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Empowering your Mental Health - Faith: Hope: Love with Barry Pearman
78 Episodes
I need a nest that I can call home. Actually, digging down a little further, I need a grouping of relationships that know me, love me, and have compassion and kindness when I get things wrong. The other day I was pruning a vine and there high above my head was a nest. It had long been vacated. I’m not sure what type of bird built this elaborate structure to raise its young, but as I looked closer, there was an intricate architecture to the design. Twigs, grasses, moss, lichen all gathered and foraged from around the garden and woven into a home. Here are some pictures of the nest.    With the ancient wisdom that had somehow been passed on from bird to bird, there was divine craftsmanship taking place here.  Every little fiber had been laid down for one purpose – to nurture the growth of the fragile. Our Nest We all have a nest around us. We may not realize it, but there are people all around us that provide some twig of support. It could be the professionals such as Doctors, nurses, therapists, etc., but most likely, the ones who provide the greatest influence are those that we come into contact with the most—our family, friends, workmates. It’s a nest, a community. Oh, and yes, we are part of others’ support structures, their nest. It’s the ‘and next to them’ feature we see coming through from the rebuild of a broken wall in the story of Nehemiah. I remember a counselor once contacting me about one of his clients that needed a nest. It wasn’t a physical nest but more a social-relational type of nest. His client needed different people with different skills, wisdom, and life experiences to help his client to heal. He had already assembled people such as a doctor, psychiatrist, and other mental health professionals. Still, he felt his client also needed a pastor and church community that understood the complexities of mental illness and recovery—real people living real lives. So, over time, other people were added. People with similar interests and hobbies. Some had backgrounds related to Mental Health, but many did not. Some would go out for a coffee and have fun with them. There was a kind of divine creativity going on to the building of their nest. What surprised them was that they had something to contribute to the nest of others. From their lived wisdom, they were able to add strength to the growth of others. A Road, a Ditch, an Inn Jesus once told the story of a man that the brutality of robbers had dehumanized. They saw him only for what he had, not for who he was. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” Luke 10:25-37 There are many observations we could take from this wonderful parable. You can read more by reading an essay I wrote many years ago called ‘The Dehumanising Effects of Sexual Abuse.’  Nest principles  1.There are some you don’t want in your nest.  In the story, we see the Priest and Levite walking past. Avoiding, not wanting to touch, and come close. For them, it was all about following the rules, the codes of moral and religious conduct. It was to be seen as holy and pure, but not to touch and know. Religion can kill compassion. It can encourage a ‘holier than thou’ contempt with no desire to get down into the dirt of others’ pain. There is a focus on Justice (he/ she shouldn’t have done ….) rather than on Mercy and Grace. We probably all have people we know that are like that.  2. There are some with ‘Lived truth.’ Here comes a Samaritan. Someone who in Jesus’ time definitely was on the outside of the Jewish society’s moral and religious purity. Samaritans were shunned and rejected. This parable samaritan would have known exactly how it felt cast into a racial and religious prejudice ditch of existence. But for the Samaritan, there were no rules, no boundaries, and no cultural taboos that inhibited him from helping. In his own ditch, he would have learned lived truth. I was once told this quote by someone who had been thrown in the ditch many times. Our great problem is trafficking in unlived truth. We try to communicate what we’ve never experienced in our own life. Dwight L. Moody Sadly, much of my spiritual journey has been influenced by people full of unlived truth. The really good stuff comes from when you get into the ditch’s dirt and listen to the stories. If you want to understand coal, go work at the coal face. 3. It’s about heart, compassion, and kindness.  I have received compassion and kindness, and it’s sweet good news on a tired and battered soul. Where we read that the Samaritans ‘heart went out to him’ we see that Jesus was using the Greek word ‘splanchnizomai.’ It comes from the Greek word (splanchna), for entrails, the vital inner organs of a person—the stomach, heart, lungs, spleen, liver, and kidneys. It means to say that he had a feeling deep in his gut, the deepest of all human emotions. I want the strands of my nest to be made up of people who have compassion and kindness. Not avoidance and judgment. 4. Innkeepers I’m glad that Jesus added someone else to the parable. Someone other than the singularity of the samaritan. We need others who have compassionate skills and resources to offer in the structure of the nest. We know very little about the Inn or the Innkeeper other than he was another strand in the healing nest of this broken man. All of us can be ‘Innkeepers.’ We add various aspects of lived truth to each other. Your Nest, Your Home Who is in your social grouping nest? Are there people that have a heart of love and compassion for you? All those thousands of strands of twigs, moss, and leaves all contribute something in their own unique way. Make a list of people. Try and get to at least a hundred names. Then give thanks for them. Honour probably the unseen and unknown contribution they make to the nest you have. Look for the gifts they offer, the strength, love, and compassion. Then give that back to them and others. We all need each other, and every little bit of heartfelt love, compassion, and kindness is restorative.   Quotes to consider A spiritual leader who lacks basic human compassion has almost no power to change other people, because people intuitively know he or she does not represent the Divine or Big Truth. Such leaders have to rely upon role, laws, and enforcement powers to effect any change in others. Such change does not go deep, nor does it last. Richard Rohr 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 The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer A refuge is anything that protects, nurtures, or uplifts you. Life can be hard, and everyone has difficult, uncomfortable experiences. We all need refuges. What are your own? Rick Hanson Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ”What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis Questions to answer Who makes up the strands of your nest? You are a strand in someone else’s nest. What kindness can you offer them today? Picture yourself as the Innkeeper receiving the victim of abuse and crime. What goes through your heart? What emotions get stirred? In the offering of being a strand in this man’s nest, what would you like to give him? Further reading Barry Pearman   Share Tweet Share More 0SHARES CATEGORIESGETTING WELL STAYING WELL, HELPING OTHERSTAGSEMPOWERMENT, HOPE, RECOVERY, RHYTHM_OF_CONNECTION, THE MAN IN THE DITCHEdit"The Healing Nest of Kindness and Compassion"Post navigation Previous PostPREVIOUSThe Gentle Approach to Heart and Mind Change SEARCH AND YOU SHALL FIND Search for:SearchABOUT BARRY UNDERSTANDING MEN: HOW TO LISTEN SO YOU CAN CONNECT JOIN OUR EMAIL LIST AND GET THIS FREE EBOOK GET MY WEEKLY BLOG POST EMAILED TO YOU Subscribe * indicates required Email Address * First Name * Last Name MESSAGE ME Name * First Last Email * Comment or Message * Submit POPULAR READS Why Men Don’t Talk. 26 Reasons for Silence I’ve had Enough, Take my Life God, I Want to die 14 Proven Bible Verses to Help Your Mental Health How to Help Others Solve Problems in 8 Steps She prayed to God that she wouldn’t wake up in the morning The Lord is My Constant Companion. Right Person, Right Place, Right Time and That Time is Now Why Taking Personal Responsibility is Crucial for your Mental Health How does Reading the Bible help my Mental Health? 7 Steps to Help Those who Ruminate. FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA   Facebook Like   Linkedin Follow   Medium Follow   Periscope Follow   Pinterest Follow   Twitter Follow MEET BARRY Barry is a writer, coach, online pastor, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation. Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health
There is a gentle approach to how the heart and mind can change. Instead of the force of a flood, it’s a refreshing rain. Let’s learn to absorb the goodness. There is something very special to me about a nice soft rain shower in the middle of a dry summer. It soaks in, and the soil receives it as a gift of gentleness. I have been involved in land-based businesses for many years. Gardening, horticulture, and farming. It’s those sweet, gentle summer rains that bring such refreshment. Being like a sponge, the soil soaks up every drop. Then the microbes, fungi, bacteria, worms, and all the unseen world beneath our feet are replenished. Seeds germinate, trees flush with newness, and the land feels like it has been gently washed. But it’s the downpours you have to watch for. Torrents of rain so heavy that they wash off the land, scouring hills, blocking drains, and flooding houses. Learning and changing can be much like that. Have you ever done a course of learning where it has been super intensive? That week-long course or maybe over a weekend. You have had a downpour of information, and you come away exhausted by the amount you have been exposed to. Your brain is at maximum capacity, and perhaps you wonder how much you actually took in. All those new learning bridges take energy and focus. Gentle rain on the heart and mind There is a gentleness on offer to help us in our need. Slowly read and absorb these words that God speaks about how they provide wisdom for us. Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;     let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop like the rain,     my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass,     like showers on new growth. Deuteronomy 32:1, 2 It’s gentle and kind—washing and cleansing with kindness. It’s not the volume that matters; instead, it’s the quiet presence of refreshment. The droplet, not the drowning. You’re soaking in it Back in the 1980s here in New Zealand, there was a T.V. advertisement for Palmolive dishwashing liquid. The idea was that as you washed your dishes, the dishwashing liquid was also kind on your hands. The one-liner from the ad was ‘You’re soaking in it.’ I want to be soaked in God’s kindness and wisdom. To be receptive to the gentleness of Spirit brings me the wisdom my heart and mind are thirsty for. I want to hear and soak in the unforced rhythms of grace. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The walk Can I walk with you? I have some questions about what has happened and need to talk them over. So we headed off to our little town. Questions opened our hearts to new ways of thinking and believing. All the events of the last few days were puzzling, to say the least. Then another traveler joined us. He gave us some explanations and asked us questions. It was like fresh encouragement filling our dried-out souls. We had a meal with him and soaked up his kindness and love. It felt like a burning warmth in our hearts. Luke 24:13-35 Why aren’t we there yet? We are quite a demanding people, aren’t we. We want change, and we want it on our terms. In our minds, there is a timeline of expectation. How many times do those providing therapy, spiritual direction, pastoral ministry, etc., hear these words. ‘I’ve been coming to you for so many sessions, and nothing seems to have changed.’ Why aren’t things better!’ Perhaps also you have made the recovery process a job, a work, a demand. Absorbing the milliliter Much of the deep work that we so desperately need does not come with a flood. We couldn’t handle it if it did. Instead, it comes as a trickle, a droplet, a milliliter of goodness. It might be a little word that meditatively speaks to something we are struggling with. That Rhema word – The Right Word at the Right Time As we mindfully ruminate and ponder on this droplet of goodness, things start to happen in the inner workings of our soul. New connections are made in the brain. Powerful beliefs that have held us captive start to lose their strength. New avenues open up to us to explore. It’s endlessly mysterious and good. Reread this passage and imagine yourself May my teaching drop like the rain,     my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass,     like showers on new growth. Video Player     00:00   00:16     There is a gentle approach to how the heart and mind can change. Instead of the force of a flood, it’s a refreshing rain. Let’s learn to absorb the goodness. Quotes to consider The really great truths, like love and inner freedom, are not fully conceptual, and they can never be understood by reason alone. Richard Rohr Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest. Mark Buchanan What profoundly saddens me is that most Christians have settled for beliefs instead of knowing. David Benner The soul doesn’t develop in a straight line but in stages, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Imagine your life as a series of initiations, as you go from one life-changing experience to the next. Thomas Moore. Care of the Soul Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life An intent to heal can get in the way of seeing. By doing less, more is accomplished. Thomas Moore. Care of the Soul Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life To feel and imagine may not sound like much. But in care of the soul there is trust that nature heals, that much can be accomplished by not-doing. Thomas Moore. Care of the Soul Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life Questions to consider What is it like to be ‘flooded’ with knowledge? Is there a particular verse or word that speaks to you from the passage? Let it soak in. May my teaching drop like the rain,     my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass,     like showers on new growth. Why do we try and force something that God wants us to absorb slowly? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Ed Leszczynskl on Unsplash               Get a weekly email full of help for your Mental Health and Spiritual formation * indicates required Email Address * First Name * Last Name *    
When you’re in a dark hole, it can feel like there is a loss of hope, but you can dig yourself out with some wisdom and encouragement. It was a hole that I had fallen into. I was in a deep dark hole where the sun didn’t seem to reach. That is what a mental illness can be like—All-consuming, overwhelming, and a  ‘blocking out’ of the reality of anything possibly being different. The fog bank is all-consuming. I was in a hole, but I was not alone. Alongside though were bible characters who had also been in a similar place. Elijah, Moses, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Job, Naomi, Paul, Peter, Judas, to name the ones that we know of that had emotional struggles. Even Jesus struggled with his dark night of anguish and a time when the sun refused to shine. God handed me a spade and encouraged me to start digging. The Anonymous Hole Dweller One of the interesting observations I have made from blogging for many years now is that there are many people that I would call ‘Anonymous Hole Dwellers’. They know they are struggling; they want help but don’t want others to know about it. It’s a privacy thing. I’ll solve this on my own, D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself), and there is a fear of what others will think and how they will react. So they reach out to find help on the internet. They Google search their pain-filled questions, see a page or two here on Turning the Page, spend some reading, and then they are gone. They remain anonymous – unknown. I want to give them a spade and encourage them to dig. Perhaps Turning the Page can offer a couple of footholds for their journey up and out. The spade To me, a spade represents hard manual labor. I’ve used a spade many times. In fact, I own about six of them. Each of them slightly different and suited for various tasks. I have dug so many holes and drains that I know the feel of a good spade. It’s dirty work: sweat, mud, and tired muscles. You cut the turf, push the steel into the soil and wedge the dirt out. Then you do it again and again. Over time you make progress. You gain a sense of satisfaction at the progress made. It’s tangible and real. But I don’t know of anybody that gets excited about digging. It’s much like what this quote says about opportunity. The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like Hard Work. Thomas Edison? Most people I have found don’t want to wear overalls and pick up the spade and do the work. Some people have become so used to their hole that they have made it their home. Decorating the walls with internalized victim stories, they live in an echo chamber of past events. Critical voices keep them from looking up. When God hands you a spade Let’s go back to that dark hole. You are at the base of a deep dark hole, and the only way out is up. So a spade is in your hand. You grasp that spade, and you start to chip and dig away at the walls of the hole. After a little while, you have dug out a small hole big enough to put your foot in. Then you dig another hole in the wall for your hand to grasp on to. You do this over and over again until you have dug a ladder, as such, out of the hole. You climb a little, and you dig a little. Dirt is filling in the hole under you. You are sensing the light above filling your senses. Hope is beginning to rise in you. You dig a millimeter more. You slip now and then, but because it’s your hole and it’s you that is doing the digging, you progress on. With every successful notch made and elevation gained, something is changing in your brain. The electrical pathways are becoming more positive. The way you used to think becomes a distant memory. There is a new you that is emerging. Stronger, deeper, and more centered. There is a resilience to your nature so that when the winds and storms of life blow, you don’t buckle. You bend and move with the flow. It’s a millimeter foothold. I like to think of recovery as millimeter ministry. It’s small enough to make it feasible and highly achievable. What are some millimeters? reading your thinking compass every day taking medication (if prescribed) every day doing something nice for you every day going to bed at a regular time every day meditating on some Bible verses every day getting pragmatic about some of the pressures bearing down on you everyday problem-solving rather than problem dwelling everyday exercising a little every day nurturing the beautiful and meaningful in you every day It’s an ‘every day’ rhythm of digging a little bit each day. Habits, patterns, and practices changing your life. I will cheer on your digging I’m not going to rescue you from your hole, but I want to cheer on the progress and offer suggestions. I have noticed that rescuers and quick-fix merchants often have a need in themselves that they want to fulfill. Instead, I will encourage the millimeter that turns into a centimeter. I have a hole of my own, which is my responsibility. You can cheer me on and fuel my heart with whispers of courage. Let’s dig together In my book ‘Broken to built,’ I reflect on how Jerusalem’s wall was rebuilt after devastating destruction with an ‘And next to them’ attitude. It’s an awareness of others next to us in our rebuilding and digging. It’s hard, dirty, and often thankless work. But there is a beauty and wonder at the progress made when the dig is focused and alive. When you’re in a dark hole, it can feel like there is a loss of hope, but you can dig yourself out with some wisdom and encouragement. Quotes to consider Only a secure person can empower others. Those who have to remain in control can never let go long enough to allow others to make mistakes and learn from them. David Riddell Nothing digs ditches like shovel fulls of dirt.  Rick Hanson 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 Every ‘rescuer’ needs to know that sometimes people will need to feel worse before they can feel better. D. Riddell   Questions to answer What does your hole look like? What is a millimeter foothold that you can dig today? Why do some people like to decorate their holes and make them their homes? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Mari Potter on Unsplash     Get a weekly email full of help for your Mental Health and Spiritual formation * indicates required Email Address * First Name * Last Name *    
