bands that wants to pull me back to something better, something that I can’t be in control of.
I’m not against self soothing. I think it’s important to have some practices that bring comfort to the pain of living in this state of ‘not there yet.’ But self-soothing must always bring me closer in a relationship to the one I’m going to spend eternity with.
That bungee cord pulls me back to God and maybe a few safe others that will listen with compassion to my groans. They won’t F.A.S.S. me (Fix, Advice, Save, or Set straight).
Instead, there will be a warm embracing community.
Thank you, that helped.
For the struggler in the valley of emotional pain, they simply want to be heard.
They don’t want criticism, or more burdens added.
After being listened to well, the most common response is ‘Thank you, that helped.’
It may not have taken the emotional pain away, instead it simply says that you’re not alone in it.
Quotes to consider
Acceptance is not our mode nearly as much as aggression, resistance, fight, or flight. None of them achieve the deep and lasting results of true acceptance and peaceful surrender. Richard Rohr. Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
You cannot heal what you do not first acknowledge. Richard Rohr. Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
Emotional pain always results when life’s experiences go beyond the answers we already have. Dig deeper for more wisdom or go on hurting. David Riddell
Those who do not turn to face their pain are prone to impose it. Terrence Real, I Don’t Want To Talk About It
Redeemed pain is more impressive to me than removed pain. Phillip Yancey
Home is where I want to bePick me up and turn me roundI feel numb, burn with a weak heartI guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the betterMake it up as we go along
Feet on the groundHead in the sky
It’s ok I know nothing’s wrong… nothing
Hi yo I got plenty of timeHi yo you got light in your eyes
And you’re standing here beside meI love the passing of time
Never for moneyAlways for loveCover up + say goodnight… say goodnight
Home, is where I want to beBut I guess I’m already there
I come home, she lifted up her wingsGuess that this must be the place
I can’t tell one from anotherDid I find you, or you find me?
There was a time before we were bornIf someone asks, this where I’ll be where I’ll be
Hi yo we drift in and outHi yo sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of peopleYou got a face with a view
I’m just an animal looking for a homeShare the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stopsLove me till I’m dead
Eyes that light up, eyes look through youCover up the blank spotsHit me on the head ah oohShawn Colvin – This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
Questions to answer
Can you think of an experience where you sensed you were not there yet?
What would ‘Home’ feel like for you?
Who has offered to you that sense of deep listening?
Further reading
Barry Pearman
Photo by Nathaniel Flowers on Unsplash
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Saturday Aug 26, 2023

I never saw it coming -the cataclysmic argument that triggered my adult son to estrange me three years ago. I might never see it end -the suffering of ambiguous loss of the relationship without closure.
Coined by family therapist Pauline Boss, Ph.D., 40 years ago, ambiguous loss refers to unresolved physical or emotional loss or the loss of a relationship with no closure.
Unresolved closure might involve a physical loss with a psychological presence when a loved one’s absence is unknown, uncertain, or unresolved.
Likewise, a loved one might be physically present but psychologically absent because of dementia, traumatic brain injury, addiction, or mental illness.
Ambiguous loss refers to unresolved physical or emotional lossor the loss of a relationship with no closure.
So, too, the ambiguous loss may encompass physical and emotional loss because of divorce, adoption, estrangement, incarceration, immigration, or ghosting. Such loss is especially grievous around the loss of a fulfilling long-term relationship.
Such is my circumstance.
Ambiguous Loss by Estrangement
Three years after the meltdown with my 34-year-old son, an occasional flicker of hope for contact, connection, and reconciliation still moves me to reach out. But sadly, my text messages and phone calls go unreturned.
My invitations for meet-ups go unacknowledged. And his once frequent reach outs to check in on me, his mother who raised him as a single parent, are but a distant memory.
No matter the circumstance, the interminable suffering of ambiguous loss defies resolution, creates long-term uncertainty about the relationship, and freezes the grief process, according to Boss.
Yet, unlike death, whereby mourners receive confirmation of the loss and support through funerals, burials, and gatherings, none exist for unresolved loss.
So often, we who experience estrangement never see it coming. Only after a prolonged silence, separation, and isolation do we realize the exquisitely painful loss of the cherished relationship we once knew.
Hence, like an unsuspecting moth captured in a jar, we find ourselves trapped in the suffocating reality of ambiguous loss. We see our human swarm living interconnected lives, oblivious to the invisible suffering separating our reality from theirs. 
