Turning the Page
You’re doing ok

You’re doing ok

May 13, 2021

Life can be tough at times, but to have someone come close and tell you that you’re doing ok can bring deep reassurance and a sense of being centered.

Sometimes you need to be told that you’re doing ok.

They were in a time in their life when it felt like they were in a bubbling cauldron of change. It was bubbling away, and life threw challenge after challenge at them. It was stressful, and they felt it in their body. They felt tired and needed a place to rest.

Then questions started to rise within their thinking.

Did they make the right decision? Perhaps they weren’t meant to be doing this? Maybe they don’t have what it takes?

Thoughts started to spiral downward. Depression and anxiety began to sneak in the back door.

I was watching my friend slowly and steadily lose their way off the path.

I reached out, placed my hand on their shoulder, and told them they were doing ok.

‘Am I really?’ was the response, but looking in my eyes and feeling the affirming touch of my hand, they knew that they weren’t alone.

You’re Doing Ok’

I think we all need people in our lives that can reassure us that were doing ok.

It’s the comparison game that can trip us up. We compare ourselves to others, or more likely to what others present to us.

We also compare ourselves to our younger years when we had all that energy and dreams and goals. Or it might be a comparison to some future years where we have dreams and aspirations but seemingly never come to be.

But to be ok, in this present moment as you read this, well, that is the secret.

We all need someone who can understand the story and appreciate the work of life.

Someone who can say, ‘I see you, I know you, I am with you, and you’re doing ok.’

This isn’t rocket science either. It doesn’t take much to offer the other person a ‘with you’ moment.

That ‘With you’ moment

There is one phrase that covers the whole story of the Bible. It’s part of the BIG STORY. The meta-narrative that our little stories of three score years plus ten (more or less) comprise a stage scene.

It’s the ‘with you’ moment. In prosperity and poverty, in anxiety and depression, in moments where you feel completely abandoned and alone, in times of betrayal, loss, shame, guilt, and pain. There is one whisper that shouts through creation.

‘I am with you.’

I tangibly feel it when another flawed and failing human being reaches out a hand, listens to the story, touches my heart, and says, ‘You’re doing ok.

It’s a grounding in the reality of us all being on a darkly lit path.

What do they know

You may scream internally at these three words. ‘Well, what do they know! Do they know about this and that?

They may not know all the dirt you have to shovel through, but perhaps what they are offering is that from their limited point of view that they want to offer a gift of solidarity, not solutions.

This may be the time where you can ask if you can share something of the ongoing story. The struggle of the moment. That expression of not feeling ok.

Discovering a ‘warm your heart’ walk

It’s a beautiful story of two travelers who were not doing ok. They were hurting and confused. They had seen an innocent man put to death. Crucified.

In their struggle, one came alongside and expressed that they were doing ok in light of all the struggle. They had a ‘with you’ moment of warm fellowship.

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem.

They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Luke 24:13-35

Sometimes we don’t recognize the stranger that comes alongside us and offers us that heartfelt compansion in the ‘You’re doing ok’ community.

There is a desire still in the heart of the Christ to come alongside the weary, the confused, the downtrodden. Perhaps Jesus comes in the presence of someone like you.

Oh yes, and there are times when people are not doing ok, and you need to be equally gentle and loving and show a storied interest in the path they are on.

 Quotes to consider

  • The lamp for our path illumines our next step but leaves much ahead, beside, and behind in darkness. Change from the inside out will always be, in the final analysis, a work of God and must therefore remain a mystery. Remembering this can help us keep realistic expectations of any teaching on change as well as reverence for the God whose ways are far above ours. Larry Crabb Inside Out.
  • Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. D.T. Niles
  • No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’s faithful love. Henri Nouwen inner voice of love
  • 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

Questions to consider

  1. Who in your life needs to hear the words ‘You’re doing ok?
  2. Why do we strive for independence when we were created for interdependence?
  3. What would it be like to be told that ‘You’re doing ok?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

When You See Into Their Mist – Who They Are Becoming

When You See Into Their Mist – Who They Are Becoming

May 6, 2021

There is a mask or even a mist that we can see something quite wondrous when we see behind or through, but it takes awareness to see the vision of what they are becoming.

There is a drive I take every week to a farm and garden out in the countryside. I leave home early in the morning when it is dark and often arrive at daybreak.

It’s a beautiful drive going over hills, through valleys, and besides a stream with sailboats nestled into wooded banks. But it’s particularly beautiful on those mornings when there is a little bit of mist just sitting above the paddocks and on the river. I have to stop and quietly soak in the beauty.

As the sun begins to light up the sky, the darkness starts to retreat.

It’s light, its movement, it’s a time of transition from night into day. The fog sits and clings to the trees, and I know that within a few minutes, it will be gone.

It’s a special time of day, and so many people miss it. They are asleep to the glory and beauty around them. Or perhaps they are busy with getting ready for the day.

By the time they on the same road that I have traveled, the beauty has moved on, never to be seen quite like that again.

We hurry by, don’t we? It takes a conscious decision to slow down, stop, and take it in.

Many people need to be seen behind the dark or even the daylight of their presentation.

Looking a little beyond to the becoming

I like to look a little beyond.

It’s a simple prayer and goes something like this.

‘Help me to see them as you (Jesus) see them.’

What would it be like to have the eyes of Christ?

The eyes of Christ that can look right through all the parades, charades, and games that we all play. To see under the mask of makeup and self-protection.

These wouldn’t be condemning eyes. Instead, these are eyes that dance with delight and joy. These are eyes that affirm you with loving acceptance.

They see the tears, they may even shed a few with you, but they don’t reject or abandon.

These are the eyes that have traversed the dark with you and know that a new day is coming. They see something different from the experience that you have of yourself.

The tender moment

It was a moment in the conversation that I wasn’t quite expecting. Good things often happen unexpectedly.

We had been talking for a few minutes about a painful moment in their lives, and then I saw tears start to trickle down the face. They were hurting, and I felt inadequate. I was meant to.

I prayed, ‘Help me to see them as you see them.’

It was that moment of time between the darkness of the night and the dawning of a new day. The new day would be them shifting out of a deep conversation and into the business and activity of the day.

There was a moment, and I wanted to see the beauty and purpose of it.

Who were they becoming? What was this moment of misty dawning awareness bringing forth for us to explore? I was both excited and still.

I knew that Aslan was on the move. It wasn’t safe, but it was good.

Sure enough, ten minutes later and it was back into functional day-to-day business. Let’s keep busy to keep us one step ahead of the pain of the night and the unknown.

A new business card

I recently saw quite a funny cartoon.

The first image shows Simon, the fisherman picking up a pack of business cards from a printer.

The printer says

‘Here’s your order, sir. A thousand business cards saying ‘Simon, the fisherman.’

The next image starts with a little caption

‘Later that day …’.

In the image, it has Jesus saying to Simon.

‘Simon! from now on, you shall be known as Peter!

Peter looks a little annoyed that he had just got all these business cards, and now he has a name and identity.

This story refers to the encounter between Peter and Jesus that we find in John’s telling of Jesus’story.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus.

The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”).

He immediately led him to Jesus.

Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”). John 1:41, 42

Jesus saw something in Simon and wanted to affirm it. There was a vision of who Simon was to become. A rock of strength for a new move of God in the world.

I wonder if Jesus would suggest a name change for you. Maybe a divinely glorious nickname. Something to signify who you are becoming.

Changing your name

I know many people who have changed their name.