Why you get so angry can give a clear direction about who you truly are. It’s a matter of the heart. Your anger can indicate what you hold most dear. As they became more whole, the anger started to simmer, then boil, and then it flowed over the containment of their life. It was, in a frightening way, beautiful and needed to happen. Anger can be highly destructive. But flowing out without constraint can damage and burn. We all have this capacity to pour out our emotions of being hurt, mistreated, abused. Some of the deepest hurts come from those we are in the closest relationship to. Those who we would hope and expect to know our hearts are often the ones who will not listen and show love and respect to our tender places. I think of the patterns we set up so young to defend that tender heart. A little bruise, and a little slight, and we begin to build a fortress. ‘No one is ever going to hurt me again like that.’  And if that tender small inner child ever gets a poke or a prod, then out comes the angry army. I get angry. I get hurt. But I don’t want my anger to overflow and burn up the relationships I hold dear. Yes, those close to me may trigger an unbearable feeling, and I want to lash out in response, but I, as an adult, have to take responsibility for myself. My response is my responsibility. What is it under the fury and fire of your anger that is causing you to explode? Perhaps if we look at gender differences, we might find a clue. An angry man The chief fear of a man is that he is weightless, that there is nothing substantial or powerful about him. That he is not going to make much difference in his world, in his relationships, particularly with women, with the children he has, and with his friends. The lies he says to himself are ‘I’m useless,’ ‘I never do anything right,’ ‘Everything I do, I fail in.’ Every angry man I have talked with has a common theme—a loss of respect. They want it from those they care about, but when it is not given, they demand, cajole, and try harder to win approval. They want someone to see and acknowledge their purpose even though they may dismiss it themselves. The question to ask is, ‘How has their purpose been dismissed’? Read more about men here. An angry woman The chief fear of a woman is undesirability. At the core of a women’s being, they ask – ‘Is there anything desirable about me. If a man really saw me, would he want me? Would he find me desirable, not just as a sex partner, but would he find me desirable at all.’ The lies they say to themselves are ‘I am ugly, both externally and internally,’ ‘No one loves me,’ ‘I have no beauty.’ Every angry woman I have talked with has a common theme—a loss of love. They want to have it from those they care about, but when it is not given, they demand, cajole, and try harder to win love. They want someone to see and acknowledge their inner beauty even though they may dismiss it themselves. The question to ask is, ‘How has their beauty been tarnished’? Read more here Men and Women are different. Embracing the heart What is it about the heart, that seat of the emotions, which is crucial to our wellbeing? We sing about it, draw ‘heart-shaped’ images, give flowers, and so desire for it to be touched in delicate meaningful ways. I wonder what your heart is like? What shaped its tenderness or toughness? What is it like for your heart to be known, explored, discovered, and touched? Perhaps the fire of anger could be the signal that something of that little child within wants attention. As you explore yourself, an awareness of injustice is growing and needs to be acknowledged and heard. You begin to see that the heart could have been treated with love and respect, but it wasn’t. The injustice of it all is like kindling to a fire waiting for a spark. What would it be like to have your heart listened to without judgment? With no parent figure dismissing your feelings or telling you to ‘Shut up.’ Then one comes, and a gift of empathy is offered. Wisdom is shared about how we live in an unjust and unfair world, but we have a God of justice, mercy, and grace. Oh, for a friend that will listen and sit with the heart of a hurting man or woman, girl or boy. The mystery of heart change It’s quite a mystery to me about how the heart changes. Mystical in the sense that it seems that there is a disorderly order to this dance. A little bit of this and a little bit of that, and things begin to move. It’s poetry, not formulas and facts. Larry Crabb writes this. In Successful Psychotherapy: A Caring, Loving Relationship, psychologists C.H. Patterson and Hidore admit that psychotherapy is in chaos. Their solution is worth a second look. Profession helping efforts, they suggest, should abandon identifying specific diagnosable disorders and coming up with specific technical treatment plans. They should instead focus on one simple yet profound idea – that the essence of all successful psychotherapy is love. Larry Crabb Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be When we are angry, we need love. A kind of love that has learned to listen for the pain under the fury. Becoming whole through anger I don’t like anger, I especially don’t like people being angry with me, but every emotion has an invite. What pushes your buttons and why? There is something at the core of your being that is wildly good and beautiful. It has a purpose and a power to change our world. Yet, most of us are hardly aware of it. It is like a small seed, a mustard seed, that is waiting to germinate and grow. We get angry when it is threatened, mistreated, overlooked, despised. When love comes to town, it waters that seed and stimulates the growth. I’ve seen it happen in many people. A little encouragement, an affirmation, some praise, and that beautiful heart starts to sing a new song. It’s that tender shoot that a few brutal words can so easily cut down. Growing out of the bruises 1. You become aware of your unique self. As you look at your heart, what do you hold valuable and precious? What is it about you that is delightfully different from others? A clue might be found in where you get triggered. What is significantly and uniquely special about you? There is ‘no one youer than you,’ as Dr. Seuss would say. 2. You draw a line around you. It’s a line of love and respect. Some people call this a boundary, but in a deeper way, it’s a line where you define who you are and who you are not. This is me. I have these values and beliefs. 3. You protect. Some people don’t show any love or respect for your ‘Youer than you’ self. They can be like a bull in a china shop. Wrecking and destroying with every mindless swish of a tail. Not noticing your beauty and purpose. Not caring. So you protect. You don’t let any old person into that precious place of dreams and hopes. You assess their safety. Are they safe to have in your land of beauty and passion? Intimacy (In-to-me-see) is a gift, not a right. The power to protect is your hands. You only let those in that have demonstrated a safe pair of hands. Your anger is the symptom of a violation of the line. So then you wonder ‘where has your heart been violated’? 4. You nurture and heal That angry place, that sore bruise or wound, deserves special loving attention. You are kind to yourself. As a wise and loving parent, you speak words of compassion and love to that small child that is hurt. As someone who knows you better than anyone else, you speak what needs to be said. 5. You learn from the bruises How have the bumper car experiences of life shaped your direction? Perhaps it’s time to take the steering wheel yourself and drive your own life. One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is to gently explore the ‘Youer than You’ nature of each other. When you or your friend gets angry, it’s an invite to help define what is inside the lines of love and respect. Summary Your anger can indicate what you hold most dear. Why you get so angry can give a clear direction about who you truly are. It’s a matter of the heart. Quotes to consider Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. Dr. Seuss I have learned to use my anger for good. . . . Without it, we would not be motivated to rise to a challenge. It is an energy that compels us to define what is just and unjust. Gandhi Believe it or not, no-one can actually make you angry. You choose your own reaction so quickly it’s hard to believe you did it by yourself. D. Riddell Questions to consider If you were to draw a picture of yourself, what words and sentences would you write inside yourself? When you last got angry, what in your heart got triggered? What would it be like to be known, explored, discovered, and touched? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Mehrnegar Dolatmand on Unsplash
Can anything good come out of that time, place, or person? Only if we take a risk and explore. We are invited to ‘come and see.’  I was raised on a farm near a small town called Wellsford. In fact, my ancestors settled there in the 1860s, migrating from England. Through this town and the middle of our farm, a very busy road ran, taking traffic to one of the poorer areas of New Zealand, Northland. It was also the route to some of the most beautiful beaches and summer holiday spots we have. My little town was a place you mostly went through or stopped off for refreshments (amusingly, that’s how it’s still referred to on tourism websites). It was also a place where many decided to leave. If you wanted to advance and get a better education or work, then you had to leave. It’s like many towns. Functional, average, and a place to say you’ve been through but didn’t stay. Some places have a reputation. Some people have a reputation, and unless you truly get to know them, the reputation stays undisputed. You’ve heard all the news stories, the biased opinions, and you wonder if anything good can come from this town, this person, this experience. Maybe you’re the one with the ‘reputation,’ and others have made a judgment about you that nothing good can come from you. Perhaps you have made that judgment yourself. Maybe it’s something that has happened to you, and you believe that nothing good will come out of it. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Think of one of the smallest towns you know. One that is way off the main road. People may know about it but have never been there. And in never knowing more than the name, it remains unknown. The little hamlet of Nazareth doesn’t even make a mention in the Old Testament. Nothing until we find Joseph and Mary returning to their home in Nazareth. That is the town where Jesus was raised. Home town to a few families eking out a living including carpenter Joesph, wife Mary, and ‘chip off the old block’ Jesus. Talk about keeping a low profile. God was living in Hicksville, but maybe that’s the way God likes it. When Jesus comes on the scene, makes his debut into the world, more than a few were surprised to hear of his background. Does this Jesus have credibility? Nathanael was one of them. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45, 46 Place yourself in the sandals of those in the conversation. Phillip – passionate and excited Nathanael – dubious and dismissive. Both in the playground of the discount. The Discount. You see them all the time. The enthusiastic salesperson (Phillip or Phylis) is shouting and celebrating this wonderful offer. You wonder if this could be true. The invite is to come, see and buy. Exchange something of value – your time and money – for the opportunity to be part of something. But you wonder, is this credible? Is it really that good? Wasnt it made in Nazareth? You dis-count it. You take some of the value off it. It can’t be that good. But it’s only until you ‘come and see’ and experience it yourself that you make the connection. We so often discount what needs to be ‘marked-up.’ There is a beautiful gem, a treasure, but it’s been devalued by those who don’t have eyes to see. So you’re from Nazareth. All of us have a Nazareth. It is a place, a time, a narrative that we can so easily dismiss and consider nothing good coming out of it. It could be the town we were raised in. Maybe the parents or lack of. In your life, that story is where you say to yourself and others, ‘Nothing good came from that.’ Some of the worst Nazareth stories are those where one discounts one’s self. Self-loathing, a diminishing of one’s own abilities, qualities, story. Come and see Nathanael discounted Phillip’s exuberance and testimony. There was only one way to deal with the cynic and that was the invitation to come and see. Often I find myself wanting to ‘come and see’ the one that is discounted. The one that others dismiss. The story that seemingly has no value. Perhaps there I can find a hidden treasure or a beautiful pearl. When I dig a little deeper into this person’s finer nuances, I see someone who has a beauty and a purpose that can only come from a place like Nazareth. A backwater and a desert where water and wind have crafted shape into their soul. They will dismiss it, but anyone with eyes to see will notice it immediately. Something divinely good here that is worthy of exploration and embracing. Something beautiful Many years ago, I used to sing this song. Something beautiful, something good All my confusion He understood All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife. But he made something beautiful of my life. Can anything good come out of your confusion, your strife, and your brokenness? I believe so. It happens when we link arms with a fellow outsider from a small unknown town called Nazareth. Can anything good come out of … (name your story)? Can anything good come out of that time, place, or person? Only if we take a risk and explore. We are invited to ‘come and see.’ Quotes to consider 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 Healthy self-esteem is an internal sense of worth that pulls one neither into “better than” grandiosity nor “less than” shame.  Terrence Real, How Can I Get Through to You?: Closing the Intimacy Gap Between Men and Women The self we create is a persona—a mixture of the truth of our being and the fictions we spin as we attempt to create a self in the image of an inner fantasy. David Benner  The self that begins the spiritual journey is the self of our own creation, the self we thought ourselves to be. This is the self that dies on the journey. The self that arrives is the self that was loved into existence by Divine Love. David Benner Shame causes us to see our identity as flawed rather than seeing ourselves as having flaws. Dan Allender Questions to answer Where have you written yourself off or discounted yourself? What would it have been like to be in Jesus’ sandals and to feel discounted because he came from Nazareth? What is the true cost of discounting in value what God wants us to ‘mark up’? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Alberto Bigoni on Unsplash
Criticism can hurt, bruise and extinguish our hearts, but learning how to handle criticism can build new strength and resilience. I could see the hope drain out of him as I watched both the subtle and not so subtle criticisms land upon him. I was in a meeting with a guy I was supporting, and we were problem-solving. Every solution he suggested was shot down. It was one little cat scratch after another. He would say a few words, and the critic would speak five hundred back. The poor guy, I thought. I wondered what it was like when he was alone with this woman. No wonder he was depressed, anxious, and stuck. Criticism can strangle a heart till it gives up and doesn’t try anymore. The words of a critic start to be believed as a truth in your own being. Your inner critic starts negating you. You’re on a downward spiral. And look, some people don’t know how to give encouragement and praise. They think if they do give praise and encouragement, it might go to your head. So in a warped kind of way, they think they are doing you a service. ‘Can’t have you getting a big head,’ they say. Criticism is a matter of the heart. When someone is routinely criticized, it slowly becomes a matter of the heart—the seat of the emotions. Courage is slowly sapped out of the heart, and despair begins to grow. In the word ‘courage,’ we find the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart.” To have courage means to have heart. Criticism sucks the life out of the heart. What is your heart like when you have been criticized? Does it in someway feel bruised and battered, like it has been in a fight with a schoolyard bully. Maybe it feels exhausted like a blown-out candle. All that is left is a faint glow and some wispy smoke. The Offer of gentleness There is a beautiful passage of ancient scripture in the book of Isaiah that prophetically talks about what Jesus is like. A bruised reed he will not break,     and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; Isaiah 42:3 Imagine you see a swamp full of reeds. A wild storm, full of energy, has come through, and because they are tall and vulnerable, they have been bruised and battered in the strong winds. They are now struggling to get themselves back to full glory and purpose. Christ comes to the stand of reeds, and there is such a gentleness to his approach that as he walks through them, he doesn’t break a single one. Instead, the very presence of being with them in their bruised state helps them recover. ‘You will recover, I am with you; let’s do this together.’ The second imagery is that of a smoldering wick. A candle that was once glowing bright with light and purpose has been blown out by the energetic buffeting winds of criticism. There is nothing left but the wisps of faint small ash floating away. There might still be a slight small glow, hunting for oxygen to reignite, but nothing comes. The Christ won’t come and stub it out. Jesus won’t wet his fingers and squash the life out of the struggle. Instead, with a gentleness of breath, he breathes on the embers and causes them to reignite. With Christ, there is an assurance of both presence and justice. Christ, who knows all and sees all, can bring truth to the whole of the struggle. God is not a god who will add to your pain. So often, many people feel that in their deepest pain that God is also judging them. That, along with the battering from the storms of life that God is also harshly judging them and raining down punishment. God never adds criticism to our earthly load. I can be assured that my heart, which has been bruised and blown out, that God won’t add to the pain. How to Handle Criticism So how do we handle criticism? Firstly, in the best sense of the word ‘critique,’ there is value in having something analyzed and assessed. We can learn valuable lessons when someone is willing to give good and helpful feedback. The problem comes when the energy changes from being helpful to being harsh and abusive. It’s an energy and power dynamic that is happening. So here are some suggestions on how to handle criticism. Here is an example that we can use. The criticism is that your husband raises his voice and criticises the way you ‘always leave the kitchen a mess.’  He raises this and other issues around household tidiness all the time. He does very little to keep things sorted around the house himself but is always quick to target you. So here are some pointers on how to handle criticism.  1. Is there something you can learn and grow from in this? Use this as a learning opportunity. Perhaps there is something you could do better. All of us can learn new things. 2. Consider that their criticism may be saying more about them than it does about you. What does his continuous stream of criticism say about him? Does he know how to give nonabusive feedback? What was modeled to him about praise and encouragement? Is he stressed out from work or other pressures? This doesn’t mean his abuse is ok or acceptable, but it might explain it. Perhaps he was the victim of harsh criticism, and this is all he knows. So don’t take it so personally. It might not be about you at all. 3. Notice the feelings being generated in you and take note of the energy coming from them. What feelings bubble up in you? Does something get triggered? What are the old thought pathways that you always take when situations like this happen?’ I’m so useless. Can’t get anything right …’ 4. Breathe Take a few deep gentle breaths and center yourself back in the now. Notice the thoughts and feelings and see them for what they are. They are simply thoughts and feelings that you can choose how to act out of. 5. See the situation for what it is. Don’t attach more to the problem than what there is. This is a problem with kitchen tidiness—nothing more, nothing less. Don’t attach your personal value to whether the kitchen is tidy or not! 6. Don’t give like for like. An eye for an eye makes both people blind. If you fire back criticism, you will add fuel to the fire, and the problem won’t get resolved. 7. Go pragmatic See the problem as just that—a problem to be solved.  Whenever I have been under attack, I like to listen deeply and repeat what I have heard them say. ‘So what I heard you say is that you want me to clean the kitchen better? Did I get that right?’ When you do this, you narrow the problem down to the real problem and away from personalization. You might like to follow this up with further questions to shift it away from emotional high energy to a logical and constructive place. ‘What does a tidy kitchen look like to you?’ ‘Can we reorganize the kitchen, so it is easier to keep clean?’ ‘Can we encourage other members of the family to put away dirty dishes? It’s that shifting out of the emotional reaction mode into a quiet, rational, and thoughtful problem-solving mode. It’s changing the energy and power dynamics. 