In numbness and shock, we expend untold energy attempting to escape the misery of separation. In yearning to restore the relationship, we resort to “bargaining” -with our Creator, ourselves, and the aggrieved party.
In anger, we deny, deflect, defend, and dismiss our role in the conflict. Finally, in anguish, we deplete our mental, emotional, and spiritual reserves for coping and thus descend into hopelessness and despair.
Alas! Like the entrapped moth, whose spirit succumbs to the oxygen-depletion, the light of our being fades in the reality of the depleted relationship – the “oxygen” that once breathed life, love, and interconnection into our hearts. 
How can we move forward amidst the interminable torment of estrangement by a parent, child, or partner with whom we once shared a fulfilling relationship?
I offer some insight based on my experience of ambiguous loss by estrangement.
Moving forward
Hold yourself in loving self-kindness
Your loss is real, and your grief is bottomless. Whether you recognize what caused the shift or have no clue, berating yourself over what you could’ve, should, or might’ve done is moot. 
As the reality of the estrangement sets in, you may experience recurring bouts of guilt, shame, ignorance, naivete, anguish, anger, sadness, despair, worry, yearning, and a host of other complicated feelings.
The overwhelm of such feelings, especially when repressed, suppressed, dismissed, or denied over time, can derail your emotional mettle for coping. Carve out a set amount of time daily to meditate and sit with your feelings in nonjudgmental, loving self-kindness.
Forgive your loved one
Every human being is flawed, fragile, broken, and wounded. The person who estranged you may have issues of which you are unaware, and they may not have the emotional capacity for the relationship they once shared with you. 
Likewise, they may not have the emotional intelligence or maturity to confront you about their grievance. The person may not recognize their lack of emotional capacity or maturity. Thus, they see estrangement as their only protective defense mechanism.
Forgive your loved one in your heart and in your prayers. Forgive them when gazing at their picture, and forgive them when remembering the joyful moments of your relationship.
Forgiveness might not heal the estranged, but it can heal us who suffer the estrangement. So, too, recognize that your loved one may suffer similar complicated feelings about ending the relationship without closure.
Forgive yourself
You are human. Whether it was a series of micro-hurts, a cataclysmic circumstance, or an unknown rift that shifted the relationship, forgive yourself. You had needs that, for whatever reason, you could not express, or the other person could not meet, or vice versa. It takes two persons to nourish a relationship and two to make it wither. 
Indeed, you may never know what drove your loved one to choose estrangement over relationship. Forgiving yourself is the first step in arriving at some degree of acceptance and peace in processing concomitant grief of ambiguous loss.
Seek community
Seek community with others who live with ambiguous loss by estrangement. Like the moth trapped in the jar, we who suffer alienation sadly so often do so in isolation, amplifying the loss of our human interconnections.
Move toward the light
As the shock of estrangement wanes, gently and with great self-compassion, begin looking at the parts of yourself that reflect your authentic essence and those that no longer reflect who you are.
Direct your focus to nurture the best parts about yourself and aim to surrender those that no longer serve you. 
And so, as you live in the reality of ambiguous grief, may you once again find the light of your being through healing, community, and the “oxygen” of new human interconnections.
Quotes to consider
I am a stranger in this world, and there is a severe solitude and painful lonesomeness in my exile. Kahlil Gibran, The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran
It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being. John Joseph Powell, The Secret of Staying in Love
To be soul broken is to be filled with anguish that is brought on by the loss of our love, our relationship, and ourselves, and, often it is void of validation. If you know this pain, my deepest sympathies to you, not only for your loss but for how you’ve been hurting. Stephanie Sarazin, Soulbroken: A Guidebook for Your Journey Through Ambiguous Grief
Exile is strangely compelling to think about but terrible to experience. It is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: its essential sadness can never be surmounted. And while it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are no more than efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement. Edward W. Said, Reflections on Exile and Other Essays
I’m afraid your memories of me are unfair. A.A. Patawaran, Manila Was A Long Time Ago – Official
I intentionally hold the opposing ideas of absence and presence because I have learned that most relationships are indeed both. Pauline Boss, Ph.D. The Myth of Closure: Ambiguous Loss in a Time of Pandemic and Change
Questions to answer
Ambiguous loss can encompass other types of loss beyond relationships. Have you experienced ambiguous loss around unrealized hopes, dreams, goals, or disappointments, such as the unexpected loss of a job, health, career, home, lifestyle, stage of life, or group of friends? Did you feel isolated in that no one seemed to notice or understand the depth of your grief?