Often it’s a bride, and they change their surname to that of their husband, but I have known someone who changed their name completely.

They changed their name because their brother was well known in New Zealand for certain crimes. The surname was not a common surname like Smith or Jones; rather, it was quite rare to have a name like this.

So they decided to change their name because of being constantly asked about their brother. They felt slurred with the association. They changed their name to change an association with a particular story.

Jesus was saying to Simon that this is your new story, and it’s beginning to unfold. Yes, the business cards of fisherman might have suited him for a time, but now it was going to be different. Jesus saw in him a rock.

Who are you becoming

Someone once said to me.

‘I wonder what God will have me doing in the future?’

I felt a little sadness in my soul when I heard this because all the deep work that they were doing in the area of the soul wasn’t about getting them ready to do something. It was more about who they were becoming.

What was happening in them was change, and it was beautiful.

As I got glimpses through the mists of their pre-dawn life, I became excited. Something was beginning to birth in them. It was a new person.

Something, of course, would emerge as a ‘doing’ out of their ‘being.’ It’s only natural that there would be an overflow out of a full cup.

But when we focus on the ‘doing,’ we lose sight of the delicate artwork of the ‘being’ that Spirit is crafting.

There is a mist, a river, a sunrise that we need to stop and look at, and then give thanks.

The vision for the ego

I have heard them many times. A pastor, a church leader, a ‘superstar prophet’ flown from overseas with much fanfare to give out a ‘special’ word.

A word is given, and people are told they are going to be great leaders and teachers. Healing, wealth, prosperity, freedom, etc…

All of this touches the ego and a human desire for more: more recognition, self-worth, self-styled kingdom building.

How many times have people had their hopes built up by overinflated puff balls.  Then it doesn’t happen. Maybe you heard it wrong. Perhaps you need to do more, follow the rules more, give more, and of course, sin less.

It all becomes an activity of doing more rather than the discovery of becoming more. The ‘vision’ and ‘word’ seem to be more about building up the organization than the organism (you).

I get excited about millimeters.

It’s the little things that get me most excited—those little millimeter changes in the soul.

In writing to a church that was at risk of becoming bound up in law and fundamentalism, Paul wrote about what to look for in one’s becoming.’

It was fruit.

What happens when we live God’s way?

He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like

      • love – affection for others,
      • Joy – exuberance about life,
      • peace- serenity.
      • patience – a willingness to stick with things,
      • kindness – a sense of compassion in the heart,
      • goodness – a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.
      • faithfulness – loyal commitments,
      • gentleness – not needing to force our way in life,
      • self-control – an ability to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
        Galatians 5:22, 23

When I’m in those tender moments of transition with people, those misty mornings moving from dark to day, I look for the millimeter growth of fruit.

How is patience growing? Are they learning to be kind to themselves and others?

The fruit of love is coming along well, and they are so gentle with their tender heart.

What about the joy that is starting to bubble through the rocks of pain?

A new sense of peace is starting to settle on disturbed times.

Yes, Aslan is definitely moving in this one.

Quotes to consider

  • They say Aslan is on the move- perhaps has already landed.”
    And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different.
    Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it has some enormous meaning- either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now.
    At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • God walks with us into our fears, to feel them, to own them, to let them teach us. Richard Rohr. Job and the Mystery of Suffering
  • A Spirit-inspired vision sometimes includes an idea of what a person could do, but it always centers on who that person could become. Larry Crabb Connecting
  • When you’re lovers in a dangerous time,
    Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime
    Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight
    You gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight
    Bruce Cockburn Lovers in a dangerous time

Questions to answer

  1. When listening to someone and you suddenly feel inadequate, what is your first response to their becoming?
  2. What are you gently curious about in the other? What are millimeters of fruit growth that fill you with intrigue?
  3. Was there a little phrase or sentence that spoke to you in this post? What whispered, ‘This is for you.’

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Edouard TAMBA on Unsplash

Falling to the Oldest Trick in the Book. Ministry or Manipulation

Falling to the Oldest Trick in the Book. Ministry or Manipulation

April 29, 2021

We’ve all fallen to the oldest trick in the book, but we need to know the oldest truth in the book. Knowing the difference between ministry and manipulation.

I watched them do it. They said a few words, suggested some options, smiled in a certain way, and waited. It wasn’t long before they had what they wanted. They had laid out the bait, and the person had grabbed it.

I then wondered how many times people had fallen to this subtle and sly manipulation. They were such an expert at it. Their success, their control was based on their ability to get others to do what they wanted them to do.

What’s it like to find out you’ve been manipulated?

To have someone use all sorts of little tricks and techniques to further their own cause.

The oldest trick in the book

You may have heard of the little phrase ‘The oldest trick in the book.’ It refers to a way of tricking someone that is still effective, although it has been used a lot before.

You’ll see it everywhere.

    • Those advertisements for the cosmetics that will ‘turn back the clock and remove the wrinkles.’ ‘You’ll feel like your 25 again’.
    • The advertisement promoting a particular tool that you will be able to build a house just like all the other guys, the successful ones!
    • Give your money to this Church building project, and God will bless you with abundance and prosperity (whatever that might mean to you).
    • Come to Jesus, and all your problems will disappear. (Jesus never said that, by the way)

And actually, the oldest trick is truly the oldest trick in the book, the Bible.

The oldest trick in the Bible.

I’m going to suggest that the oldest trick, that sly manipulation, was one that came from a snake.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

That word ‘crafty’ is about being creative.

I know someone who can take pieces of driftwood, flax, twine, twigs, and cane and craft them into a basket. Crafty can be good. It’s creative. It’s twisting, bending, and making something out of the raw materials on offer.

Crafty can also be bad. Twisting the truth, manipulating and bending a few words for them to seem something different to their original intention.

“Did God really say” is such a sly little question.

It’s a hook to open up doubt about whether God is holding out on something good.

It’s the oldest trick in the book to raise a doubt, to suggest a lack, to whisper ‘you might be missing out.’ It’s a comparison, and you’re the one that’s lacking.

I think of the prodigal son leaving the father, thinking he knew better about where life could be found, and then his brother whining that he had missed out on something.

The oldest truth in the book

There is a truth that is deeper and better than the trick, and it’s so profoundly good that we are not aware of it.

Jesus, in the story of the loving father, speaks the truth to the trick.

‘You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours’ Luke 15:31

That was the awareness that we had as humanity before believing the trickery of the serpent, the satan, the accuser. There was closeness and fulfillment.

Satan tried it on with Jesus too ‘You can have it all – if you bow down to me.’

Jesus already had it all and knew it.

Ministry or Manipulation

When I was a child, in the church denomination I grew up in, the pastor was called ‘minister.’ Other churches had priests, pastors, and vicars. We had a Minister. They were to minister to the needs of the church.

Yet so often, then and now, I find many ministers are often manipulative in their ministry.

This, of course, is done with good intentions, but I wonder if what we do as ministers (and I include myself here) is more about manipulation than true selfless ministry. Reaching a goal rather than sharing a grace.

We have a goal, so we will manipulate a response.

    • ‘Come to Christ, or you’ll burn in hell.’
    • ‘The Bible says … so you need to …’
    • The songs we sing, the lights, smoke machines, carefully crafted words, loud music, soft music give the feedback that the ‘The worship was so good.’

Frank slips out of the pews and has a coffee with a man on the street.