8. Give yourself praise and encouragement. If you leave it up to others to give you a sense of validation and worth, then it’s going to be a roller coaster ride. Criticism is going to crush. Instead, give yourself the praise and encouragement you need. Learn the practice of encouraging yourself. Handling criticism is a practiced skill. You learn it by doing it over and over again. Each time you do it, you gain a little more confidence. Criticism can hurt, bruise and extinguish our hearts, but learning how to handle criticism can build new strength and resilience. Are You A Critical Person Perhaps you’re the one that is always criticizing others. Some questions for you to consider Are your expectations realistic? Have you listened well before handing out a criticism? What is the emotional energy that is under the criticism? Where have you learned these criticism behaviors from? What would it be like to be as the receiver of your criticisms? Are you able to give encouragement and praise instead of criticism? Quotes to consider Praise and encouragement is much more effective in changing others’ behaviour than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? David Riddell Encouragement breeds encouragement. Be sure to give it to your spouse before looking for some yourself. David Riddell Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner. Lao Tzu  He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help. Abraham Lincoln To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. Elbert Hubbard Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. Dale Carnegie He who throws dirt always loses ground. Unknown Questions to answer What happens in you when you are criticized? Why is it easier to criticize than it is to give encouragement and praise? What does it do in your heart to know that God will not join in on criticizing you? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash
Emotional pain can bump our lives into behaviors that can hurt us further. But we can make a change by learning to listen to the pain, where it’s sourced, and what it wants us to do. He was in pain. I could see it, feel it, and totally understand it. I couldn’t take his emotional pain away, but I did want him to know one thing. She was also was in pain. In everything she said and did, there was an expression of emotional pain. I wanted her to know this one thing. The bumps of emotional pain We all experience emotional pain. Possibly pain has been one of the most contributing factors in the development of your self. You get hurt; you avoid what hurt you. The sharp chisel blows of life in some way have shaped your very being and doing. I keep thinking of bumper boats careering into you, pushing you this way and that. Perhaps when people express the words ‘God, I want to die,’ they are really simply wanting the pain to end. That pain of loneliness, abuse, shame, guilt, loss, rejection, etc. Those painful feelings become so overwhelming that they block out any light. The pain becomes such a normative experience that any belief that there is a life without that pain is beyond belief. When you’re in that place, there is no light. You’re surrounded and alone, in a darkness that is pounding against you. Storm waves of emotional pain keep crashing against the architecture of your brain. A Vicar is needed Jesus experienced pain. There was the crucifixion’s physical pain, which is beyond our understanding, but there was also the emotional pain. Something that we can understand. There was the pain of betrayal, vulnerable naked exposure, abuses, mocking, abandonment, rejection. Name the emotional pain, and Jesus would have experienced it. One of the most liberating words I have ever discovered is the word ‘Vicarious.’ It simply means to ‘do something or experience something in place of another.’ Vicar Jesus lived a perfect life on your behalf. He got everything right. Christ has also experienced every imaginable emotional pain that you are going through. He knows what being fully human is fully like. You have to ask yourself this question. ‘Would you trust a tour guide who hasn’t actually walked the path’? Jesus has walked the path and got the emotional wounds to prove it. Meet Your New Vicar When I am in emotional pain, I want a vicar. Someone who has been there, done that, and without any F.A.S.S. attitudes (Fixing, Advising, Saving, or ‘Setting one straight). When you are in emotional pain, you want connection. Alone, I die. Together, we climb. A vicar will be someone who will help you tease out the pain. What is the pain, and where is it coming from. What are the bumps and knocks causing you to do? They will also see where your pain takes you. Out of our being flows our doing. What habits have you created in your life to cope with emotional pain? Has that pain led to habits and demands to work harder, keep busy, perfectionism? The pain has an invite. What does your pain invite or even demand you to do? Pain can invite you into addictions: the bottle, the drugs, the porn. Maybe the shopping mall, the binge eating, the self-harm. Anything that numbs the loneliness, the shame, the loss. The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God. Bruce Marshall. The World, the Flesh and Father Smith The invite of the brothel, or the porn website, is ‘Come. For the briefest of moments, we can dull the pain out of your existence’. The one thing to remember. You’re not alone. I want to talk about the pain I carry, but who will listen without F.A.S.S.‘ing me. We need to know that we’re not alone. When we are alone with our emotional pain, we quickly and easily succumb to the doing of things to dull the pain. We self medicate. I have a friend who has been there done that. Knows every imaginable pain that humanity has within itself. So I write to P.A.P.A.  I journal and express that pain. As I express something gets relieved. Like the tension on a stretched out rubber band, it becomes relaxed. Some people draw and create art. Some write songs and sing. (think the laments of the psalms and lamentations) As I express, there is a quiet, soothing whisper that comes to console. Of course, you have to learn to listen for the words ‘I am with you,’ but in the darkness, they are always there. Then perhaps a new millimeter step of hope creeps into our being. A little movement can be a whole lot. We don’t need to reach for the stars when we have stardust in our hands. It’s a gradual thing—small millimeter steps. There will always be some element of emotional pain whilst in this human existence, but it doesn’t have to the dominant force. It can simply part of our shadow. There, but not dominating our vision. You’re not alone, never have been, never will be. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened [carrying emotional pain], and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus Matthew 11:28-30 More Vicars Needed We need more good listeners who can point in their worn sandaled way to how their emotional pain has been transformed into something sacred and good. It’s about listening and being ‘with someone.’ So that when the emotional pain demands relief, wisdom is on the offer. A new millimeter path is available to take. It’s taking those journal scribbles and notes and gently reading between the lines to where the pain is. Then offering a prayer of ‘being with them.’ Emotional pain can bump our lives into behaviors that can hurt us further. But we can make a change by learning to listen to the pain, where it’s sourced, and what it wants us to do. Quotes to consider The heart and the key to the Christian message is the vicarious nature of the life of Christ. Yes, He died for you, but He also lived as you, and performed on your behalf. David Riddell Emotional pain always results when life’s experiences go beyond the answers we already have. Dig deeper for more wisdom or go on hurting. David Riddell Those who do not turn to face their pain are prone to impose it. Terrence Real Redeemed pain is more impressive to me than removed pain Phillip Yancey. Suffering often shapes and teaches us and precedes most significant resurrections. Richard Rohr Pain is the rent we pay for being human, it seems, but suffering is usually optional. Richard Rohr Unless a bishop, teacher, or minister has on some level walked through suffering, failure, or humiliation, his or her words will tend to be fine but superficial, OK but harmless, heard by the ears but unable to touch the soul. Richard Rohr Questions to answer Can you give examples of emotional pain? What behaviors or actions do you have that flow out of emotional pain? What quote above spoke to you the most? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Taras Chernus on Unsplash   Get a weekly email to support your Mental Health * indicates required Email Address * First Name * Last Name    
Trust can get broken so easily, but we can build a new trust by cognitively reassessing our situations.  It takes time and effort, but it is worth it. There was a rebuilding that needed to happen. It was a rebuilding of trust in themselves and with others. Somewhere, some time, every one of us is going to have our trust broken. We live with an expectation that certain things will happen the way we believe they will happen. The rules won’t get broken. That the promises made will be kept. But trust gets broken in many different areas of our lives. relationships career health Government Church God I once sat with a man who, in his late forties, discovered he had manic depressive episodes. Up till then, everything seemed fine. His wife told me that he had had a few strange moments in his life with some weird ideas, but for the most part, he lived within the bounds of what anyone would call normal. Then all of a sudden, his illness truly took control, and he started acting highly erratically. He was admitted into the psych ward and began the journey into an awareness of his broken self. With medication, support, and guidance, he returned to his family and started to rebuild his life. But there was a deep loss of trust in himself, his world, and his God. As he talked with me, there was a need to rebuild trust in himself. The beliefs he had about himself, life, and God were all lying in rubble. Trust questions knawed at his soul. Do I trust my thinking? Where was God? What do I believe now? Who do I trust? Shame and guilt pounded on his soul. ‘What a fool’ was spoken out more than once. When you’re in a hole, it’s easy to drown in the dirt you’re digging in. Broken trust Bible The Bible is full of stories where trust has been broken. Josephs relationship with his brothers Davids affair with Bathsheba Peters denial of Jesus Christ With each of these moments, there was a time where there was a breach of trust. Joseph trusted his brothers, but they sold him into slavery. Could he trust them again? David broke marriage vows and commitments to God. Could he be trustworthy again as a man and as a leader? Peter broke his trust relationship with Jesus by denying him and leaving him alone. Could Jesus trust him again? All of these