Have you ended a relationship without offering the other person an opportunity for closure? Over time, have you considered how the other person has processed the unresolved closure and how you have processed (or not processed) the loss of the relationship?
Have you considered reconciling with the estranged person directly or indirectly (i.e., through a letter or third party)? What might be your hesitancy or fear?
Guest Blogger Bio:
Peggy M. Phillips is an author writing in the Christian Fiction-Metaphysical genre. Peggy debuted her first work of fiction in November 2022 with the poignant and powerful epistolary novella, “Letters to the Little Flower The Gift of Spiritual Companionship with St. Therese of Lisieux.” Born in Wichita, KS, United States, Peggy grew up in a large Catholic family in a small Kansas town. A Registered Nurse who works in mental health services, Peggy enjoys hiking the beautiful nature trails of Kansas and spending time with her family. 
Photo by Milo Bauman on Unsplash
Further reading
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Friday Aug 25, 2023

I don’t like it, and I’m sure you don’t either. It’s when you’re confronted with something you have done wrong.
You want to run; you want to hide. Perhaps you make excuses, blame others, or downplay the whole problem—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
It’s a horrible place, but it can also be where light can come.
It’s holding up the crime sheet and feeling the dark acceptance of wordless guilt and shame.
I read this recently.
The spiritual director has the double task of holding up the demands of absolute responsibility and the promise of absolute forgiveness.
It is out of such demands and promises that we assist at each other’s birth. Alan Jones (from the preface of Holy Listening by Margaret Guenther)
Responsibility needs Forgiveness
Words and sentences grab my attention. They make me stop and have me roll them around in my thinking.
double task
holding up the demands of absolute responsibility
holding up the promise of absolute forgiveness
assist at each other’s birth
It’s a shaking of hands with a stranger. The darkness of your actions shakes hands with the light of forgiveness, and darkness disperses. Forgiveness (both human and divine) will always overwhelm dark places of guilt and shame.
Something of Edens’s garden beauty and strength is birthed. If you’ve ever witnessed this happen, you know what I mean. You’ve been a midwife to something miraculous.
Acceptance needs absolute forgiveness, or we will continue living in a dark hole of self-loathing. Going over and over our crime sheet and making the past the focus.
Left-handed power
Two hands. One is more dominant. For most of us, this would be the right hand.
The right hand is the hand of power, strength, and force. It’s the thumping down on a desk demanding justice, revenge, and recompense. It’s power over, not power with or power for.
But I’m interested in the left hand.
Martin Luther had this thought about God and that God offers a kind of ‘Left – handed’ power.
In my research, I found this writing.
Unlike right-handed power, left-handed power doesn’t force or coerce. It doesn’t threaten or bully.
Left-handed power isn’t afraid to show weakness or vulnerability for the sake of something greater. It is a power that grants freedom.
It is a power in favor of relationship and community, that rejects the idea that “might makes right.”
It is the kind of power shown throughout Jesus’ life and in his death. Luther described the cross as the left-handed power of God. Rev. Kristabeth Atwood
Which hand are you focused on?
The right hand clasping a crime sheet, or the left hand open wide with forgiveness.
So many are focused on the dirt. There is a pull to the dark places.
This is where we need others to remind us of left-handed power. People to hold up the promise of absolute forgiveness.
Absolute absolution
In the Anglican (Episcopalian) church I attend, there is a very special moment in the liturgy. It’s a sacred moment – quiet, sincere, serious.
We, as a gathered community of failures, say these words:
Merciful God,we have sinned in what we have thought and said,in the wrong we have doneand in the good we have not done.We have sinned in ignorance:we have sinned in weakness:we have sinned through our own deliberate fault.We are truly sorry.We repent and turn to you.Forgive us, for our Saviour Christ’s sake,and renew our lives to the glory of your name. Amen.
The priest then steps to the front and declares these words over the needy.
THE ABSOLUTIONThrough the Cross of Christ, God have mercy on you,pardon you and set you free. Know that you are forgiven and be at peace.God strengthen you in all goodness and keep you in life eternal.Amen.
I always watch my vicar as she says, ‘Know that you are forgiven.’
I want to see the seriousness of the declaration.
Every verbal and non-verbal communication she makes must mirror that which Christ has declared over me.
I need reminding. You do too. Embrace the gift of the lefthand.
You are forgiven. Be at peace.