Jenny visits the depressed woman next door who struggles to get out of bed, clean the dishes, and open the curtains. She listens deep.

Where do you think the man of sorrows would rather be?

An overflowing ministry

I want to overflow you.

Imagine if you can three close friends. They know everything about each other, and individually they want to outdo each other in giving goodness to each other.

Essentially one of them says to the other two, ‘I’m so excited to know you that I want to overflow in ministry to you. I want to flood you with love.’

The other two have a chuckle and a laugh of joy, and then individually, they repeat back to the other the same words. ‘I’m going to outdo you in love.’

The response is a Clint Eastwood face and words, ‘Go ahead, make my day.’

They all fall apart in laughter then resume the water fight of overflowing love.

They outdo each other in ministering to the other.

This back and forth overflowing is like a perpetual motion outpouring of trying to outdo each other in love.

Oh yes, and you are in the middle of this wash. You’re getting splashed with overflow, but you don’t even know it.

Then a serpent appears and spins a crafty lie. ‘They’re holding out on you. They can’t be that good.’

An ever so slight shift in gaze, and you’re gone.

Sin is not being far from God, it’s turning our gaze in the wrong direction. Simone Weil

Washing feet

The oldest truth in the book came alive when Jesus took on the role of the lowliest servant and washed His disciple’s feet.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil [read the prince of manipulation] had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
John 13:2-5

 

 

Here in Jesus’ final meal, there was no servant to wash their feet. It was always the lowliest of the servants that got the task of washing dirty, dusty feet.

No one would ever jump up and say, ‘pick me!’

So Jesus chose to minister. That was his mode of being. He was a minister, not a manipulator. He wasn’t trying to manipulate a response, it was a job that needed doing, and he decided he would do it.

Something of the life of communing with Father/Mother and Spirit (Holy) was pouring out sacrificially into the toes, cuts, and calluses of these men’s feet.

Let your mind go there for a moment. Feel the water and the fingers of the Christ work between your toes.

This act of ministry caused a ruckus. Jesus often did.

What’s it like to be ministered to? To have love poured over your wounds, your tiredness, your depression, your anxiety? Ministry without any strings attached. Being foot massaged by someone being a conduit of Jesus’ love.

The fine line

In your relationships, are you more a minister or a manipulator?

Ouch! That’s a tough question because so often, I think we, without any awareness, lean more to manipulation than ministry.

We have a  subconscious accountant’s balance sheet. ‘I’ve done this for them, so they need to do this for me.’

So often, we do things for others in the hope of what we will receive back. When we don’t, we get all resentful, bitter, and turn down the flow.

Questions to Grow in ministry, not manipulation.

 1. What is your heart goal?
What is the deepest desire in your heart that you aware of? Ask God to reveal the truest motivations for your actions.

 2. Where are you being filled?
If you’re giving out all time, you will become tired and fatigued.

What fills your cup? For Jesus, it was a retreat to the mountains.

Do you have people in your life that seem to naturally want to minister into the toes and crevices of your daily dusty walk?

How does God minister into your tiredness?

3. Do you have personal lines of love and respect?
It’s ok to have limits to how much you can minister. Jesus didn’t minister to everyone; he knew his personal earthbound limitations.

So out of love and respect for himself, he was focused on what he could and couldn’t do. It’s ok to say ‘No’ or ‘Not at this moment.’

4. How are you a conduit between the goodness of God and the needs of others?
Imagine yourself as being like a piece of pipe, and the goodness of God is flowing through you and pouring out into others.

You pour God’s love out to others through your words and deeds. In the pouring, you see a refreshment coming to you personally from God.

You take care of the pipeline and maintain its strength and integrity.

  1. That’s always the challenge. Am I in ministry mode or manipulation? Am I operating out of the purest of motivations?

It’s a fine line that only Spirit (Holy) can help you with.

Quotes to consider

  • Husbands and wives are to regard marriage as an opportunity to minister in a unique and special way to another human being, to be used of God to bring their spouses into a more satisfying appreciation of their worth as persons who are secure and significant in Jesus Christ. Larry Crabb Marriage Builder
  • The power of God is indispensable to altering one’s commitments meaningfully. Until I am aware that my needs are already met in Christ, I will be motivated by emptiness to meet my needs. When by simple faith I accept Christ’s shed blood as full payment for my sins, I am brought into a relationship with an infinite Being of love and purpose who fully satisfies my deepest needs for security and significance. Therefore I am freed from self-centered preoccupation with my own needs; they are met. It is now possible for me to give to others out of my fullness rather than needing to receive from others because of my emptiness. For the first time, I have the option of living selflessly. Larry Crabb Marriage Builder
  • People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
    Forgive them anyway.
    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
    Be kind anyway.
    If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
    If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you.
    Be honest and sincere anyway.
    What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
    Create anyway.
    If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
    Be happy anyway.
    The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
    Do good anyway.
    Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
    Give your best anyway.
    In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
    It was never between you and them anyway.
    Mother Teresa

Questions to consider

  1. How do we determine if we are in ministry or manipulation?
  2. What’s it like to discover you’ve been manipulated?
  3. What’s it like to receive the purest of ministry, no strings attached?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

You’re Being Too Naked in Your Vulnerability

You’re Being Too Naked in Your Vulnerability

April 22, 2021

They were too naked in their vulnerability. Too much too soon, but with careful listening, time, and respect, they began to feel deeply known.

They had been too naked with their vulnerability. They thought they were safe with this friend, that what they shared wouldn’t be exposed. But it was told to others, and now they had closed up and remained unknown.

When you’re naked, you’re open to critique, you’re vulnerable to both rejection and acceptance, and you’re never quite sure which way it will swing.

So now they share with no one. Everything is masked up and hidden away.

Secret thoughts, passions, desires, longings, and questions (lots of questions) stay behind the walls.

Perhaps one day, they will find the presence of someone that can listen to the naked vulnerability of their story and sacrificially clothe them with acceptance.

The Eden desire to be known

What would it be like if you were to be known fully by one person and, most importantly, loved for everything you are.

It’s probably difficult to grasp this because we are so aware of our flaws and failings but in this instance, try to imagine there would be nothing of that.

Nothing to hide. Everything open and perfect. You would be translucent, and others could enjoy the uniqueness of you.

I still long for the kind of love that we first felt back in Eden.

To be known and have unselfish love flow towards me and from me to others.  A ‘suitable helper,’ a ‘soul mate,’ someone to be ‘soul naked’ in front of and feel no shame.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Genesis 2:25

I want to be known, and so I open the door and hope someone will provide some Eden interest in my heart.

You see, we still have the scent of the Garden wafting deeply through our subconscious. We want to be known, but often we feel unknown, alone, invisible, and sadly a kind indifference from others.

It’s not self-centered this desire to be known.

You may well be thinking that this desire to be known sounds very selfish. That it’s all about you and meeting your needs.

But it’s not because you were made and created in the spirit of deep community. We were made for translucent communion with each other.

Deep in your heart, you also want to know at least one other person where you can commune with oneness. You want to meet them in their unknownness.

It may be scary to get to know the other at a deep level. It might hurt and push some of your own buttons. But deep down, you want to know them and be with them in their place.

I was in conversation with someone the other day, and I was deeply and genuinely curious about something they said. We talked briefly about many different things, but most of all, I wanted them to feel known in the struggles they were facing. Not to be F.A.S.S.ed – fixed, advised, saved, or set straight.

It’s now pay-to-know.