examples, plus many more, show the fragility of trust. Trust is finite; life is fragile. There is a Fragility As I sat with the man discovering his manic depressive illness, I witnessed his awareness grow about his fragility. That given the right amount of stress, lack of sleep, and with a body that was vulnerable in its own particular way, then the fragility would crack. He would become unwell and unstable. He was becoming aware of his weaknesses. Before the breakdown, he would have given theoretical assent to this weakness, but now he was truly knowing and embracing it on a soul level. He could have talked about physical weaknesses on a theological level, but now he was searching for God amongst the rubble of his own torn down city. There is a fragility in life we can’t control and is open to breaches of trust. Cognitive reassessments Rebuilding trust requires the ‘brick by brick’ work of cognitively reassessing that which we are trusting in. A cognitive reassessment means to look at the facts. The brick and mortar of the situation. Is there change? What actually has been done? Brick by brick, we can build it from the floor If we hold on to each other, we’ll be better than before. Train Our subconscious can be reprogrammed through cognitive reassessments of behaviors. Joseph had to do a cognitive reassessment of his brothers to see whether they could be trusted again. He did this by giving them several tests. David could not be trusted to be leader and King again without going through his dark night of the soul. The behaviors of repentance and sorrow marked a changed life. Jesus could once again trust Peter when he saw the brokenness of his heart.  He had to tell Peter three times of his trust in him. Build a new trust How do we build a new trust in ourselves and others? There is a process, and it requires deep listening into the soul.  1. Listen for the voices of mistrust We all have those voices of mistrust that say, ‘Don’t trust, you’ll get hurt again.’ We need to recognize them and pay attention to them, but we don’t necessarily have to agree with them. Those whispers may well be the subconscious brain trying to keep us safe. They are there for a reason. What would the reason be? 2. Look for the facts We can so easily get caught up in the emotions of the past that we judge the present by the past. Instead, we need to look for the facts of the now. We look for the changes made. Tangible, observable, and real. Is there evidence of a change? 3. Know your lines of love and respect Many people use the word ‘Boundaries,’ but I prefer ‘Lines of Love and Respect.’ It’s that line where you have a sense of love and respect for yourself and others. ‘I show love and respect for others by not calling them in the middle of the night wanting to have a chat. I know that if I did, I would be ‘crossing a line.” ‘Others demonstrate love and respect for me by the behaviors of not calling me in the middle of the night. They understand that this would be ‘crossing a line.” Understanding and accepting your own needs of love and respect is part of rebuilding trust in yourself and others. When people continue to show disrespect or an unloving approach to the lines of love and respect I have around me, I begin to trust them less. If someone keeps ringing me in the middle of the night, showing no respect for my needs of sleep and rest, then the line becomes a fence, then a wall with barbed wire, then a wall with machine guns and guard dogs. Sometimes you have to tell people your ‘lines of love and respect.’ At times, you have to repeatedly tell them and then follow up any breaches with natural consequences. Trust builds when everyone agrees on the lines of love and respect. When people keep ‘crossing the line,’ and you have to enforce some consequences, remember you are not rejecting them; instead, you are rejecting their behaviors. How can you walk as one with someone unless there is a level of trust? Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3:3 4. Rehearse the truth What is the truth that you are thinking out of? We often need to tell ourselves new truths that will rebuild a sense of trust in ourselves and others. ‘That was then; this is now.’ ‘I am no longer the same person I was then.’ ‘The past does not define who I am. I choose to live in the present.’ ‘I am not the mistakes I have made.’ ‘I have changed. I have grown.’ ‘I am no longer doing those same things I did back then.’ ‘I now have these guardrails in place.’ ‘I now understand Early Warning Signs‘ ‘I have lines of love and respect in my relationships (boundaries)’ ‘I don’t have to walk with someone I am not in agreement with.’ Trust can get broken so easily, but we can build new trust by cognitively reassessing the situations we are in.  It takes time and effort, but it is worth it. Quotes to consider “I didn’t reject you, I rejected your behaviour. Change your behaviour, before we can walk together again.” D. Riddell Just because you forgive someone does not mean you must trust them – that has to be earned back again. David Riddell How can I re-assess you until you demonstrate your changed mind? Until then I must keep you trapped in your past, for restitution must come before restoration of trust. D. Riddell God is no stranger to the process of repairing damaged relationships. His trust has been broken many times by those he loves. John Townsend and Dr. Cloud Henry You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. Anne Lamott Rebuilding shattered trust necessitates reliable actions over time. Stefanie Carnes  Talk’s easy, work’s hard. Consistent trustworthy behavior over time equals trust. Notice the word consistent is emphasized. Consistency is the key to the process. This becomes an even greater challenge because “addiction is a disorder that is characterized by relapse.” Stefanie Carnes  We forgive, but we base our trust on the trustworthiness of the other person. Timothy R. Jennings  Questions to answer Are you still held back by voices saying not to trust? Why are those thoughts there? What are your ‘Lines of love and respect’? What truths do you need to feed your brain with to rebuild trust? Are you ‘militantly on your own side’? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by David Boca on Unsplash
We all have a story to tell but who is giving witness to it. A witness can help us change our plot, the next event in the storyline.  I could see them. I was looking at my Google Analytics for Turning the Page. It’s a kind of measuring tool full of statistics of how many people come to the website and what they are looking at. This was in real-time. As I was looking at the dashboard they were looking at the website. I didn’t know who they were or anything about them. Nothing other than that they had come to a particular page. The page was I’ve had Enough, Take my Life God, I Want to die The route they had taken to get there was most likely one of writing a prayer. The prayer was short. It was ‘God, I want to die .’ A prayer typed into Google. Turning the Page is ranked on Google on Page One for those terms.  So here I am, knowing someone is on my website looking for help, in pain, and being anonymous. I am a witness to a struggle by someone somewhere. I wanted to touch them somehow so they would know they were not alone. Anonymous means a person unknown. The person reading the blog post was anonymous, unknown by me, and being un-known in their struggle.  I could imagine the situation. They were in emotional pain. There was a struggle, and all they wanted was to have the pain end. Perhaps, they hoped, God would take them, and then the pain would end.  When you’re in a dark hole, the darkness can feel like it’s drowning you.  You type a few words into Google and hope for help. An algorithm spits out some signposts.  We don’t want others to know, and so we remain unknown – anonymous -without name. I witness you I remember years ago someone writing me letters. Handwritten, they were pages and pages of expression. Much of it was quite eligible and difficult to follow.  It was something of the story of their life that they wanted me to be a witness to it. Every now and then, I would write back and ask a few questions.  It was a release for them to get stuff out of their brain and onto some paper. To have someone be a witness.  They wanted someone to know, to know them, to be known. To not be alone.  I think something began to open in them. That their story was real but only part of who they were. There was more to them than the story they had been telling themselves. In the writing of the story, they were able to let go of some of the pain because the story had now been heard. It had been witnessed. I see you, and I’m not afraid. One of the most beautiful qualities of Jesus was that he saw into people’s lives and wasn’t afraid of entering a dark hole.  Jesus walked with those on the outside. The broken and bruised, the racially and religiously prejudiced. The rejected ones. Those who were considered of no value – the anonymous people. I believe Jesus would say, ‘I see you, and I’m not afraid.’ The apostle Paul asks a question.  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Romans 8:35 Here is another empowering question.  Is your story, pain, past, and failures going to be too big for Jesus to handle?   When we anonymize ourselves, choosing to remain unknown, we fear rejection.  That we will be shunned, that something will come between ourselves and others. That the witness will walk away.  To witness the plot of the story. As we listen and give witness to a story, we see a plot emerge. How various events have shaped the story. There has been a sequence, and each event has affected the next one. Dan Allender writes this.  To understand our story, we need to know our tragedies, and as we learn them, we will catch a glimpse of how we currently manage tension.  Repetitive patterns have become themes in our lives over time, themes that impose structure on us even when a surface evaluation would tell us that these themes are nothing more than personal preference or desire. We are not wholly our own, nor are we exclusively the result of what has happened to us. No wonder reading the plot of our lives is so difficult. Yet it is in the plot where we will find meaning. It also is the only part of our story we can rewrite if the trajectory of our life is not as we desire. I can’t change my tragedies, nor can I really eliminate (fully) the characters in my story, but I can write a new plot. To do so requires re-engaging the tragedies of my life with new patterns, thereby developing new or additional themes that mark who I am both as a coauthor of my life and an editor of my future. Doing this marks me as a character in a larger story, a player who furthers the plot development while living in the real world of tension and tragedy. To know our plot is the first step in changing it. Dan Allender. To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future So many wonderful insights in this passage.  