Turning the Page
Picking Up The Broken Pieces

Picking Up The Broken Pieces

August 13, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Playing in her pain.

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

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

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

As you read this tap into the emotions of loss.

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

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

Broken pieces

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

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

I use a podcast called Daily Lectio Divina. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think that’s what they probably did.

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

We like nice stories

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

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

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

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

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

Your broken pieces

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

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

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

She’s been there before.

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

What prompted the nudge?

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

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

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

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

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

A picture of new beauty.

Mosaic of beauty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your gift is …

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

What is the invite God is whispering to you?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Quotes to consider

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

Questions to answer

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

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash

Is COVID-19 An Invitation To Check Our Wisdom?

Is COVID-19 An Invitation To Check Our Wisdom?

August 10, 2020

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

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

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

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

Some questions came to mind.

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

You can answer those questions yourself.

The poverty of wisdom in COVID-19

Today I read these lines from musician Bruce Cockburn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The kindness of a mask 

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

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

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

Whereas a community-centered approach sees things differently

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

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

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

Being a wise leader

You are a leader.

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

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

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

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

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

But nobody remembered that poor man. 

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

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

Small as a tight community.

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

It starts in small places where we have personal control.

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

He Tangata.

We have a Maori proverb here in New Zealand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Quotes to consider

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

Questions to answer

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

Further reading

Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash

Barry Pearman

There’s a Gum Tree Shadow Hanging Over Me

There’s a Gum Tree Shadow Hanging Over Me

July 30, 2020

We can live warped lives because of a shadow hanging over us, but that shadow can be removed if we face what’s causing the shadow and allow the light to flood in.

Have you ever walked in a shadow?

Of course you have, but you probably didn’t take much notice of it. We do it all the time.

What about filtered light? Light that has been defused and filtered as it has passed through clouds. Again yes.

We don’t notice it because we are used to it. It’s commonplace and the norm.

Taking this metaphor a little further, we all live with a certain amount of shadows affecting our lives. What I am talking about are the shadows from the past.

Shadows

She is a grown adult woman, but she can still hear the voice of her father berating her.

What about the man who never knew the fullness of a mother’s love, now the shadow invites him online.

They and we grow used to the ambiance of the diffused light. It’s all we have ever known. Sure, at times, we get a glimpse of sunlight, of something different, but it’s so different that we don’t know what to do with it.

We scurry back into the shadow. It’s safe. Normal and familiar.

The Beetles sang ‘There’s a shadow hanging over me’ and the rock-solid belief in the power of ‘yesterday’.

Plant in full light

At the moment, I am pruning fruit trees. One of the trees I am pruning is an apple tree, but it’s on a lean. Not from the wind, or from being hit by some object, but because it’s hungry for light.

Right above the tree, hang the branches of a large gumtree.

Barry having dangerous fun!

This larger tree casts its shadow over the apple, and the tree compensates to seek out the light.

I really should cut the gum tree down. It would be quite a job, and to cut it down from the base would cause it to crash on the apple tree and destroy it.

I would need to get a cherry picker and go up into the tree and cut it down section by section.

I’ve done this sort of thing before. It’s kind of dangerous but so rewarding when you get to see the results of more light flooding into the garden.

Turning to see

The cause of the problem shadow will only be seen when we look at what is causing the shadow.

I can look at the apple tree all day long and not solve the problem. It’s only when I turn my gaze and see what might be shadowing it will I come to an understanding.

When we come to experience the full light, when we turn and see that which has its shadow on us, it can be like a gum tree has landed on us. For some of us, that’s what is needed.

A deeply religious man, Saul, was one of those who had a light shattering moment.

All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.

He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”

He said, “Who are you, Master?”

“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”

 His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing. Acts 9:1-9

Saul thought he had been walking in the light.

That he had been doing what God would have wanted him to do, yet he was in the darkest of shadows.

The shadow of religiosity. Black and white, rules, and regulations, religion, and self-righteousness.

What casts its shadow on you?

This is an important work. Examing the shadows that are still haunting over you today.

We all have them, and it requires a turning and looking up and back. What is casting that shadow?

Is it the shadows of others gone long before? Generational shadows passed down from generation to generation.

Maybe it was a parent, family member that hurt you. They may not even be aware of the infraction.

Children are excellent recorders of their experiences but poor interpreters. David Riddell

Perhaps its a shadow of something you have done, and you feel shame, guilt, grief, and loss.

You’ve been warped by the shadow. You are stretching and seeking the light, but the shadow remains.

Isn’t it time to make things new?

Making all things new

I believe God is on a love mission where they want to make all things new.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

Paul found this newness. A gumtree had to fall on him to make him wake up to God’s presence, but for some of us, that is what’s needed.

Better still to cut the gum tree down branch by branch. To slowly dissect the object casting the shadow and allow the light to flood in.

Where to from here

1. Ask God to reveal what is casting a shadow.
Jesus said these words about Spirit (Holy).

The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. The Spirit doesn’t speak on his own. He will tell you only what he has heard from me, and he will let you know what is going to happen. John 16:13

2. Own the shadow

It’s a shadow that’s on you, so you need to take responsibility for it. Avoidance won’t shift the shadow.

3. Ask God for help in removing what is causing the shadow

Imagine that huge gumtree and the enormity of the problem. You cant do it by yourself. We need someone larger and greater than ourselves.

Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Dr. Larry Crabb

4. Find others to help you dismantle the tree piece by piece. 

This will most likely be a journey of a lifetime. Removing branches one at a time. Safely and securely allowing the new light to flood in. Find someone to help.

5. Look for the new light and enjoy its warmth. 

As each small limb falls, there is a new light that dances around your life. You can grow straight, produce new fruit, and be enjoyed by others. You are one that has done the work and is now full of fruit.

 

We all have shadows that limit the light reaching us. Surely we can pray and ask God to help remove the object that is a full awareness of their presence.

 

Mental health is ... understanding the shadows we are living under and then beginning the process of removing the branches that hide the lightCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin
  • Those who do not turn to face their pain are prone to impose it. Terrence Real
  • Redeemed pain is more impressive to me than removed pain Phillip Yancey.

Questions to answer

  1. What has been a ‘shadow’ that has seemingly clung on to you?
  2. What would it be like to have some of those shadows removed and have more light enter your life?
  3. Are their experiences in your life that you might have recorded quite well but interpreted poorly? What would Spirit (Holy) want you to know as truth? Are you open to another interpretation?

Barry Pearman

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

 
The Cup. Paying Attention To What Fills and Drains

The Cup. Paying Attention To What Fills and Drains

July 23, 2020

We are like a cup in which energy both fills and drains. But we can grow by paying attention to the cup and understanding the fillers and the drainers.

It was always a challenge to get them to care for themselves. They were always giving out to others, and I could see that life was being sucked out of them.

I explained that you can’t give out of an empty cup, but self-sacrifice and martyrdom had been drummed into them from childhood. They remembered that Sunday School song – J.O.Y. Jesus first, Yourself last,  and Others in between sung to the merry little tune of Jingle Bells.

But now all that giving out was leading to their fragile body forming cracks. The body was breaking down. It couldn’t keep on giving out. Illnesses came,  sleeplessness, anxiety, depression. The body was trying to send a message – Stop abusing the cup.

The Cup

Many years ago, I once spent some time with a counselor by the name of Ruth Penny, and she suggested that I do a simple little spiritual exercise. I don’t know if she had developed herself or it was someone else’s, but I use it all the time.

Its simply to imagine yourself as a cup and to notice what is filling your cup and what is emptying it. The input and the output. What is flowing in and what is being taken out.

It’s a simple exercise of attention.

1. Get your journal or a piece of paper and a pen
Have some writing paper, a journal, or your diary so you can write down your experiences.
Keeping a record of your entries will enable you to see trends in your life, and it may well point out to you things that God wants you to take notice of.

2. Quieten yourself
This is an exercise of attention, so you will need to be quiet and give yourself space to breathe and focus. Allow yourself to be still.
Prayerfully ask Spirit (Holy) to open the awareness of your cup to you. To see what God sees.

3. Imagine your life as a cup.
A cup is something we are all familiar with. Jesus used a Cup as a metaphor for our lives.
The cup is a container for something. They have a purpose and practicality to them.
This exercise is not about the external aspects of the cup, such as color, age, cracks, or chips, but more about what flows in and out.

4. Write down your Cup fillers and Cup drainers.
As you consider how your life is a cup, take note of what has filled your life and what has drained your life.

Cup Fillers
 – what has given you a sense of life?
It might be the smallest of things such a smile from a stranger, something you have read, something you have achieved. It is anything positive that has been poured into your life. Don’t dismiss even the smallest of droplets that made their way into your life. They all add up.

Cup Drainers
 – what has drained the life from you?
Write down those things where you have sensed a drain on you. It might be a relationship, a conflict, or a work situation. It could be anything, but for whatever reason, this has drained some sense of life from you.

5. Prayerfully look at the Fillers and Drainers.
Examine them and ponder over them.
· How full or empty is your cup at the moment?
· Do you notice any patterns in what has filled you or drained you?
· Is there anything you need to do differently?
· What do you need to let go of?
· What do you need to embrace?
· What will repeat itself if you don’t make some changes?

You might like to discuss and problem-solve some of the drainers with others. Set yourself some small and highly achievable goals that focus on both filling your cup and dealing with the drainers.

Note:  Some things can be both drainers and fillers. For example, I love talking with people at a deep level. It both fills my cup but also drains it. This is ok, as long as I  am aware of it and learn ways to fill up.

6. Repeat the exercise
I encourage you to repeat this exercise. Make it a regular part of your life. It could be every day or week. As you do this, you will begin to see patterns to what fills and drains your cup.

There may be an invite in those patterns to explore further. Those habits, both good and bad, have a revealing nature to themselves. I wonder what they can tell you about you?

By the way, this exercise is beneficial if you are considering a career change. You begin to notice the patterns that might be like signposts for a future direction to explore.

7. Give yourself a cup of grace
If I could everyone a cup of some unique beverage, it would be a cup of grace. We can so easily measure ourselves against others and pick up a nasty case of comparisonitis.

The poison of comparison cripples our contentment.
Instead, give yourself a cup of grace.