Quotes to consider
Martin Luther called it “left-handed” power. Right-handed power consists of the blatant demonstration of power over people. Left-handed power is the quiet demonstration of power in people, the power to stir up an appetite for God no matter what may be happening in someone’s life. SoulTalk is about left-handed power. We’ll see God’s right-handed power when he returns to earth. For now, we can speak into people’s lives with a power that can change them from the inside out. Larry Crabb Soul Talk
Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction. Simone Weil, Waiting for God
I’ve been a priest, then an ex-priest. Husband, then ex-husband. Amazed crowds one night and lied to friends the next. Drunk for years, sober for a season, then drunk again. I’ve been John the beloved, Peter the coward, and Thomas the doubter all before the waitress brought the check. I’ve shattered every one of the Ten Commandments six times Tuesday. And if you believe that last sentence was for dramatic effect, it wasn’t. Brennan Manning All is grace
You cannot heal what you do not first acknowledge. Richard Rohr. Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
If we don’t accept what’s true about ourselves, we won’t see it clearly, and if we don’t see it clearly, we’ll be less able to deal with it. Rick Hanson. Resilient
Forgiveness is a gift of unearned extravagance and generosity. Robert Harvey & David Benner Choosing the Gift of Forgiveness.
Perhaps we tend to believe in the hard work of forgiveness more than we believe in or expect it as a miracle of grace. It is so hard to trust that you have truly been forgiven. Robert Harvey & David Benner Choosing the Gift of Forgiveness.
Forgiveness takes brokenness seriously and affirms that guilt is real, but also affirms that guilt is not the last word. Robert Harvey & David Benner Choosing the Gift of Forgiveness.
Questions to consider
Accepting absolute responsibility. What is it like to be confronted with what you rather keep hidden?
The promise of absolute forgiveness. What thoughts and feelings get stirred up in you when absolute forgiveness is offered?
Why do we need others to remind us of the gift and promise of forgiveness?
Further reading
Barry Pearman
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
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But Trouble Comes

Tuesday Aug 22, 2023

Tuesday Aug 22, 2023

Trouble comes. It’s nothing new, but we have the assurance of others, so we hold on tight and ride our way through it.
You can see it coming. You’re sailing along. Life seems to be going along ok, but out on the horizon, you can see a storm. You know that it’s coming straight at you. You didn’t cause the storm; it was simply part of the ebb and flow of being on the ocean. 
On your little boat, you wonder if you will make it through. You prepare, get ready, and you hold on tight. 
Trouble comes. You know it comes. You’ve been through trouble before, but this storm seems bigger and all-consuming. This will test everything in you. 
You look at the only crew member you have, and he is asleep in the back of the boat. He is a wise old sailor, an ancient mariner that has callused hands from handling the ropes in many a storm. 
Just his presence seems to bring calm to your soul. Perhaps you can make it through. He stirs a little, opens an eye, looks over the seas, and says, ‘You’ll be alright, just steer into it and hold on tight.’
With that, he yawns, rubs his stubbled face, and goes back to sleep.
And you thought he would stand and command the wind and the waves to be still. 
Not this time. 
You aim into the storm and hold on tight. 
It’s inevitable
I sit with people and listen to their storms. 
The most often heard phrases are ‘What did I do to deserve this’ or ‘I didn’t deserve this’? 
Both point to a kind of surprise that they have a storm, a full-blown hurricane whirling and stripping at their life. 
They look to fate, logic, and God for reasons. A crime and, therefore, a punishment. A reaping of what you’ve sown. Choices and consequences. 
Sometimes there is a connection. You can hardly blame God for a speeding ticket when you drove too fast and were caught. 
But at other times, it seems you can’t make sense of anything at all. You’re just stuck in the middle of the mess, and night time is rolling in, fast. 
Oh, and Jesus seems to be fast asleep in the corner of the boat. 
Sorry, here’s the hard truth. This was inevitable. It’s normal to have times of trouble, but it’s not what we were made for, and that’s why it causes so much pain.
Good listening helps the storm-tossed to get through.
But trouble comes
At the bottom of the swirl, where everything settles, comes the conclusion of the angst of the moment. Well, that’s the way I read the last verse of the pain story of a man named Job. 
Out of probably the first book ever written for the Bible comes the woe of a man caught in a whirling hurricane where he has lost his family, his wealth, and his health. If you think your trouble story is bad, read the story of Job and be thankful. Read the storm here.