When we give witness, we join in on the knowing of the plot. What a privilege.  Quotes to consider Writing is always a form of translation. We take what is in us and bring it up from our heart through our mind to the page. Dan Allender Those who do not turn to face their pain are prone to impose it. Terrence Real At some subterranean level of the heart, what we all want is for another human to say, I see you. Rob Bell Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh. Another lonely day, with no one here but me, oh. More loneliness than any man could bear. Rescue me before I fall into despair, oh. I’ll send an S.O.S to the world. I hope that someone gets my Message in a bottle, yeah. A year has passed since I wrote my note. I should have known this right from the start. Only hope can keep me together. Love can mend your life. Or love can break your heart. I hope that someone gets my Message in a bottle, yeah. Walked out this morning, I don’t believe what I saw.  Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore. Seems I’m not alone at being alone. Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home. I’m sending out an S.O.S Sting – Message in a bottle Questions to answer What are the skills required to be a good witness of someone’s story? Who has witnessed you? What quote from this post has connected with you? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Andrew Measham on Unsplash
When hope is deferred, our heart grows sick, but when we see and know the hope fulfilled in the now, we can build resilience to the struggles of the day.  People traveled long distances hoping to get some of the money ‘falling from the sky.’  A few nights ago, I watched a news item about a publicity marketing stunt that made a seemingly genuine promise and failed to deliver. A company had promised. ‘New Zealand’s first mass cash drop.’ ‘We’re dropping $105,891.40 [$74,558.13 USD] in value from the sky’ ‘YES. Actual money will be flying …’ Instead, it was fake money and vouchers for discounts at their online store. There was anger, violence, and a huge disappointment. Hearts full of hope were sickened.  Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said ‘I cannot fathom how, at any point, someone would think that was a good idea. Clearly, it was not. It has caused harm, it has caused hurt, and they should apologize.’ You can watch the full news item here.   It’s the snake oil salesman promise online marketer promising whatever you want will be had with this new … preacher promising prosperity if you give and pray and read your bible every day  sparkly lights of a gambling machine dream of things will be better tomorrow if you… hope deferred Yeah she’s a promise In the year of election Oh sister I can’t let you go Like a preacher stealing hearts At a traveling show Desire – U2 You reach for the sky to grasp the money, buy the magic lotion,  give the offering, pray louder, longer. Then, when the promise is not fulfilled, there are the words ‘you don’t have enough faith,’ ‘you have sin in your life,’ or ‘you just need to try harder.’ So you try again and again.  The heart, that seat of the emotions, becomes cynical, fatigued, and in a word, ‘sick.’ Hope deferred There is a verse in the Bible that talks about this. Hope deferred makes the heart sick,  but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 I wonder how much of one’s sadness, depression, angst is the sickness of having hope deferred over and over again. A ‘putting off’ of the sense of being fulfilled to another day. Emotions get built up only to be disappointed yet again. So a happy face is put on, and off we go again. Slowly and surely, the heart gets fatigued about life. We give up the dreams of a better tomorrow and become highly cynical about anything presented as a ‘tree of life.’   Protesters march in frustration of broken promises. Protest songs become the mantra of a sickened heart.  We defer to another time that feeling of a ‘hope fulfilled.’  A Desire Fulfilled A young woman gets married. (desire fulfilled) She has two sons (desire fulfilled). Her husband dies (grief, loss, but she still has sons to care for her) The two sons get married (desire fulfilled).  Both sons die (hope takes a huge knock). All that is left is herself and two daughters-in-law.  One of the daughter’s in-laws leaves—the other stays.  This is the story of a woman called Naomi. Hopes built up then dashed.  A loyal commitment is made by one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, to stay with Naomi and help her. To live in the now of whatever befalls them both.  “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” Ruth 1:16, 17 She and Ruth return to Bethlehem, Naomi’s hometown, to begin again.  So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?” “Don’t call me Naomi,[pleasant],” she told them. “Call me Mara,[bitter] because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:20,21 Naomi was bitter, angry, and was holding up a protest sign angry at God. Hope was gone; anger was in residence. There was no tree of life being fulfilled in her.  Skip a few years ahead in the story, and we find Ruth married and passing over a young baby to Naomi to hold. This baby will be part of the lineage, family tree, of another baby, Jesus, that will save the world. A desire fulfilled. Out of the providence of what was in her ‘now,’ something good and delightful emerged. In that moment of protest I think we all have moments when we think that life is not fair. Possibly that God has not come through with the promises of blessing, abundance, ‘tree of life.’  We shake our fist at God. We shift from being pleasant (Naomi) to bitter (Mara), and in focusing on the real pain that we are experiencing turns us away from the Ruth (friendship) of today.  The meaning of the name Ruth is friendship.  Isn’t that beautiful. In that time of heart sickness, there was a friendship.  Now for many of us, we might experience a great deal of loss and have no “Ruth’ type people around us. Friends might well depart or avoid. But there is something bigger going on. There is an invite to live in the now of what I do have.  Please, don’t say ‘Count your blessings’ I want to throw something at people who tell me to count your blessings be thankful for what you do have be more grateful list out all the things you do have going right When people say this, I feel that I have failed again. I am ungrateful. That it’s my fault.   I have been ‘FASSed’ – Fixed, Advised, Saved, Set straight instead of being known.  This is an avoidance strategy used by them not to enter the reality of another’s real pain. They don’t want to be a Ruth (friend) to your Mara (bitter) pain. They don’t want to ‘go where you will go.’ They would rather stand at a distance and give you their supposedly wise advice and counsel. I think Naomi would have felt let down, yet again.  The compassionate friendship of the now Instead, there is a friend in the living of the now. It’s the heart seeing the smallest of hopes for what can be seen in this day, this moment. It’s noticing the provision of a blessing in this moment.  As I write this, it is early in the morning. It has rained overnight, and all the trees and grasses have had a good wash. Birdlife is singing, and the land feels refreshed.  I watch the light bounce and sparkle out of a drop of rain on a leaf. I sip my coffee, and I savor the tones and aromas. I watch a small bird hop into our kitchen and steal away a small dog biscuit. The small yappy dog is sleeping, blissfully unaware of this crime.  In one sense, I am ‘counting my blessings,’ but in a deeper, more meaningful way, I am entering into the blessings of this present moment.  Counting implies logic-based reasoning. If I have this number of blessings, then life can’t be that bad.  This mindful meditative approach into the friendship ‘Ruth’s’ of the moment goes way deeper. It invites an awareness, a shift in focus to the now. The widows’ mite When we shift focus away from bigger hopes to the smaller hopes fulfilled in the now, our life is turned upside down. We enter Jesus’ world of widows mites.  Sitting across from the offering box, he [Jesus] was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” Mark 12:41-44 In our world, we wooed to focus on the big hopes fulfilled. The five-year plan. Goals of this and that. Building a kingdom and a glory of our own making.  Jesus points us to the heart and love of a widow giving a few small copper coins. It’s in the hope of the small.  I have a dream, a hope, a desire for my future, but it’s in the here and now that I find the tree of life-giving its fruit to me. I watch for the Ruth and the copper coins of today.  Don’t defer your happiness for another time. See it and enter into that which is right in front of you today.   Perhaps, one day in the future, you will find yourself holding an awareness that something truly beautiful has happened. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.” Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:14-17 A hope fulfilled, but not in the way she had believed in.  Quotes to consider True spirituality is not about running away from your desires it’s about going into the heart of them. Rob Bell Desires shape not simply what we get but much more importantly,  who and what we become.  They shape our very being.  David Benner Despair is a spiritual condition. Despair is when you fall under the belief and conviction that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Rob Bell  Boredom, cynicism, and despair are spiritual diseases because they disconnect us from the most primal truth about ourselves – that we are here. Rob Bell A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else. Richard Rohr What’s the most important minute in life? I think it’s the next one. There is nothing we can do about the past, and we have limited influence over the hours and days to come. But the next minute—minute after minute after minute—is always full of possibility. Rick Hanson The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still, there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring Questions to answer Where have you experienced a deferring of hope? What is a blessing of the now you can friendship with? Are you protesting against something? What is the invite Jesus is giving you? Further reading       Barry Pearman Photo by 丁亦然 on Unsplash