If you want to know anyone at any great depth, then there has to be a payment made of time and respect.

I love the game of Cricket, especially test match cricket. This is the game that can be played for 5 days, and at the end of the game, it can be a draw.

I try to describe a great test match as a 5-day arm wrestle where both teams are wrestling to the bitter end.

I want to know the game and everything that is going on, so recently, I signed up for a pay-to-view subscription with a local internet provider to see the matches.

Relationships work in a similar way, and the currency is time and respect.

How many times do we only find out something deep and quite significant about someone after we have walked with them for many, many years?

It’s like we have to pay the due of time and respect before the trust was built enough to allow the other to feel safe to be known at that next level.

A spouse discloses how they were abused as a child. Only after years of observation and trust-building have they felt room for them to be known.

You’re too naked too early.

At times I have had conversations with people who have been quick to tell me the dark stuff. It’s like this is their identity, and they want me to know it. They go too naked too early.

You may have heard about how we are all like onions. You peel off one layer, and then another, and then another.

Every layer reveals something deeper about the person: a new level, a new revealing.

More often than not, though, tears of connection need to be mutually expressed with each disclosure.

When people reveal themselves too early, I want to reclothe them and get to know the outer layers first. It’s fitting and respectful to know the whole before exploring under the skin.

Perhaps too naked too early is a desire for validation of pain.

Vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability.
It can be oversharing, it can be shock and awe, it can be attention-seeking, but it’s not true vulnerability.
Because what you’re looking for usually when you broadcast is validation of pain, not connection. Brene Brown Podcast – A bit of optimism with Simon Sinek (30 min)

James, Peter, John, and Mary

Jesus didn’t broadcast his struggles. He didn’t tweet out the wrestle in his internal world. Instead, he invited a few close friends in.

We find time and time again that he spent most of his deep onion layered time with three men and one woman – James, Peter, John, and Mary.

The night before his crucifixion, he pulled them aside and went into a garden.

They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him. He sank into a pit of suffocating darkness. He told them, “I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” Mark 14:32 -34

Mary stood both at the base of the cross and waited at the tomb.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  John 20:1 

Jesus felt safe to be known by these four.

John, though was probably the one that Jesus allowed to come in the closest. John wrote the love story of Jesus’ life and then wrote love letters to the early churches.

I think John smelt the perfume of the Garden of Eden reaching over the walls more than anyone else. He himself felt known and offered the delight of being known back to the Christ.

Smelling the garden

I spend much of my time in various people’s gardens. Pruning, weeding, spreading compost, planting, etc.

Occasionally I smell the perfume of a beautiful rose coming to my senses. I seek it out and find it bringing out its colorful scented glory. I stop and smell the roses. I take deep draughts of perfume into my soul and give thanks. I know the rose and am thankful for its exposure.

I often smell something of Edens’s delight in the lives of the people I meet. There is something that I must seek out and know.

They might consider themselves as woody, thorn-covered, and thoroughly ugly, but with time and consideration, there is a beauty and purpose that is expressed and known.

To know someone takes time and respect.

Quotes to consider

  • To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.  C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
  • 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
  • Can you be vulnerable yet? We all need touch and hugs, but first we must take down the walls that have been built too high around our hearts. D. Riddell
  • It is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love. And it is love that transforms our minds, makes forgiveness possible, and weaves a community of disparate people into the tapestry of God’s family. Curt Thompson
  • Opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes, dreams… that is being naked.  Rob Bell

Questions to consider

  1. What would it be like to be fully known by someone else and not feel shame?
  2. Who are your closest friends, people who deeply know you?
  3. How do we demonstrate safety to another so that they can feel it’s safe to be known?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

The God Who Enters My Shame

The God Who Enters My Shame

April 15, 2021

It was my shame, but it wasn’t to be carried alone. I had a friend who knew it all, and God entered in and healed the pain.

I was being laughed at. I was only a seven-year-old, but for the first time, I felt the cold icy winds of being mocked and shamed.

The situation was that it was my school assembly and I thought our class had won a prize for some art project. So I got up from sitting on the floor and started to walk to the front.

Within seconds I realized that I was the only one standing and moving.

Slinking back to sit on the floor, I felt every eye was on me. I felt very alone and stupid. Kids were laughing and making sport of me.

That was the first time I remember being exposed to the humiliation of getting it wrong. I went on to have many other moments of shame.

Like a bumper boat being shoved from one intrusive experience to the next, our little life gets bumped and bruised along a passage of painful moments.

Shame can be defined as ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.’

It sounds very technical, doesn’t it?

But shame is very much an emotion. To know shame is to know a hole in your life that is bottomless. You can fall into it and keep on spiraling down.

It’s a cold shadow of being completely alone – exposed, unloved, a fool.

Do you remember your first moment of shame?

That moment when your flaws and failings were exposed. You were seen and not known in grace. It might have come from someone else, that painful exposure, that mocking. But deeper and more lasting are the shame messages we say to ourselves.

There is something in yourself that you loath. A self-hatred festers and poisons your life. It’s a comparisonitis to perfection; however you define perfection.

Your the only one in this ‘shame world.’

Everyone else has got it perfectly right. We stay in our personal shame hole because we may well be shamed even more in the very instance of exposing our failures.

We either hide or we hit. In any exposure of flaws, we either hide away or we hit back and retaliate. What’s your defense strategy?

The God who enters our shame

They had got it wrong, and they knew it. They had stolen fruit from the orchard and discovered, for themselves, that it was poisoned.

I remember my father telling a story one day of how he had been to an area of our farm where some beautiful plum trees were growing by a stream. The trees were ripe with big red plums, and looking for a plum to eat on a hot summer’s day, he looked up into a tree.

To his surprise, two little boys were sitting high in the tree. He called out to them, ‘What are you doing up there?’

They responded, ‘We’re looking for Mr. McPherson’s pigs.’

‘Well, you won’t find them up there!’ he told them.

We laughed heartily at their quick-witted response.

They had been exposed for breaking the rules. They were stealing fruit, not looking for pigs.

In Genesis, we find another couple of plum stealers.

Adam and Eve ate the fruit that was out of bounds. They had got it wrong. Badly wrong. The choices they made were human in experience, and now they experienced the fullness of exposure. Guilt and shame washed into them.

But the dancing trinity did not shy away from their exposure. Instead, they entered into it and clothed their exposure with a sacrifice of something of their own creation.

And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

The Christ who enters our shame

Fred: ‘He’s coming to dinner.’

Jenny: ‘Our place? Our messy kitchen? He’s going to see our dirty oven and the dust on the mantlepiece.’

Fred: ‘Oh yes, he also wants to eat with people like us – the prostitutes, gamblers, tax collectors, adulterers, loan sharks, addicts, and all the crazies that have been shunned and looked down upon.’

Jenny: ‘That’s a big party.’

Fred: ‘He also said not to make a fuss and do anything special. He wants to simply be with us, enter our world and wash our feet.’

 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17

Here is the Christ who enters the world of the shamed. Not to cast judgment and punishment, but to offer presence to loneliness. They had been shamed by the rocks thrown. Now someone without shame was entering their world.

They were being known, discovered, explored, and touched. There was a deliberate act of intrusive love into their world.

Jesus once had a conversation with a woman who carried a shame load. At the end of the conversation, her response was joy. It was a liberation that led to her telling her whole community that she met with someone who knew everything about her but wasn’t turned away.

In her freedom, she invited her whole community to come and experience this newness.