 

Mental Health is ... taking notice of your cup. What is filling you and what is draining youCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • Justice – is getting what is deserved
    Mercy – is not getting what is deserved
    Grace – is getting what is not deserved
    Darrell Johnson
  • To be more aware of the other person, first become more aware of yourself. Without self-awareness, self cannot be laid aside, in order to listen. D. Riddell
  • Love yourself as you love others. If you don’t care for your own needs, you’ll soon be unable to care for those who need you.  D. Riddell
  • Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner

Questions to answer

  1. What, on a regular basis, has an energy filling effect on the cup of your life?
  2. What, on a regular basis, has an energy-draining effect on the cup of your life?
  3. Are you able to give yourself a nice full cup of grace?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

 
Is The Load Too Heavy? Watch With Me

Is The Load Too Heavy? Watch With Me

July 17, 2020

The load we carry can get too heavy, and we can breakdown. But we can grow through it when we have others who will watch with us.

I needed help. I vividly remember the day I rang emergency services. I had come to a point where I knew I couldn’t carry the load by myself anymore. I had been beaten down emotionally and needed help.

Every one of us is different. We all have different tolerance levels and abilities to handle what life throws at us. For some, they seem to be, for want of a better word, hard and tough. Nothing seems to break them. They have built a toughness around themselves, and nothing seems to get to them.

Then others are more sensitive and soft. They are more open to getting hurt. With enough poundings from the fist of life, they can be pummeled to the ground.

We need both groups of people, and I would say that each can learn something from the other.

Which group do you think you would be in? What would those who know you well say about you? Soft or hard? Tough or tender? Maybe somewhere, in-between?

The load that’s too heavy

Every one of us, at some point in life, will come to a place where the load gets too heavy to bear. It’s what you do at that crucial moment is vital.

For me, it was calling emergency services. I knew that there was nothing I could do within myself to dig my way out. I needed others to help me. I was sick, unwell, and required those who had skills, knowledge, and resources to help me rebuild.

For a brief period of my life, I was receiving support from Mental Health Services. It was good, and it was what I needed. The stress load had become too heavy for my fragile human frame to handle.

In the garden

In one of the most precious stories from Jesus, we find him when his load was too heavy. It was before his crucifixion, his agonizing death where all the pain of the world would be loaded on his shoulders.

That is a heavy load, one only the God of the universe could handle.  Yet, in his fully human, fully divine self, he invited us into his expression of load-bearing.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Matthew 26:36-46

Watching with

At that moment of deepest anxiety and fear, he wanted community. Yes, there was the prayer to his papa, but there was also an invite for closeness with friends. He asked for three of them, Peter, James, and John, to step aside and watch with him.

He wanted connection, someone of human form that was going to be physically there with him.

We value rugged individualism, the self-made man or woman, independence, yet God needed others. God, in the form of Jesus, exposed his vulnerability and need for community.

I don’t want to be alone when I die. When someone close to me died of cancer a few years ago, we as a family took turns sitting by her bedside as the heavy load of cancer ate her life away. We watched with her. She was not alone.

What is your heavy load

We all carry a load, a pile of stress, worries, and pressures. Sometimes it can become overwhelmingly heavy, and we can feel ourselves being crushed under the burden.

We need someone to watch with us. Some loads can’t be shifted easily and may take time to lessen. Some we will carry every day of our lives.

Guilt, shame, loss, traumatic memories are but some that many of us bear.

None of us will carry the sin of the world on our shoulders, as Jesus did, and so, in a relative sense, our burden is light, but it can still feel too heavy to handle.

I am watching with

We need others who will say, often without words but in actions, these words.

‘I know the load, and I am going to watch with you.
I’m not going to try and fix you, save you, advise you, or try to straighten you out. I want you to know that you’re not alone’.

I often would like people to tell me their load. Not that I can do anything about it, but I want them to know they are not alone with it. That the life-sucking aspect of the weight is shared, I want to ‘watch’ with them.

When the load is shared, it feels reduced. When someone else knows the heaviness, then you’re not alone to carry something you were never meant to carry alone.

Perhaps through prayer, a way forward can be known. A flickering candle of hope can emerge in the dark of the moment, and we can stumble our way forward together towards it. That’s what I think Jesus wanted on that dark night.

Watching in the garden

Not everyone is safe. Very few people will not try to fix, save, advise, or try to straighten you out.

What I would like to suggest is that you become one who can quietly watch with others. To ‘shiva‘, like Jobs friends, before they went rogue.

We don’t need others to watch over us like controlling authoritative policemen, but we do need others who are deeply aware of their humanity and can sit and watch with us.

It takes self-awareness, patience, and confidentiality.  There is also a need for grit and openness to the divine and their work within all of us. There is a lot of good that can come out of the garden.

 

Mental Health is ... sharing the load with others that know how to watch with usCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr Patience
  • Entering someone’s life is hugely different from merely guiding them. Larry Crabb 
  • There is a solution to “unspeakable loneliness”: it needs to be spoken, to be shared. Ron Rolheiser
  • When spiritual friends share their stories, the others listen without working. They rest. There’s nothing to fix, nothing to improve. A spiritual community feels undisturbed quiet as they listen, certainly burdened . . . but still resting in the knowledge that the life within, the passion for holiness, is indestructible. It needs only to be nourished and released. Larry Crabb, Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be
  • 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

Questions to answer

  1. What experiences have you had of heavy loads breaking you?
  2. When someone listens well, what do they do that makes the difference?
  3. When the load is shared, it makes a difference. Can you think of a moment in your life when you experienced this?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

Am I My Brothers Keeper? Guilt-Trip Anyone?

Am I My Brothers Keeper? Guilt-Trip Anyone?