Job is literally sitting in the town’s rubbish heap, throwing ashes over himself, and picking at his sores (read self-harm). 
The last three words sum it up. 
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;    I have no rest; but trouble comes. Job 3:26
It’s a simple acknowledgment that trouble comes. 
There is a normality to trouble. Post the time of Garden of Eden tranquillity of ease, quiet, and rest, we now live in a world where trouble comes. 
In my nostrils I still have the faint fragrance of a garden where ease, quiet, and rest were the norm. I get little morsels of it every day; I soak in them, but I know trouble comes. It will come as sure as storms at sea. 
It’s normal to feel that way
One of the strangely comforting things to say to someone when they are going through trouble is that what they are experiencing is normal. This is not to downplay the struggle or to minimise their pain, but more so to say, ‘This is trouble and we can get through it.’ 
It’s normal that you are feeling depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, in grief.
It’s normal for your body to be reacting in that way.
It’s also normal for your friends and family to not know what to do.
It’s normal to curse, blame others, project out your pain, run, hide, and feel guilt and shame.
It’s normal to want vengeance.
It’s normal, but in the long term not good to stay in that hole.
I often add that I would be concerned if they weren’t feeling these emotions and desires for all that they have been through. It would be abnormal. 
It brings a strange reassurance to the storm-tossed that what they are going through isn’t strange to you. That you are in their boat with them. That you know what trouble is all about and you can be a steadying hand on their shoulder as they face the wild. 
The building of faith has storms
Jesus, the one who knew trouble like no one else, speaks to the storms in our souls.
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. 
There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down, and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Going through internal storms (not running from them) builds our faith muscles. This is where borrowing some faith from someone else is such a beautiful Garden of Eden gift.
Quotes to consider
Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. D.T. Niles 
The Book of Job proclaims from the beginning that there is no correlation between sin and suffering, between virtue and reward. That logic is hard for us to break. This book tries to break it, so that a new logos, called grace, can happen. Richard Rohr. Job and the Mystery of Suffering
Untested faith tends to produce a very mechanistic and impersonal spirituality. Mature faith, however, almost always has a quality of paradox and mystery about it Richard Rohr. Job and the Mystery of Suffering
Sometimes people who don’t know God well presume that God would use power the way they would use power: as a dominative force. They want a deus ex machina, a magician God who appears out of the wings to solve the problem. The paradox of the Book of Job is that Yahweh remains totally present in power, yet to all appearances does nothing. And for thirty-seven chapters, God says nothing. It’s our worst nightmare: a silent, hidden, and ineffective God. Richard Rohr. Job and the Mystery of Suffering.
Too often, our version of trusting God carries with it an expectation of what God should do. We are, of course, to trust God to do all that He tells us in the Bible He will do. But this is where we sometimes get off-track. Without noticing it, we tend to trust God to do what we think a loving God ought to do. An honest look at what we mean when we use the word trust would likely turn up a subtle demand, a stubborn sense of entitlement to whatever good things we’d like God to give us. Larry Crabb When God’s Ways Make No Sense
When you stand before Me [God] in mystery, you will eventually rest within Me in trust. When you can’t figure Me out, you will give up the illusion of predictability and control and discover the joy of freedom and hope. Larry Crabb 66 Love letters – Job.  
Questions to consider
You’ve been in times of trouble. What helped you through your storm?
What’s your natural reaction to trouble? What would be an unnatural, or even a supernatural, reaction to trouble?
With no sense in minimising your struggle, what’s it like to be reassured that the trouble you’re in is normal?
Further reading
Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash
Barry Pearman
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And It Just So Happened

Monday Aug 21, 2023

Monday Aug 21, 2023

At times, it can seem like God isn’t with us, but God is there with, ‘and it just so happened’ moments to bring about a larger story going on. 
I often listen to people’s stories and wonder where God is in them. Often the stories tell of mess. There is brokenness, hurt, and pain. 
I listen for two things. One is for what is happening in the here and now. Their Red Dot. 
The Red Dot is a concept I learned from Larry Crabb.
You go into a shopping mall, and you want to find where a particular shop is, and at the entrance, there is a map of the building. You notice a large arrow pointing to a location on the map, and there is a large red dot. The arrow says ‘You are here’. 
It’s that central ‘You are here’ groundedness that I’m listening for. Where are they in their soul right here, right now?
The second thing I am listening for is what is going on around them. What is God up to in this mess? They are often so captured by the mess that they can’t see outside of themselves. An outside perspective is needed.