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” John 4:29

We enter in

It may not take it away completely, but having someone safe enter your shame place and not be turned away is a most special gift. To be loved and affirmed deeply even when the shame is known is a starting point for deep healing.

It’s the acknowledgment that we have all got it wrong somewhere along the journey and that the invitation is to be connected at that level of human exposure.

So we take careful yet deliberate steps to defuse the power of shame in each other. We make sacrifices of ourselves so that others don’t feel so naked and exposed. Stories are told, bread is shared, and common flawed humanity is discovered.

You got a face not spoiled by beauty
I have some scars from where I’ve been
You’ve got eyes that can see right through me
You’re not afraid of anything they’ve seen
I was told that I would feel nothing the first time
I don’t know how these cuts heal
But in you I found a rhyme.

And I’m a long way
From your hill of Calvary
And I’m a long way
From where I was, where I need to be
If there is a light
You can’t always see
And there is a world
We can’t always be
If there is a kiss
I stole from your mouth
And there is a light
Don’t let it go out
U2 – Song for someone

Every one of us needs someone safe, a bearer of the Christ, to enter our world and disturb the shame with grace.  To ‘not be afraid of anything they’ve seen.’

Quotes to consider

  • Shame is the raincoat over the soul repelling the living water of Jesus that would otherwise establish us as the beloved of God. Andrew Comiskey
  • An addict needs shame like a man dying of thirst needs saltwater. Terrence Real 
  • I think that is God’s plan – to meet me where I am, in all my ugliness, not where I pretend to be or wish I were; to meet me in my weakness and shame and fear and to give me hope that God loves me, that He can change me, and that He can use me. Dr. Larry Crabb, Real Church 
  • Shame causes us to see our identity as flawed rather than seeing ourselves as having flaws. Dan Allender Hope when you’re hurting

Questions to consider

  1. What was your earliest shaming event, and how did it affect you?
  2. What would it have been like to be deeply in that moment?
  3. How do you respond to shame now? Do you run, hide, hit back, or invite an entering in of Christ and others?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

 

God Will Never Leave You and Here is Why

God Will Never Leave You and Here is Why

April 8, 2021

Many people fear that God will leave them, but you have a very good reason why this will not happen. God has a reputation to uphold. A reputation of perfect love.

Deep, deep down, I think one of my greatest fears is that of abandonment. That I will be kicked out of the tribe, the family, the grouping, I will be alone.

Like a leper cast out of the town, I will be on the outside whilst everyone else is enjoying community on the inside. The party is going on, but the door is shut and bolted to entry.

Dig into the deep longings of your heart, and I think you will find a similar fear. We were created to enjoy a party going on, not the sterility of an isolation ward.

Yet, so many live in a fear of God leaving them. They have a deep belief that God, having become so fed up with their sin, lack of obedience, trust, and failure, throws the hands to the skies and shouts, ‘I’m done, they’re out of here.’

Maybe a threat of ‘being kicked out’ was held over them from a young age.

Punishment for not getting it right. Threats, condemnation, rules, black and white, you’re ‘In,’ or you’re ‘Out.’

Possibly at a young age, they experienced a deep loss. A death, a parent walking away from the marriage, a belittling of genuine pain. Healthy, God-designed attachments broken and torn away.

Rejection can get its hooks into us at a very early age. Only love can pry it loose.

Returning the favor

I think we often make God into our own likeness.

French writer Voltaire writes this.

In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since. Voltaire

We create an image of what God is like from the scraps of our own experiences.

Taught or caught?

We get taught certain theologies about God’s nature (head knowledge) but so often, what we deeply believe (heart knowing) is caught through the experiences of our lives.

We remain in the old belief systems until we have caught, or we catch new healthier beliefs.

What beliefs have you caught that actually need to be thrown back as they are either undersized or something never intended for eating?

Promises, promises, promises to never leave.

I could fill this page with verse upon verse of scripture about God never leaving us.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

But do these verses touch that core fear of the heart? Maybe they do on a very cognitive basis, but what does the heart need to hear?

You’ve seen promises get broken. You’ve broken them yourself. So now you’re not too sure about being reliant on a few words uttered.

Looking beyond my shame and guilt

I believe that God uses us as flawed mirrors of themselves – Father/mother, Spirit, Jesus.

We discover new facets of what God is like through the expression of themselves through their greatest creation – us.

When someone who knows my pain, shame, guilt, darkness, depression, anxieties and yet still chooses to love and welcome me into themselves, then I smell the aroma of perfect love.

I catch something of God.

As a pastor, coach, friend, I have had the deep privilege of hearing some of the most terrible things that have happened to people. Actually, once I had a counselor say to me that God has given me the gift of being able to walk into the very dark places of people’s lives and having nothing sticking to me.

When I have listened to the darkness of others, I have been an ambassador of Christ. I have represented God’s ‘I am with you’ reputation.

When I have given the invitation to look bad in the face of love, often people have caught a new vision of what God is like.

Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
Teresa of Avila

The reputation

We all know what a reputation is, don’t we? Often it’s negative. That person has a reputation for not being trustworthy, for doing these bad things, of failure.

The writer of proverbs says this.

A good name [or reputation] is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1

A good reputation is important in life. Consistency, reliability, faithfulness. All qualities that built trust and confidence.

God also has a reputation to maintain.

In the oldest book of the Bible, Job, we find a man who must have questioned whether God had abandoned him. His life of seeming blessedness had been destroyed.

Anything of material wealth, health, or supposed blessing had been stripped from him.

Then his so-called friends and family told him to abandon God. To walk away. They misrepresented the nature of what God was like. They were smearing God’s reputation.

At the end of Job’s story, these friends are confronted by God about their words, their folly.

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.”  

So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. Job 42: 7-9

God’s reputation of faithful commitment to his creation, the apple of his eye, had been smeared and tarnished.

There is a reputation to be upheld in the heavenlies of our God being faithful to his creation.

Have you caught it yet?

God rejecting you would be like the ocean rejecting a fish. A ‘vomiting out’ on the shoreline of a fish, something that was designed for swimming and breathing in water. You wouldn’t last a minute.

You were made to be living in the full contact presence of a loving threefold dancing family. It’s just we aren’t always aware of it.

The prayer of awareness

Spiritual formation is an evolving awareness. We start with some assumptions about what God is like, and we evolve. Exposure to the new replaces the old.

We ask for more awareness of what God is like to seep into our souls.

Like the friends of Job, we often misrepresent what God is like. So we ask for forgiveness, and God makes it right because God is infinite love and forgiveness. God has a reputation to maintain.

As you pray, ask God that you may catch more of God’s delighting presence around you. That the old beliefs that are holding you in fear will be replaced with new beliefs of eternal inclusiveness to God’s heart.

Quotes to consider

  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • The furious love of God knows no shadow of alteration or change. It is reliable. And always tender. Brennan Manning
  • We cannot attain the presence of God. We‘re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr.
  • Like faded paintings on the wall that one never sees because they’ve always been there, so are the assumptions that govern our lives. D. Riddell.

Questions to consider

  1. Caught or taught? Some of your deepest beliefs. Were they caught or taught?
  2. What grows awareness of God’s forever presence in your life?
  3. What happened in you when you read the words ‘God rejecting you would be like the ocean rejecting a fish?’

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Simon Watkinson on Unsplash

The Evolution of Empowered Boundaries

The Evolution of Empowered Boundaries

April 8, 2021

It can be so debilitating to be told ‘you need to have boundaries,’ but as you grow the heart, a new empowered strength slowly builds within.