July 13, 2020

It was the feelings of a guilt trip and the words of being a ‘Brothers Keeper’ that triggered me. But was it genuinely helping me and them to think this way? Something needed to change.

Some people seem to be able to push the manipulation guilt trip button every time. They tell you how life has been hard. They share their background and a wide range of struggles. You listen, and you empathize with their struggle, and indeed life is hard for some people.

Then you look at yourself and all that you have. You may begin to feel some guilt, then some sense of a need to help them. You want to help, but you have only so much life, energy, time, and money.

In the Bible, there is a story, or in particular, a phrase from that story, that can kick into gear and hit the guilt-trip button.

My Brothers Keeper 

It is the story of the first murder and an attempt to deflect blame.

It comes right from the story of Cain killing Abel in the first book of the Bible – Genesis.

Two brothers, Cain and Abel, bring gifts to God. Abel’s gift was accepted because he did what was right. Cain does not do what was right, and so it was rejected. Cain was furious, and God could see that he was angry. That is where we pick up the story.

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance [facial expression] fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! Genesis 4:6-10

Before we go any further, the word ‘keeper’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘Shomer’ which means ‘keeper,’ ‘guardian,’ and ‘watcher.’

At first glance, Cain wanted to avoid the issue. He knew exactly where Abel was. Avoid and hide by saying a lie. We all do it to see if we can get away with our murders.

Then he says, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ asking if he is the one that is meant to know where his brother is located. He is essentially saying, ‘How would I know that? There is no GPS tracker attached to him.’

God is offering an opportunity for Cain to come clean and confess to what he has done.

Instead, Cain tries to shift responsibility away from himself for what he had done and to put it on to God. Its a manipulation, an attempt to guilt-trip God.

Essentially he is saying ‘God, you knew I was angry and you did nothing about it. Arent you, God, the keeper, guardian, and watcher of Abel? You could have stopped all this. So don’t blame me. I can’t be held responsible for my actions.’

The point is that God could see Cain’s heart and the murderous anger within him. God warned him of it and Cain’s personal responsibility to master it. Cain chose to ignore God’s counsel.

Life is hard, and it’s easy to blame others and God for our difficulties, some of which may be quite valid.

But then we turn around and expect others, including God, to fix life, without any acceptance of our human failings and personal responsibilities. We project onto others our anger, pain, resentment, and try to guilt-trip manipulate them, including God, into making things better. It’s all about us.

We want God and others to do for us what we are expected to do for ourselves.

The ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ of being a brother or sister keeper

This little story tells us a lot about responsibility and where it starts and finishes.

The ‘Yes’

I believe that to some degree, I am to have a caring, loving, and keeping relationship with others.  When I see injustices, I need to respond. I am called to care for others and help them. I am, in a sense, to be like God in this instance where he warned Cain of what he could see could happen. I also need to make sure they know they are responsible to ‘master’ their own life.

As a father, I took full responsibility for my children when they were little. I was their keeper, guardian, and I watched over everything about them. As they got older, I passed over more of the responsibility to them. I gave them advice and let them make choices and accept the responsibility for the decisions they made. I didn’t rescue them, but they knew I was there for them.

The ‘No’

I am not my brothers or sisters keeper in the sense that I will not take responsibility for the choices they made.  I am not going to cross the line where I do for others what they could and should be doing for themselves. God didn’t intervene with Cain because Cain had freedom of choice. God does not have puppet strings ‘coming down from heaven’ connected to our movements.

Is someone ‘shoulding’ on you?

I’ve heard and seen it many times. Those words of ‘We should be doing more for them’.

The words may be voiced verbally, or they could be internal whispers that have a tinge of obligation, guilt shadowing around them.

I remember two women who used to come to our Tuesday night service. Well, actually they only ever came when we had a meal. Primarily they only came for what they could get. When I asked them if they could help wash some dishes, there was always some excuse that they couldn’t help. Great stories of struggle were told. There was an attitude that it was everyone else’s responsibility to look after them.

I would sense them trying to guilt-trip me, and they were masters at it. They had people running around after them doing all sorts of things. They had never really grown up. There was a dependency lifestyle, and they were milking it for all its worth. It was idleness instead of industry.

Whenever I sense this feeling of being guilt-tripped by a P.L.O.M. (Poor Little Old Me), I go to one question.

‘What are you doing about this?

I shift the responsibility back on to them. It’s like what God did with Cain when he said, ‘you must master it’.

I get very pragmatic and practical. I don’t rescue. Rescuing teaches nobody anything and only breeds resentment, tiredness, and fatigue in yourself and dependency on others.

Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 

It may seem harsh, but I think there are too many people in society that are getting too much for doing too little. Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule, but I have met too many people who draw a government benefit, etc. that do nothing to make things better for themselves or others.

I know that not everyone is capable of maintaining a full-time job or even find one, but it’s the attitudes and belief systems of entitlement and dependency on others that annoy me.

Contrast that with the attitude of Paul

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

In Mental Health, it could be facing your fears and going to see a doctor about your depression or anxiety. It could be taking that next millimeter step in recovery and asking for help to master the struggles to be self-responsible. You might need to learn how to say ‘No’ to the manipulations and guilt-trips projected on to you.

When you have the feelings of a guilt trip being loaded on you, and you hear the words of being a ‘Brothers Keeper’, ask yourself this. By helping them, is it genuinely helping them?