If there is a ‘You are here’ knowing, then I want to express a ‘You are within’ connection to them.
You are held; you are known; you are loved.
A larger story
One of the concepts that surprised me many years ago is that I am part of the meta-narrative of God. The Big story of what God is up. Part of the eternal flow that has and will continue to go on forever.
The Bible expresses stories of people just like ourselves caught up in this gulf stream of God’s goodness. This three person dancing trinity sweeps me along and seems to at times sneakily in the background orchestrate things to bring about perfect symphonic harmony.
Paul alludes to it in Romans 8:28
 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28
We can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:28 (Message)
There is a little phrase that I think points to this background movement of God.
Have you noticed this subtle little phrase acting itself out in your life?
And it just so happened
I read these words ‘And it just so happened’ in the Bible and I have a sneaky suspicion that God is up to something.
Something good.
It’s like the boyfriend that ‘just so happens’ to turn up at the girlfriend’s place around an hour before dinner.
There is a kind of background motivation going on that we need to sit with and let it be revealed.
There are many examples of this in the Bible, but I want to focus on two of them. These two are so entwined in how they point to the larger story of God.
Ruth in the fields
A mother and her daughter-in-law, both widows, return home from a foreign land. They are poor. The mother-in-law, Naomi, is bitter and angry at God. Ruth, her foreigner daughter-in-law, is trusting and hopeful.
They are in deep need of something to happen. Something good. They have no one to care for them and to look after their needs, but God is at work, in the background.
They need food, and it is harvest time. One of the laws that God set down for the people of Israel was that the landowners were to leave the edges of their fields as places for the poor to go and harvest from. God cared for the poor. Still does.
“When you reap the harvest of your land, don’t reap the corners of your field or gather the gleanings. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners. I am God, your God.” Leviticus 23:22
So Ruth goes to harvest from that which was left behind.
Now Naomi had a rich relative named Boaz, from Elimelech’s family.
One day, Ruth, the Moabite, said to Naomi, “I am going to the fields. Maybe someone will be kind enough to let me gather the grain he leaves behind.”
Naomi said, “Go, my daughter.”
So Ruth went to the fields and gathered the grain that the workers cutting the grain had left behind. It just so happened that the field belonged to Boaz, from Elimelech’s family. Ruth 2:1-3
The rest of the story goes on to a love story of Boaz and Ruth marrying and having a baby.
Oh, and the name of the town where this story was unfolding? It was Bethlehem. Yes, that Bethlehem of the Christmas story.
Pregnant Mary
She was a pregnant teenager. She had been told by an angel that she was going to be pregnant with God. That she would have a baby, but it wasn’t going to her fiances. Her fiance, Joseph was also told that it wasn’t going to be his, but he was to look after Mary and to carry on to marry her.
A lot of mysterious stuff going on. Probably everyone thought it was terrible having a baby outside of marriage, but God was on the move.
Luke doesn’t record the words ‘And it just so happened’, but I think it would fit into the Christmas story.
At that time [And it just so happened], Augustus Caesar sent an order that all people in the countries under Roman rule must list their names in a register.
This was the first registration; it was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to their own towns to be registered.
So Joseph left Nazareth, a town in Galilee, and went to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, known as the town of David.
Joseph went there because he was from the family of David.
Joseph registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was now pregnant.
While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son.
Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough. Luke 2:1-7
It just so happened that a census was being taken.
It just so happened that Joseph was from Bethlehem and, according to the rules of the census, he had to return to his hometown.
It just so happened that Mary gave birth to Jesus there in Bethlehem, the same place Naomi returned home to with Ruth, who had just so happened to glean in a field owned by Boaz.
It just so happened that there is a direct genealogical connection between Boaz and Joseph. Read the family tree in Matthew 1: 5-16.
It’s a mystery, unfolding
It’s interesting. It brings an assurance to know that there is a bigger picture to be seen and there is a larger story going on.
But it’s not something to get obsessed with. I don’t believe God would want you to look at every little thing to see if there is a secret meaning, code, or theory.
No, I simply believe that God can use the most seemingly hopeless of situations to bring about the larger story going on.
There is a pilgrimage, not a plan of precision perfection. There is a path, not a tightrope where you worry about falling off. There is a dance not a demand to follow in rigorous legality.
God doesn’t take away our free will to choose. Ruth still had to choose to go to a field and gather grain. Joseph and Mary still had to choose to take the long pregnant journey to Bethlehem.