‘You really need to have boundaries’

How many times have you heard this said or even said it yourself?

I always feel a little cringe when I hear these words. There is just something about it that sounds legalistic, mechanical, rules bound, and policy-driven.

Nothing of the heart or any internal depth to it.

This is why I prefer ‘Lines of love of respect.’ It seems to connect better to something that is of heart value. Something that is evolving.

It also sounds condemning.

You know you need boundaries, but you don’t know how to get there. It’s like there is a lack of internal strength even to define a boundary, express it and potentially enforce it.

Condemning because it’s yet another mountain too high to climb.

Perhaps this boundary stuff is an inside-out evolution.

Evolution of the heart

The unfurling of a fern frond is something that has captured my imagination for many years. It’s part of the logo for Turning the Page.

Here in New Zealand, we call it the Koru ((Māori for ‘loop or coil’) and is the spiral shape based on the appearance of a new unfurling silver fern frond.

There is a natural energy that pours through the fern to unfold its inner beauty and strength. It’s an evolution.

There is a movement from the inside out.

An unfolding of its God-designed deep inner beauty and purpose.

I believe that we are much like this uncurling frond. If you try to force the process, you will break it. It’s got to happen in its own time and its own way.

Some words to consider.

  • Volution – A turn or twist about a center; a spiral.
  • Evolution – the gradual development of something. An unspiraling.

Beautiful Birthing

The most beautiful birthings I have given witness to are when someone has done the hard inside-out work. They have gone deep into the core of who they are and the beliefs they have held.

Toxic negative beliefs about themselves have been gently replaced by life-giving truth. The birth was not easy (never is), but it resulted from something growing within.

The heart is issuing, or giving out, a newness of life.

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

The heart has grown from within. It hasn’t been forced or manipulated; it’s been a natural outcome of doing the work.

Often part of the process is to examine the toxic waste that has gathered around the heart and poisoned its true beauty and purpose.

Shedding the toxic waste

There is a toxic waste that often gets revealed through the conversations we have. The little put-downs, controlling attitudes, self-condemnation we say to ourselves and others.

Our heart speaks out both good and bad in our words and actions.

The heart overflows in the words a person speaks; your words reveal what’s within your heart. Luke 6:45

If we are aware of the toxin, we try to hide it, but so often, we may not even know we have some toxic, poisoned, stinky – thinky going on in our hearts.

Perhaps the groupings and relationships we have, develop and maintain the waste line. I wonder how many in Churches are trapped in groupthink.

Toxic theologies abound. You can read some of them here.

Growing your heart

There is such a gentleness to this heart evolution that it’s hard to define. But it’s all enveloped in love. Love from others and a growing love and respect for the self.

That Koru of unfolding fern wouldn’t stand a chance out in the desert. Rather it needs the protection and nourishment of a sun filtred forest.

Discovering your truest value and worth is not self-centered narcissism; it’s more coming in line with the way you were always intended to be. The healed heart can issue out life-giving abundance to others.

Our hearts come to have empowered lines of love and respect when we recognize that what’s inside is worthy of protection and nourishment.

When we self-denigrate and put down our deepest value and worth, we continue to have flimsy boundaries. The winds and words of others easily crush us.

Shoring up with sandbags

There is a flood coming.

It’s going to sweep into your home and destroy your most precious possessions. So you gather sandbags and build yourself a wall of protection.

It takes effort and time, but you fill bags and build bag upon bag upon bag.

The waters come, but you have built a barrier, a boundary, a line of love and respect for what you hold most dear to your self.

You would do this for your physical home, but what about for something even more precious – your heart.

Recently I have been building a sandbag wall to protect my heart from the intrusive hurtful voices of others and my inner critic. I have been giving my heart new food to feed itself on.

Affirming the truth about ourselves

Something I have been doing every day for the past four months is to listen to a series of short affirmations I have audio recorded for myself.

These are short sentences that I want my heart to hear and believe. I want my heart to evolve out of these short-spoken truths.

The first one I hear every morning is this.

I am Zakar. I am remembering and moving into my world. I am leaving a mark. I am male. (read more about Zakar here)

Some others are

  • I am focusing on the positive/good things, and this gives me hope.
  • I am giving my heart new beliefs to feed on
  • I am resting my mind on God’s truth for me, and this is slowly shaping my brain.
  • I am discounting my mistakes before they discount me
  • I am holding myself to a standard of grace, not perfection
  • I am building my life on great thoughts repeated over and over again until they are programmed in.

There is gentle intentionality to the strengthening of my heart.

That Koru beauty and purpose within my heart is slowly and gently growing in strength. Winds and abuses come and brush up against it. It hurts, but there’s a depth and resilience to the new me that is unfolding.

Perhaps if I were a woman, I would want to say to my heart these words.

I am Naqebah. I am revealing the beauty of God. I am displaying beauty. I am female. (read more about Naqebah here)

This beauty I am talking about is not about physical appearance; it’s more about a deep inner beauty that reflects something of God’s own beauty. It is a beauty that needs to be revealed to be known.

When we develop these core beliefs about who we truly are, then the boundaries, the lines of love and respect, the sandbags are strengthened.

As we nourish the heart we build our boundaries, our lines of love and respect from the inside out. It’s an unfurling of our deepest self.

Quotes to consider

  • Human life must be about more than building boundaries, protecting identities, and teaching impulse control. Richard Rohr
  • To shift a truth from your head to your heart, speak it loud, speak it often, and make a deliberate choice to believe it. David Riddell
  • The role of heart and mind is to cooperate with truth by opening to love. We need the mind to know the truth of the heart, and we need the heart to know the truth of the mind. David G. Benner
  • Real self-esteem comes from within; it is the existential, spiritual truth that we have value and worth intrinsically, because we are here and breathing, not because of anything we have or can do, nor how others regard us. Terrence Real

Questions to answer

  1. When someone says to you ‘You need boundaries’ what goes on in your heart? What emotions get triggered?
  2. What toxic stinky-thinky do you need to be healed from your heart?
  3. What beauty and/or purpose needs to be released, unfurled, from your heart?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Fran on Unsplash

Dreams, Visions, and Revelations. How they can help

Dreams, Visions, and Revelations. How they can help

April 8, 2021

Dreams, visions, and revelations are part of our lives, but what do we do with them? We can treasure them and find their help.

Each night as I am about to sleep, I pray a simple two-word prayer – ‘Spirit come.’ I then emotionally see myself being cocooned inside wide and welcoming arms like a little child that needs deep love and assurance.

I have puzzled over why these are the two words I pray, and I think it’s the desire to enter my new day within the embrace of Spirit (Holy).

See more about entering your day by going to sleep here.

I generally drift off in this prayerful embrace, but a few nights ago, I met a crocodile.

The Crocodile and The Christ

I was going to sleep, well I was trying to go to sleep, but my heart was anxious. Deep thoughts of worry and fear were bubbling around.

That’s when I saw the crocodile. It was kind of a vision, a pulling back of the curtain and seeing beyond what I would not normally see.

It was sitting in a swamp some way off, and then it saw me. It turned and slowly began crawling towards me. I couldn’t move as if I was mesmerized by it.

It was now racing towards me. Mud flying everywhere. That large tail was swishing and smashing everything in its path.

I was filled with panic and fear. I was going to be mauled by this huge beast.

I cried out, ‘Jesus, help me.