 

Mental Health is ... not caving into guilt-trips and being a 'brother's keeper'. It's teaching and modeling self -responsibility. CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • Your future is not determined by your past or your parentage, but by your own choices-the the choices you make today and tomorrow. Now is the key to tomorrow, not yesterday. D. Riddell
  • We cannot excuse our sinful responses to others on the grounds of their mistreatment of us. We are responsible for what we do. Larry Crabb
  • 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.

Questions to answer

  1. What happens in you when you sense you are being ‘guilt-tripped’?
  2. What is mentally healthier? To expect/ demand God to make life better for us, or to ask God to help us to discover God and to ‘master’ the struggles.
  3. How do you learn to be pragmatic in the face of emotional manipulation?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

Are you Praying Against Yourself? The Abusive Art of Self-Deprecation

Are you Praying Against Yourself? The Abusive Art of Self-Deprecation

July 3, 2020

Words said, have power. Self-deprecation is to pray against the self, but we can learn to pray for the self and so develop healthier thinking patterns.

It was the words at the end of his sentence that caught my attention.

‘I’m so stupid; I always do things like that’.

You learn to notice them—little words used as qualifying comments that disempower the self.

I think that many of us have little words or sentences that we probably tell ourselves and others. Sometimes they slip out in conversation.

Maybe they are offered up as an excuse or reason for things being the way they are.

Most of these thought sentences are kept quietly to ourselves, where they can continue to shape and poison our thinking. We say them so many times that we become used to them. They are our default thinking regime.

As a child, I was taught to ‘not think too highly of oneself’ Romans 12:3 and that ‘pride comes before a fall’ Proverbs 16:18

So the obvious course is to think lowly of yourself and to keep yourself humble through a self-flagellation diatribe of dismissive self-talk.

We self-deprecate as a spiritual discipline, thinking we are doing the right thing.

Yet, I believe, all this self-deprecation can become like poison leaking into the groundwater of our soul.

It can slowly poison us to where we loath ourselves, and we consider ourselves as a worm and as a wretch. Sit in a pile of pus long enough, and you will get sick.

Our velcro brain looks for the negative.

The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. [This] shades “implicit memory” – your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood – in an increasingly negative direction. Rick Hanson

The abusive art of self-deprecation 

Some have mastered the art of self-deprecation. They are perfectionists at belittling and undervaluing themselves. Then they turn their attention towards others.

It’s very interesting to look into the background of the word deprecate.

To ‘deprecate’ means to ‘pray against’.

Early 17th century (in the sense’ pray against’): from Latin deprecat- ‘prayed against (as being evil)’, from the verb deprecari, from de- (expressing reversal) + precari’ pray.’

When we self-deprecate, we pray against the self and various parts of who we are.

We use words to cut ourselves down. This gets, as I have said, into the groundwater of our soul, our self-talk becomes contaminated with this poison. We drink from this well, thinking it’s normal. Our brain wiring rope bridges keep being reinforced.

If I were to say that I was going to ‘deprecate’ you, to ‘pray against you’, then you would consider this as being abusive.

If we see a parent vomiting toxic words on a child or witness an abusive husband, wife, employer, we would call this abuse. Yet we tolerate and possibly admire people who do this to themselves. We think it’s ok to do it to ourselves.

Crushed Soul

Is your soul being crushed?

I read this passage the other day.

Fools are undone by their big mouths;
    their souls are crushed by their words. Proverbs 18:7

What words are you saying to yourself? What words are you saying to others?

I’ve met many people whose souls have been crushed. Either by the words of others or by the words they have ‘deprecated’ (prayed) over themselves.

We can’t control the actions of others. Some people are going to spill poison on us because that is what’s in them. They need to take responsibility for themselves.

But we can control ourselves and our response to their poison. Do we take it in, do we deprecate ourselves with it?

Praying for the self 

If we deprecate or pray against the self, perhaps a better and healthier alternative is to pray for the self. To pray in support of the self.

What would that look like?

Perhaps it would be praying positive, loving, and compassionate words about ourselves.

  • I am loved
  • I am known
  • I have worth
  • I have value
  • God loves me, and I am worthy of this love
  • God rejoices over me, renews me, and delights in me. Zephaniah 3:17

What does your crushed soul most need to hear?

This is where journaling and a thinking compass can help.

Journalling can be useful to unpack many of those self-deprecating thoughts we keep telling our souls. Then we can use a thinking compass to record down prayers of positivity, love, and compassion to help us rewire the brain.

Words said, have power. When we self-deprecate, we pray against the self, but we can learn to pray for the self and so develop healthier thinking patterns.

 

Mental Health is ... self praying faith, hope, and love into your soulCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson
  • 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
  • Praise and encouragement is much more effective in changing others’ behavior than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? D. Riddell

Questions to answer

  1. Do you notice when people say little words of ‘self-deprecation’?
  2. What words do you tell yourself? Are they encouraging words or critical words?
  3. What words do you need to pray over your self?

Further reading

Barry Pearman
Photo by Florian Krumm on Unsplash
The Right Word at the Right Time – A Rhema Word

The Right Word at the Right Time – A Rhema Word

June 25, 2020

We can get into thinking ruts, but the right word at the right time can lift us out and move us into new and better thinking. So we need to be searching for the Rhema words.

It was only a short sentence that he said, but the words seemed to have power behind them. It was like a new path had opened up for me that gave me some encouraging hope. They were the right words at the right time. I quickly wrote them down in my notebook so I could reread them later.