You still have to do the work, get out and L.O.F.O. (Look Out For Opportunities). But perhaps in your grain fields there might be instances of ‘and it just so happened.’
Quotes to consider
Often times we’re looking for nice clear linear logical explanations about why we feel this compulsion and need to give efforts to something. There might not be any explanations other than something within you that says if I don’t head in this direction something within me will die. Rob Bell https://robbell.podbean.com/e/a-hymn-for-the-curve/ 
A full search into our soul causes life to begin, not end. And then it’s as if we’ve never lived before. Dark nights may not go away, but they hold the promise of a bright morning. This world’s sunsets become another world’s sunrises. And joy comes into sight. Larry Crabb Soultalk
Every hard thing we endure can put us in touch with our desire for God, and every trial can strengthen that desire until it becomes the consuming passion of our life.   Larry Crabb Soultalk
Whether life is bumpy or smooth, the most supernatural thing we can do is to want to know God better, to value his pleasure and his purposes above everything else, and to want directions for the journey into his presence more than a plan for making life work. Larry Crabb Soultalk
Immature spirituality focuses on experience. Mature spirituality focuses on seeing and knowing. David Benner
Mysticism is simply the longing for heart knowing of God. David Benner
Questions to consider
How does it feel to be part of something much larger going on?
Can you reflect back on your life and notice some ‘And it just so happened’ moments?
What part does you taking action have a role in God being able to orchestrate those ‘And it just so happened’ moments?
Further reading
Barry Pearman
Photo by Héctor J. Rivas on Unsplash
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God, I Still Have Doubts

Monday Aug 21, 2023

Monday Aug 21, 2023

There are times when I have doubts. I question God, and I wonder. But over the years, I have built up a memorial of stones that reassure my soul.
I have questions.
I have doubts.
Places in my thinking where I question what I have taken to be true.
Evidence is presented thoroughly and convincingly in the courtroom of my thinking, and so in a logical place, it must be true, but other factors make me waver. ‘Surely, this can’t be true.’
If God is good, then why so much pain
If God is good, then what is God good for
I can wrestle these questions out with good well-founded theology, but it’s a kiss on the lips that I need—a heart connection of compassion to my human need for surety.
What is doubt?
A doubt can be a thin slither of a question that slides into our garden of security.
The first offer of doubt was when the serpent whispered a question to Eve’s beauty and Adam’s strength.
“Did God really say?” Genesis 3:1
A question asked promotes a question to be considered and not always to be resolved. We like answered questions.
But a question brings us to consider options, and that is where we can have a seed of doubt germinating, growing, and digging deep into our thinking.
A doubt is a double stance—a shifting between two positions, a wavering, and an uncertainty.
Having doubts is not a flaw of our humanity; it’s not a black mark against your soul; it’s more a healthy sign that you are thinking.
Puppets don’t have doubts. Machines don’t have doubts.
It’s only we humans that have doubts.
Perhaps your doubts are the fertile soil for Spirit to bring new certainty.
An intimate farewell party
It was an intimate party. Not everyone was invited, but only a select few.
Don’t you feel special when you have been selected to attend a private party—you’re one of the insiders, one of the cool gang.
And this was the farewell party of Jesus.
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Matthew 28: 16, 17
Here they were. The eleven disciples (Judas was no longer with them) having their final connection with the fully human and fully divine Jesus, and they were worshipping him. It must have been full of glory and wonder, but some doubted.
You would think after all the events and experiences that they had had, there would be no doubt in their minds at all, yet for some, there still was.
Im glad Matthew wrote that little note down. It tells me that those that doubt are still welcome to worship. We don’t have to have everything together, and we can still have questions and ponderings.
Did Jesus have doubts?
I don’t think the fully divine Jesus would have had doubts.
But the fully human Jesus could have had doubts. Maybe in the garden of Gethsemane when he was betrayed and knew crucifixion was ahead of him. Perhaps a question briefly flitted across his anxious mind.
Leaving there, he went, as he so often did, to Mount Olives. The disciples followed him. When they arrived at the place, he said, “Pray that you don’t give in to temptation.”
He pulled away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?” At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him. He prayed on all the harder. Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face.
He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, drugged by grief. He said, “What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.” Luke 22:39-46
The questions.
Is this really what you want me to do?
Is this path of suffering truly my path?
The tempter allures us with doubts.
Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.