In an instant, there was a strong right foot standing on the crocodile’s head, pushing it into the mud. It writhed back and forth but couldn’t get free. Meanwhile, the foot remained steady, strong, and seemingly effortless in its action.

I looked up to see who this was. My heart knew at once. Hearts have a way of recognizing true friends.

It was the Christ. By the way, Christ is not a surname; it’s a title, a designation, a certainty. It means ‘anointed.’

This was the Christ that I think John saw when he wrote his Revelation.

But in my vision, he was tall, thin, and had the appearance of what I have seen in many icons—stoic, authority, strong.

It was the Christ who had been there done that. He wasn’t all macho and superhero; he knew his authority without having to parade it. There was a kind of Clint Eastwood stanch – ‘Go ahead punk (crocodile), make my day.’

I looked again at that crocodile, and it was still writhing and wrestling, but the foot just kept it there. Steady and strong, firm and weighty.

Then I looked at the Christ, and he was holding a scepter in his hand. It wasn’t a fancy one with gold and diamonds, more so it was a plain stick. It was worn and ancient old. But it carried the authority that all scepters hold. It’s was the one scepter to rule them all as such.

Jesus, the Christ, had won it all.

He was not going to allow anything to attack me. All I had to do was cry out.

I felt secure that I was known and held, that nothing could consume me.

This was the Christ of the now. The one who has risen and was ruling.

Dreams, visions, and revelations.

I think it’s important to take notice of your dreams, visions, and revelations.

Those moments where seemingly the curtain is pulled back, and we get a glimpse into something beyond the here and now.

I’ve not had many experiences as vivid as the Crocodile and the Christ, but I’ve had enough to know that they should be taken notice of. To hold them and listen to the emotional message they carry.

As I reflected on the vision, there were emotional components that needed to be taken in deeply. Fear met with overwhelming assurance. Vulnerability is embraced with being known.

The Bible is full of dreams, visions, and revelations. It seems to be a method God uses to cut through the clutter of our rational thinking. Starving Cows, full cows, fiery wheels, spinning stars, all pointing us to something beyond our ‘this present moment’ understanding.

One of my favorites is the eye-opening experience of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha.

Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?”

He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.”

Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.”

The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!  2 Kings 6:15-17

It’s interesting to note that the name Gehazi means ‘valley of vision.  Perhaps his vision was limited to the logic of the known valley walls. So many are like him.

But I wonder what happened at a heart level in Gehazi. I suspect that emotions of assurance superseded the emotions of fear.

Right brain, left brain.

Are you more right-brain-orientated or left-brain orientated? We need both.

There is a whole science about the differences in the left and right brain hemispheres of the brain. Read more here

Basically, though, the different sides of the brain have different functions.

Healthline explains the difference.

The left brain is more verbal, analytical, and orderly than the right brain. It’s sometimes called the digital brain. It’s better at things like reading, writing, and computations.

The left brain is also connected to logic, sequencing, linear thinking, mathematics, facts, thinking in words. 

The right brain is more visual and intuitive. It’s sometimes referred to as the analog brain. It has a more creative and less organized way of thinking.

The right brain is also connected to imagination, holistic thinking, intuition, arts, rhythm, nonverbal cues, feelings visualization, daydreaming. Healthline

Where do you see the expression of dreams, visions, and revelations? The right side of the brain, but which side of the brain is often used to understand dreams, visions, and revelations. The left side of the brain.

How many books and sermons have been written to analyze and codify the dreams, visions, and revelations in the Bible. We try to make a prescription out of a description.

I would love to sit with some of those in the Bible who experienced dreams, visions, and revelations and go into the right brain experience with them.

What happened in you, Gehazi, when you saw the chariots of fire? What shifted in your heart? How do you understand God differently now?

Going right brain in your dreams, visions, and revelations

I use a little acronym when I have a ‘pulling back of the curtain’ experience. It’s T.T.A.Q. (Title, Theme, Affect, Questions)

  • Title.
    Always give it a title. It is a short story or movie and deserves a title. The act of choosing a title offers insight into the meaning of your dream.
  • Theme.
    What is it principally about?
    This is a short phrase that describes the topic.
    If it was a movie, would it be a thriller, a comedy, a romance?
    Ask God to help you identify the overall theme.
  • Affect.
    What was the emotional affect expressed in it?
    What were the feelings felt by the principal character in the story or movie?
    Were there certain emotions expressed by others?
    What feelings did you experience when you awoke?
    Describe the emotional tone or impact of the dream.
  • Questions.
    What questions does the story seem to be asking of you?
    The authors of this technique suggest you listen to the story as if it were a friend asking you a meaningful question. The act of formulating the question/s will give an interpretation.

The second thing I would highly recommend to do after T.T.A.Q. is to simply sit with the new expression. Be like Mary, who ‘treasured up’ all her discoveries about the Christ in her heart.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

In that pondering and treasuring, our hearts and minds change and become more open to seeing new revelations of the Christ in our everyday life.

Quotes to consider

  • The absolute center of what God does to help us change is to reveal himself to us. Larry Crabb Connecting
  • Sleep is God’s contrivance for giving us the help he cannot get into us when we are awake. George MacDonald
  • If you attend the soul closely enough, with an educated and steadfast imagination, changes take place without your being aware of them until they are all over and well in place. Thomas Moore Care of the Soul
  • Causal thinking usually obstructs imagistic reflection. Thomas Moore Care of the Soul

Questions to answer

  1. What do you do with your dreams, visions, and revelations?
  2. A millimeter step is often required to be taken to begin exploring your dreams. What would that be for you? Keeping a small journal near your bed?
  3. What do you pray before going to sleep? How are you entering your new day?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

When God is like a Drill Sergeant

When God is like a Drill Sergeant

March 18, 2021

For many, God can be like a drill sergeant, demanding and harsh, but that is a flawed understanding of God. When we look closely at the diamond, we can see other facets.

If you follow the rules and commands, then everything will be ok. Step out of line and watch out.

I’ve talked with many people about their understanding of what God is like, and after much discussion, we often hone the description down to being one of God being like a Drill Sergeant.

It’s a heart description; it’s how they feel about God. They may have an intellectual knowledge of God being love and compassion etc., but when you get down to a metaphor to describe God, it’s something akin to being like a drill sergeant.

That drill sergeant is going to push you. Shouting at you until you get it perfectly right. There are rules, and you need to keep them.

A drill sergeant is going to break down any personal disobedience in you until you become a machine. They issue a command, and you follow with absolute automation. The army swivels on a single command.

When I was a child, I was taught songs with titles such as ‘I’m in the Lord’s army’ and hymns such as ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’

All very military orientated. Orderly, displaying God as a commander in chief.

When God is both commander in chief and drill sergeant, then you better follow the rules. No room for humanity or compassion.

Your parents, your church

Probably the most dominant influencing factors on our earliest beliefs about God come from our parental figures. Stern fathers and mothers. Punishment for breaking the rules.

Black and white. You’re in, or you’re out.

Then Church (read organized religion) comes with its set of dogmas and rules on living a ‘godly life.  We like certainty and direction, so we listen to the preacher and the Sunday school teacher warning us about the perils of stepping out of rank.

I remember from childhood days seeing pictures of people being thrown into Hell’s fires and multi-horned beasts. Some highly creative artists had drawn Revelation’s book into a weekly digest useful for scaring small children!

We’re all looking for someone.

I suppose we are all looking for someone to tell us what to do.