Words can have that effect. They some times jump out of seemingly nowhere and say ‘This is for you’.

Words such as

  • You have worth
  • You matter
  • You can do this

 

Custom-made words

You can always tell a great orator. They are wordsmiths. Somehow, with clever creativity, they weave together a few words, tell a story, and move you emotionally. Something changes in you.

But what if there was a sentence that was custom-made for you. An encouragement, a piece of wisdom, an acknowledgment.

The writer of the proverbs tells us this.

The right word at the right time
    is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.
Proverbs 25:11

I’ve never had a piece of custom-made jewelry. The nearest I have come to this was when my mother used to knit woolen jerseys for me as a child. She would measure me up with a tape measure and write down on a pad my measurements. It was a very special feeling when she would present to me a perfectly fitting jersey, custom-made for me.

Some words are custom-made for you that you need to hear.

Rhema and Logos

In the Bible, we find that there are two different Greek words to refer to the word of God. One of these words is logos, and the other is rhema.

Logos refers to the written text—lots and lots of words. We read the logos, and we can gain knowledge about God and history and all sorts of amazing things.

Rhema is different and refers to the intimate speaking of God to us. It is that breath of truth we need to hear. From knowledge, we move to knowing.

Jesus knew the importance of listening for the rhema.

‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word (rhema)
that comes from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:4

The words (rhema) that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63

I have listened to a lot of logos. I have gained a lot of knowledge from studying the Bible and reading many books. But in this quest, I have longed for the rhema. It’s those custom-made God breathes that excite me the most.

I so need that truth to fill my brain and rewire its circuity.

How do you discover a rhema?

You won’t catch fish in a desert. You go where fish swim.

If you want gold, you go to where it’s buried.

One of my enduring memories of my parents was their reading of a devotional bible study every morning. It was one of their ways of searching things out, looking for the rhema.

Much of what we most need to hear and know is hidden away like rare gemstones.

It is the glory of God to conceal things,
    but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2

I have a little phrase that keeps me searching. I have to ‘get in the way’ of God to discover what I need to hear. I keep knocking on the door of God’s wisdom house, asking for bread in the middle of the night. I ‘get in the way’, seek, and knock.

“Here’s what I’m (Jesus) saying:
Ask and you’ll get;
Seek and you’ll find;
Knock and the door will open.
Luke 11:5-9

Too many of us are sitting and waiting for a God to do home deliveries of truth and then to spoon-feed us like babies. It’s in the seeking that opens our brain up into new ways of living.

I was once a pastor to a group of people where most of them struggled with serious mental illness. One of the ladies in the group had severe paranoid schizophrenia. She would frequently come to wild and delusional conclusions about people and situations. Along with health professionals, I would help her to work through these. Shame would come, and we would talk and walk through the struggle.

Many people found her difficult to be around. They lost patience with her.

I remember her one day telling me about her Bible reading. That every day she would read the scriptures and ponder on them.

I suggested that we read them together and talk about them. She pulled out a very worn bible with underlined verses and notes in the margin.

Here is what excited me. She was getting in the way of God. She was knocking on the door, seeking the truth, looking for the Rhema, and I was invited to part of her exploration. She may have been discounted by the rich and socially acceptable, but she was adored by God.

Feeding on rhema

Recently I had a rhema breathed on to me. Here it is.

‘I’m making garlands for God, my God.’

That may not speak to you a great deal, it may seem irrelevant, but for my heart, it speaks the truth.

I felt its breath when I was reading Psalm 20

See those people polishing their chariots,
    and those others grooming their horses?
    But we’re making garlands for God our God.
The chariots will rust,
    those horses pull up lame—
    and we’ll be on our feet, standing tall. Psalm 20:7-8

It’s so easy to have our focus on what others are achieving. Their supposed successes, their ‘polished chariots’ and ‘groomed horses’. Comparisonitis kills the soul. The psalmist takes us to where our true focus is meant to be. Doing something beautiful and delighting to God.I'm making garlands for God, my God.

So, ‘Im making garlands for God’ via my writing, gardening, and general life activities.

Every day I am presented with ‘polished chariots’ and ‘groomed horses’ that can sicken me with comparisonitis, but I feed on truth, on rhema, and therefore I retrain the brain.

I have added, ‘I’m making garlands for God, my God.’ to my thinking compass. I read that compass every day to help me keep on course. Slowly and surely, I am creating a new rope bridge in my brain. Every time I repeat the phrase ‘I’m making garlands for God, my God.’ in my brain, that synapse in the brain gets stronger and stronger.

When you receive a Rhema, it’s your responsibility to care for it. To memorize it and take it into your thinking.

We can get into thinking ruts, but the right word at the right time can lift us out and move us into new and better thinking. So we need to be searching for the Rhema words.

 

Mental health is ... seeking after that Rhema word. The right word at the right time. CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • Our great problem is trafficking in unlived truth. We try to communicate what we’ve never experienced in our own life. Dwight L. Moody
  • Transformation is possible. It is possible to acquire the consciousness of Christ. It is possible to know God, not just believe in God. And it is possible to engage life with the wisdom that flows from this deep inner knowing. David Benner
  • Nothing digs ditches like shovel fulls of dirt. Rick Hanson

Questions to answer

  1. What have been some words that have met you just at the right time?
  2. Where do you ‘Ask, seek, and knock’ for your daily rhema bread?
  3. Have you ever had something custom-made for you? What feelings did that generate in you?