Pray so that the slither of a doubt doesn’t become a wedge that drives deep into his thinking.
Calming the emotional brain
I’m reading The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk.
Here are some quotes for you to ponder on.
No matter how much insight and understanding we develop, the rational brain is basically impotent to talk the emotional brain out of its own reality.
If you feel safe and loved, your brain becomes specialized in exploration, play, and cooperation; if you are frightened and unwanted, it specializes in managing feelings of fear and abandonment.
Psychologists usually try to help people use insight and understanding to manage their behavior. However, neuroscience research shows that very few psychological problems are the result of defects in understanding; most originate in pressures from deeper regions in the brain that drive our perception and attention. When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signaling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it.
When our emotional and rational brains are in conflict (as when we’re enraged with someone we love, frightened by someone we depend on, or lust after someone who is off limits), a tug-of-war ensues. This war is largely played out in the theater of visceral experience—your gut, your heart, your lungs—and will lead to both physical discomfort and psychological misery.Bessel van der Kolk – The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma
That final quote speaks to me about the fertile soil of doubt. Our emotional and rational brain being in conflict and wavering, uncertainty, and indecision. I am in doubt.
I need someone a millimeter ahead of me to calm and reassure my emotional brain.
Someone who can say, ‘I am with you, I understand and accept your doubts, and I’m not going to try and talk your emotional brain out of its reality, but I am going to hold you in the midnight of your fears.’
I have doubts, and my emotional brain still longs for certainty, but I have a friend who reminds me of truth.
Times when my emotional brain feels truth flow as fact. I look for grace showing up when logic is breaking down.
As I write this, it is 5 am. It’s dark outside, but soon light will banish the dark away.
I am on the threshold of a new day. The threshold is the object you step over when entering a house. You have crossed over; you have entered the building.
I am about to cross the threshold of a new day. I am about to step over and into something new.
Thresholds are the space between, when we move from one time to another, as in the threshold of dawn today or of dusk to dark; one area to another, as in times of inner or outer journeying or pilgrimage; and one awareness to another, as in times when our old structures start to fall away and we begin to build something new. Christine Valters Paintner The Souls Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred
As I look to my day, I can prayerfully reassure my emotional brain that it will be ok. I’ve done this many times before.
The tempter presents slithers of doubt about the surety of what’s beyond the threshold. Not just today but six months down the track.
I pick up a few smooth stones to fight my goliath of doubt.
Stones that speak to me of previous skirmishes I doubted, but God came through.
Memorial stones had been removed from the river Jordan and placed down as a reminder to the doubters. Joshua 4
I face down the doubts with my personalized reminders. I have small notebooks full of them. I read them and recite them. I banish doubt to the backseat as I cross over thresholds. My emotional brain calms with the reassurance I provide it.
I wonder if sometime in the future, my children, when sorting out ‘Dad’s stuff,’ they will come across my notebooks and ask, like the children of Israel, ‘What do these stones mean?’. Perhaps they will see my humanness and how God met me in my garden.
Do you have doubts? Thats normal.
Do you have a collection of stones? Thats abnormal.
Build a memorial today.
Quotes to consider
St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the corruption of the best is the worst. So the Bible is capable of great good, but we all understand it at our own stage of emotional and spiritual development. If you are still a black-and-white, rigid thinker who needs certitude and control at every step-well, the Trinity will feel out of reach. Grace shows up where logic breaks down, so you won’t go very far. No matter what passage is given to you, you will interpret it in a stingy, vengeful, controlling way–because that’s the way you do life. Richard Rohr
Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Joshua Heschel
Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith is the opposite 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.
A changed life demands having new understandings in place when you need them. Store them up now and lubricate by revision. D. Riddell
Without the inner discipline of faith, most lives end in negativity, blaming, or deep cynicism—without even knowing it. Richard Rohr
Questions to answer
How much reassurance did you gain from knowing the disciples of Jesus still had doubts?
What do you do when a slither of doubt appears?
Jesus said, ‘ Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.’ How would having an active prayer life offer us a place of protection from giving into temptation?
Further reading
Barry Pearman
Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash
Read this further here FOLLOW ME!Email me: barry@turningthepage.co.nzWebsite: https://turningthepage.co.nz/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/turningthepage1atatimeTwitter: https://twitter.com/barrypearmanInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/barry_pearman/Podcast https://turningthepage.co.nz/podcast-listen-mental-health/Support Turning the Page with a Donation https://turningthepage.co.nz/give/


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