We all want someone to give us the command of what to do next. Do I pivot right, left, stand to attention, or be at ease.

Certainty, please, not a mystery.

In our hearts, maybe, we are looking for a Drill sergeant—a kind one.

And that is the real need: kindness and compassion.

Someone who will say

‘I see you’re struggling with the push-ups. Here, let me do them with you. And if you can’t do them, I will do them perfectly on your behalf.

Actually, I already have done them, but I know that doing the push-ups will help you grow in my likeness.

Let’s do them together at a grace/ pace you can handle.’

Every effort you make to try and impress the Drill Sergeant God is rather laughable.

He’s already done it for you on your behalf and in perfect formation. No more medals to be earned or brownie points to be gained.

It’s all about love and grace now.

Facets of a diamond

A metaphor that helps me understand what God is like is that of a beautifully cut diamond.

It has many facets or edges cut to give a face for light to both bounce off and penetrate and radiate out of.

Every facet has a different quality, but it is all part of the same diamond. It’s a part of a whole.

Yes, there is an element of God being like a drill sergeant, but if that is all that has captured our attention, then we are missing the whole beauty of the diamond.

I want to enjoy the whole diamond: every facet, every face. I don’t want to be enchanted and mesmerized by only one. Give me the whole of the diamond.

Yes, there are spiritual disciplines that can help my formation, but if the discipline becomes the object of worship, I have truly lost the alluring power and delight of God’s beauty.

Maybe another facet of God is that of a lover alluring us to be with them.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14

No drill sergeant there, but another diamond facet of expression.

Where you focus

On our country roads here in New Zealand are signs with a motorcyclist going around a corner. The words on the sign say, ‘Where you focus, you will go.’ It’s a warning about being distracted.

Perhaps with a lifetime focus on God being like a drill sergeant, it has taken you away from knowing a God of compassion and love. It becomes a relationship of doing the right thing instead of discovering a new enchanting facet.

What would it be like to stop and shift your focus for a moment?

Begin to at a heart level, become open to the possibility of other facets of God’s nature shining light and life into your soul.

Quotes to consider

  • If your religion does not transform your consciousness to one of compassion, it is more a part of the problem than any solution. Richard Rohr.  Immortal Diamond: The search for our true self
  • God’s method is neither to merely issue commands from the general’s tent (do what’s right) nor to improve the functioning of diseased organs (fix what’s wrong). Instead he becomes so intimately a part of us that we want to resist whatever he doesn’t like and release the good things he has aroused within us. LarryCrabb. Connecting.
  • God no longer stands in front of us, drill-sergeant style, barking orders. He is now inside us, whispering with attractive authority that it’s time to hit the deck and do fifty push-ups. And now we want to do it, not because the activity itself is fun, but because it fits our nature (we’re soldiers) and we enjoy pleasing our commander (we love him). Larry Crabb. Connecting
  • Groups tend to emphasize accountability when they don’t know how to relate. Better behavior through exhortation isn’t the solution, though it sometimes is part of it. Larry Crabb Connecting

Questions to answer

  1. What is a dominant image or facet that defines what God is like to you?
  2. How much have parental figures and organized religious experiences contributed to your understanding of what God is like?
  3. What does your heart most need to hear right now?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Carlos Lindner on Unsplash

 

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Being Formed as a Little Child

Being Formed as a Little Child

March 14, 2021

Being formed like a little child is something Jesus wants us to do, but how are we to do this as adults? Perhaps it’s by surrender to the potter’s hand.

Probably the most joyous gift to our family over recent years has been the addition of a new family member. Twenty-two months ago – in May 2019, my daughter gave birth to a beautiful little girl called Eliza.

We have so delighted to see her grow and develop as a beautiful little child.

She is being formed.

I see her quite often, and every time I see changes that have happened since the last Poppa time. New words, expressions, confidences, likes, and dislikes.

It’s like she is a sponge soaking up everything her world has to offer.

If we were to look into her brain, we would see incredible neurological growth.

New learnings require new pathways, and even now, at this early age, old ways that once served her well are being disregarded with the ways that serve her better. For a brief time, it was crawling, but now that has been superseded by walking. Soon she will be running!

It’s no wonder that little children need to sleep so much. All that brain activity and change going on. The brain needs to catch up and settle things into place.

I have also found that adults going through times of change, and perhaps deep therapy, also get tired. There is so much unlearning and relearning going on that it takes time and energy.

Becoming like a child

There is a difference between knowledge and knowing.

I have met many people I would say have a great deal of knowledge but very little knowing. In talking about God, they can quote this theologian, that book, history, and philosophy, but there is little intimate childlike knowing of God.

Limited awareness of coming to God like a loving Papa or Mama.

Jesus found this all the time. Even with his closest followers.

They wanted to know who is the world champion of spirituality. Was it Abraham? Perhaps Moses?

Today we might ask if it was one of our own personal faith superheroes – C.S. Lewis, Dallas Willard, name your favorite here.

Typical Jesus threw them a curveball.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Matthew 18:1-5

Two words spring to my attention. Change and become.

Those early listeners would have heard ‘strephó’ and ‘ginomai.’

  • strephó – to turn (transition); (figuratively) to convert by changing (switching) direction, i.e., go the other way (an “about-face”); taking an opposite or divergent course.
  • ginomai – to emerge, become, transitioning from one point (realm, condition) to another.

The other interesting word is the word for children – paidíon

  • paidíon – a child under training

This ‘child under training’ is going to be doing the twist and turn in its becoming.

You’re being formed, informed, reformed, transformed.

I keep thinking of a clay pot being formed on a potter’s wheel.

Around and around it goes. A little water is added here and there. The fingers work into the pot, and the pot responds.

I like to think of myself as being on that spinning wheel. Slowly moving and turning, I feel the influence of the master craftsman against my earthy life.

They have a vision of who and what I will become.

It’s a lifetime artwork for them. They press against my clay, and I respond. I push back, they pull back, they move in, and I move out.

I suppose it’s a kind of a dance.

Something both beautiful and functional is being crafted. I am being formed. I am like a child open to their movement and form.

Lord, you are our Father.
    We are the clay, and you are the potter.
    We all are formed by your hand. Isaiah 64:8

The invite

The invite as adults is to become like ‘children in training.’ To admit, some of the things we learned as children need to be reexamined with new information.

Were all your childhood conclusions perfectly correct?

We become like children again and open ourselves like sponges to new ways of thinking. We are transformed by the renewal of our mind Romans 12:2.

Quotes to consider

  • metanoeite, or change of consciousness, can only come with time. Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr 
  • I’m being formed every day. I’m being formed by the social media that I consume. I’m being formed by my parents. Even if my parents are not even alive, I’m being formed by their memory.  And so the question is, what are the things in the world that are gonna form me. Dr. Curt Thompson. Being Known podcast 
  • Immature spirituality focuses on experience.  Mature spirituality focuses on seeing and knowing.  David Benner
  • We best worship our relational trinitarian God by actively yielding to the Holy Spirit’s slow and sometimes painful work of spiritually, relationally, forming our hearts, souls, and minds. Larry Crabb

Questions to answer

  1. What’s it like to be considered as a lump of clay being molded and formed?
  2. To be a ‘child in training’ requires a certain openness and receptivity to new information. How open are you to the idea that not all conclusions about life are actually correct?
  3. Who has had a positive forming experience on your life of clay?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Balaji Malliswamy on Unsplash

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

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