Further reading

How to Create New Rope Bridges in our Thinking

Change the way you think and act

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

How to Create New Rope Bridges in our Thinking

How to Create New Rope Bridges in our Thinking

June 18, 2020

Our thoughts can take us to both the best and worst of places, but we can create new thinking pathways. It will require a plan to rope bridge the synapse gap. 

It was a small rope bridge, and it had only three wires. One wire where you could place your feet, and then two higher wires to the left and right where you could stretch your arms out and grasp with your hands. It wasn’t that high, a mere 5 feet off the ground, but it was high enough that on this confidence course, it provided a challenge.

I used to be a pastor to a group where most of the people involved had serious long-term mental health struggles. Most of the people I supported struggled with either anxiety, depression, P.T.S.D., schizophrenia, addictions, personality disorders, or something else that made life hard for them.

Twice a year, we would go away for a camp. Sandy beach, fishing, good food, fun, and a confidence course.

We would then invite people to try the rope bridge. With several helpers, we would encourage the person to take the first step and then the next. You could see the fear etched into their faces.

We would tell them they were doing great and to keep focused on the other end. Telling them to take one step at a time. We would even hold the wire for them to stop it wobbling.

The bridge would wobble and shift, but with every step, the walker would inch their way across. Photos were taken, and celebrations and high fives at the end.

For some, it became a goal at every camp to walk that wire bridge. They were learning something new. It was hard, scary, and a challenge, but inside their brains, they were also creating a new rope bridge.

For many of them, they had to stop listening to the worst words they had repeatedly been telling themselves.

The worst words

I think the worst words anyone can say are ‘I can’t change.’ Or words to that effect, such as ‘That’s just who I am’ and ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

It disappoints me because it speaks to a belief of hopelessness, despair, and defeat. They are ‘locked in’ to a set of thinking and behavior habits.

I want to whisper, and maybe even shout, ‘Resurrection’ into those neurons. Bringing new life and hope.

What we can learn from a rope bridge

One of the most informative videos about how we learn something new comes from Dr. Robert Winston in his series The Human Body.

 

 

Transcript:
Learning something new means rearranging the way our brain works.

Our brain has an astonishing one hundred billion neurons or brain cells all connected together. Learning is about creating and strengthening pathways through these neurons for impulses of electricity. But between each and every connection in our brains is a tiny gap called a synapse. For any of us to learn something new, the electrical signal has to jump across this gap to continue its journey.

The gap between the two brain cells is tiny, but that doesn’t mean its straight forward for a signal to get from one side to the other. For us, it’s like crossing a deep ravine, and getting from one side to the other should tell us something about the way we learn.

The first time a signal crosses from one brain cell to the other demands the most effort, and it’s the same when we cross our ravine. The first trip across it is the hardest.

Having crossed the ravine once the journeys across get easier and easier, and a similar thing happens when we learn something.

To start with, learning is difficult, but as the signal crosses the gap between the brain cells, again and again, we establish a more solid pathway.

By the time we have made the crossing over and over again, it becomes effortless. We can do it whenever we like.

New thinking pathways

Watching and thinking about that video I have seven observations

  1. A conscious decision needs to be made.
    It’s a choice you have to make to begin thinking differently. So, do you want to think differently?
    Yes or No.
  2. A behavior is required.
    You can talk about change as much as you like, but following through with behavior and taking action is where it’s at. For me, it is reading my ‘Thinking compass’ every day.
    It’s me saying to the synapses that this matters. I prayerfully ask God to create that new pathway in the brain.
  3. It takes effort
    We want change to happen magically, don’t we, but it will require effort on our part to build new pathways in our thinking.
  4. It takes time
    It is going to take about 60 -70 days to get that new pathway slotted in and on autopilot, and the old one pruned apart. See Dr.Shannon Irvine
  5. Repetition strengthens the path.
    In the video, we saw how, with each crossing, the strength of the bridge increased. From a single rope, it then became a bridge with planks you could walk across.
    Back and forth, back and forth, it was the purposeful repetition that built the strength of the bridge.
  6. Old pathways slowly lose their power.
    We used to go this way in our thinking, but now we have a better route. I used to crawl, but then I found walking to be better. Walking is the automatic default way of moving now.When I talk about this with others, I like them to imagine that old wire bridge, the old thinking pathway/bridge falling into disrepair. It has cobwebs growing over it, it’s not getting maintained, and so slowly over time, it loses its appeal, and it falls apart.
  7. Encouragement from others helps build the bridge.
    I’m glad that Robert Winston had someone helping him build his bridge. It’s precisely the same when we are learning something new, creating new brain pathways.
    To have a guide, coach, or a friend that cheers us along in our thinking will help us reinforce our new life.

By default or by design

One of the little thinking coaches I have in my daily thinking compass is this.

Life happens one thought at a time by default or design.

Many of my default thinking pathways have a negativity bias to them, but I know that I can change the way I think and act. It’s my brain, my responsibility, and so, I choose to live my life by design.

My brain is rewiring itself. With a sense of design, I want to think about

whatever is true,
whatever is honorable,
whatever is just,
whatever is pure,
whatever is pleasing,
whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence and
if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Philippians 4:8

Our thoughts can take us to both the best and worst of places, but we can create new thinking pathways. It will require a plan to bridge the synapse gap.

 

Mental Health is ... proactively creating new thinking pathways in the same way a new rope bridge is made.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider

  • You are the creator of your thoughts, and it’s your thoughts that can create the future that you want. It really is in your control. Dr. Shannon Irvine
  • If it’s been learned, it can always be unlearned. e.g., ways of coping, personal habits, survival kits, and nasty addictions. D. Riddell
  • A changed life demands having new understandings in place when you need them. Store them up now and lubricate by revision. D. 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

Questions to answer

  1. How much do you think you are in control of your thoughts?
  2. What did you learn from the video?
  3. Is there some thinking habit that you need to unlearn by creating a new neural pathway?

Further reading

BarryPearman

Photo by Valentina Girelli on Unsplash

Change the way you think and act

Change the way you think and act

June 11, 2020

Do you keep making the same bad choices over and over again? You can change, and it all begins with a decision to change the way you think and act.

It was New Zealand’s worst airline disaster. On November 28th, 1979, Air New Zealand Flight 901 flew into Mount Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica. All 237 passengers and 20 crew died.

I remember the first news reports coming in on TV in the evening, saying that the flight was overdue and that contact had been lost. We woke the next morning to a tragedy.

Initially, it was concluded that it was pilot error, but a Royal Commission was set up to dig deeper. It found that two factors caused the accident. A correction made to the coordinates of the flight path the night before the disaster and a failure to inform the flight crew of the change.

The result was that the aircraft was being guided by the computer in a direct path toward Mount Erebus.

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Surely you would think the pilots would be able to see the mountain in front of them and steer to avoid it, but they were in whiteout conditions.

Outside there was a layer of clouds that blended with the white of the snow-covered volcano, forming a sector whiteout – there was no contrast between the two to warn the pilots. The effect deceived everyone on the flight deck, making them believe that the white mountainside was the Ross Ice Shelf. Mount Erebus disaster

Then there was the attempt to cover up the causes of the disaster. Justice Mahon, chair of the Royal Commission, accused Air New Zealand of presenting “an orchestrated litany of lies.”

Your disaster

I’ve known a few disasters in my life. I’ve also seen others have crashes. Many of them preventable.

Then there are those crashes that are repeated time and time. You keep on doing the same thing, expecting different results, but wind up with the same disaster on your hands.

You blame other people. Accusations fly. You hide the facts and twist the truth.  You orchestrate a ‘litany of lies’ believing them to be true. Deep down, though, it was you that was making the same decisions.

It’s like you have an onboard computer with wrong coordinates loaded into it, flying you towards an inevitable disaster.

Change the way you think and act.

Then there was a time of momentous change in the history of the world, but for one man, it got extremely personal. He had his inbuilt computer brain telling him to always respond to a situation in a certain way.

Even though he had been a follower of Jesus for three years, and had listened to everything Jesus had said, seen all the miracles, he still had the disaster.

Peter denied knowing Jesus, and suddenly his world collapsed.

Later he was forgiven and restored, but this was a pivotal moment in Peter’s life. It was a time of course correction. He had to change his thinking and acting.

Later, that is his message to an equally misguided group of people.

Change the way you think and act. Acts 2:38 3:19

Change is a course correction—an alteration in your thinking, which leads to new actions and behaviors.

One of my favorite quotes is from the French philosopher, Christian mystic, and social activist Simeon Weil.

Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction. Simone Weil, Waiting for God

We all have turned our gaze in the wrong direction. All of us have some disastrous coordinates programmed into our neural pathways.  Often these are there from childhood. Early conclusions we made about life steers our ship.

Every day we have experiences that subconsciously reinforce our belief that …

  • The world is a dangerous place
  • No one can be trusted
  • I have no worth
  • My situation can’t change
  • I have no rights
  • (what is a deep belief that you hold)

The dance of course correction

There is a dance that we are invited to participate in. It’s a dance of ‘course correction’.

When I was in school, we had square dancing. We would choose a partner, and then four couples would stand in a square. The frazzled teacher (frazzled after herding children) would put a record on the record player and out would come some scratchy American folk singer encouraging us to take your partner, swing them to the left and right, dosey doe and go to someplace called ‘Red River Valley’.

It was rhythm and patterns, and you got to dance with that pretty girl!

I believe we are all in a course correction dance with partners who are perfect in every way, know the exact steps to take, and are very gracious about our stepping on their toes.

My little logo for Turning the Page symbolizes this.

Turning the page Koru

Four dancing spirals, or Koru. God as Parent, Jesus the Son, and Spirit is inviting us to change the way we think and act.

I get invitations to course-correct every day. Some I ignore and some I explore. Some I take in and make them part of my thinking compass.

I don’t want you or anyone else to keep on heading towards disasters – large or small, but it requires a willingness to change the way you think and act.

 

Mental Health is ... accepting that we need to change the way we think and actCLICK TO TWEET

 

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 Patience
  • The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart

Questions to consider

  1. Do you ever have moments where you mutter to yourself, ‘Why do I keep on doing that’?
  2. We all want others to change, but how difficult is it to change yourself? Why?
  3. What is a false, misleading belief that you have that seems to look for evidence of being true? e.g., I have no worth

Further Reading

What Swiss Cheese has taught me about Forgiving Myself and Others

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

Mental Health is … You Taking Ownership of You

Barry Pearman

Photo by Vandan Patel on Unsplash

 

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