We can all carry too many worries, anxieties, and cares, but when we learn how to cast, we can find a new sense of wholeness, peace, and shalom. ‘That is a lot you are carrying,’ I said as they paused and took a breath. So many worries, thoughts, and distractions going around in their head. It was, as someone described it, a monkey mind. Clattering noisy monkeys vying for your attention in the cage of your brain. I had given them room to voice the noise, and only a little had slipped out. For many of us, we have become so used to the noise of worry that we think it’s normal. When someone asks how we are, we would never consider sharing something of the monkey chatter.  It’s just there, in the background, part of the ambient background noise we live in. But all that noise can wear us down. A kind of fatigue sets in, and worry has its well-worn path to depression. If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present. Lao Tzu The Wholeness of Shalom Years ago, I listened to a talk by Tom Sine about Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace. Shalom is not just an ending of hostilities but more so a coming together to a place of wholeness. A ‘completeness’ of self where there are no fractures or splinters of distraction. Shalom refers to a sense of harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility. Many of us live far away from this place of wholeness. Peace is a lovely idea, but it seems like a distant dream for another time. We get tastes of shalom every now and then, but they are fleeting, and we are back into the pendulum swing of anxiety and depression. The fractured life of the anxious It’s interesting to dig into the meaning of the word anxiety in biblical greek. The word ‘merimna’ is used. mérimna – a part, separated from the whole; (figuratively) worry (anxiety), dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts. We have the picture of one that has a distracted life—so many parts to them. The image of one of those entertainers with multiple spinning plates on long poles comes to mind. We are jumping from pole to pole to keep everything moving and not have a plate wobble, tilt, and fall to the floor. We try and control. We run from this anxious thought to the next. The call to cast Recently I was watching a young lady ride a horse. She and the horse were one. There was a wholeness. Before the ride, she had got her saddle and, with a fluidity of motion, had cast it up and onto the waiting horse. She had done this many times. She knew the weight of the saddle and the need to have a rhythm to her movement. Being quite short, compared to her horse’s height, it took effort and focus for her to cast her load easily. In one of the passages in the Bible about anxiety and worry, we find Peter, a close friend of Jesus, calling us to cast.  Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 That same word ‘cast’ (epiriptó – greek) is also found in the story of when the followers of Jesus cast their cloaks onto the back of a donkey, so Jesus had a comfortable ride. They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt, and put Jesus on it. Luke 19:35 The object of one’s care. What is it like to be cared for? To have someone show genuine unconditional love towards you. This care might be found in a few simple words such as ‘How are you?’ but genuine care goes deeper into a sense of letting you cast some of the weightiness of your life onto their shoulders for at least a moment. To be the object of one’s love and care is something nearing wholeness or shalom. It means that you are not alone with your monkey mind. How remarkable is it that we are the ‘object of one’s care’ when we consider God? ‘For he cares about you’ is not simply a nice warm fuzzy devotional idea. It is an active, passionate fact. There is a desire in the heart of God for you to come close and to cast the fractured reality of your life upon their back. Learning the rhythm of the cast As I watched that young lady cast her saddle up on the horse’s back, I knew that she had done this many times. Probably as a young rider, she would have had a coach show her how to prepare the horse, where to hold the saddle, where to place her feet, and how to swing. It came naturally to her body now. She could probably do it blindfolded. There is a rhythm to our ‘casting our cares upon the Lord’. It’s a spiritual practice of noticing, recording, and casting. Noticing What are the anxious paths you are regularly taking? You may not even see them as places of worry because they are so familiar to you. The little things you fret over that keep you away from a sense of wholeness and shalom. Check out your ‘Red Dot.’  Recording Write them down in a journal. Getting these worries out of the brain and onto paper is a pragmatic step of ownership and awareness. It’s an isolating of the monkey apart from the noise of the monkeys. This recording can be the first step towards problem-solving. Casting We have noticed, and we have recorded. Now, can we cast them? Casting involves the asking of God to carry the weight for you. To throw the worries, as such, onto the back of a giant Clydesdale horse that can handle anything coming to them. This is not an avoidance strategy of shifting responsibility. It’s more a partnership with the eternal so that the emotional weightiness of the burden can be carried. This frees you up cognitively to have space and quiet. Perhaps as Clydesdale God carries the weight, new possibilities and solutions open up to your imagination. This week begin to notice the little noises and worries that seem to snipe at your feet. The nervous worries that seem to drive your life. Notice them and write them down. Then prayerfully cast them onto Clydesdale God because they care for you. Quotes to consider Wholeness can never be experienced unless we find our place within the larger wholes within which we exist. David Benner Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner We are unfinished creatures– longing, reaching, stretching towards fulfillment.  We express these desires for completion in prayer. Eugene Peterson  Prayer is openness to God in faith. It is allowing the life of God to flow into and through us. This is the faith that we receive as a gift when we turn in openness and trust to God. David Benner Prayer tills the soil of the soul and unearths the clods of stories that lie beneath the surface. Dan Allender Questions to answer What are the little anxieties and worries that steal so much from you? In terms of being open to creative solutions, what would happen in you if you could ‘cast’ the emotional weightiness of your anxieties on a Clydesdale sized God? List out five anxieties or cares that you have for today. How heavy do they feel? Further Reading Barry Pearman Photo by Kenny Webster on Unsplash
When there is an invite to change, there is always that question of ‘Can I walk on water?’. But with repeated experiences, we can learn confidence and literally change the way our brain works. I wanted to say ‘hi’ and introduce myself to her, but the ‘what if’s’ were started to hold me back inside my boat. What if she rejects me, ignores me, dismisses me? I stepped out of the boat, walked on water, said ‘Hi’ and we have been married now for 34 years. Walking on water is a brain change moment.   We all a little boat of beliefs about how life runs. We have shaped and sculptured our brain to think a certain way, believe certain things, and act in accordance. But the boat can become cramped. Like an old jacket that once fitted us well, it now feels constricted and tight. There is something about change that is difficult. There is a leaving behind what was once helpful and useful for that moment and then trying something new. I am reminded of the story in the Bible of Abraham leaving his family and friends to go to another land. It wasn’t a farewell and see you next Christmas. It was a departure from known into the complete unknown. Your Boat Their Water What is your boat? I’m talking about the beliefs you have held and cherished and kept you supposedly safe. Here are a few If I’m in control, everything will be ok God loves me, but it’s conditional on doing the right thing and following the rules. My opinion has no worth. I am unlovable If it’s going to be then, it’s up to me One thing I have noticed is that Spirit (Holy) doesn’t believe these things, and because of the nature of love, there is a mission of redemption going on. It’s like watching a child who early in life decided that walking backward was the best way to get somewhere. But that’s not how it was meant to be. So a caring parent helps them to learn to walk forwards and then life is so much easier. Rob Bell writes this.   Spirit often exposes the assumptions we’ve been living with that we haven’t been aware of.   Spirit is on a mission to draw you to walk forwards.   Sometimes we’ve accepted rules and codes and limits without realizing it. And then Spirit blows in and exposes those assumptions, showing us how limited we’ve been, what we haven’t seen. We see what we don’t have to accept, how we can make new rules.   Spirit often reveals the ways in which we have ever so subtly submitted to the belief that this is just how it is.   Spirit refuses to accept that this is just how it is, because spirit is inherently creative. Rob Bell Everything is spiritual     But then there is the water. The unknown, the ‘what if’s’, the instability of ‘rocking the boat’, the fear of drowning in whatever is under the surface. The call to walk on water The story of Jesus’ friend Peter walking on water is familiar to many of us. It holds so many wonderful images that pull at the imagination. As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them, and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror. But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come ahead.” Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!” Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?” The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!” Matthew 14:22-33 What was it that enticed Peter to be so bold and reckless to step out of the boat? I think it was a desire to be with Jesus. That ‘withness,’ that close physical contact, that delight in being with the Christ. There was an allurement that maybe only a few of the disciples truly smelt.  Fill my senses with your allure Into the desert we plunge. One of my favorite biblical passages talks about God alluring us into the desert. “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14 Have you ever thought of God as a romantic lover? One that is powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating. A tender, unconditional, overflowing love. I look out of my boat of tightly held beliefs, fears, ‘what if’s’, and there is the allurement of a God that walks on waves. Come Jesus says. Focus on me. Focus on the author of truth I want to walk on water In little ways, we can train our brain with ‘toes on the water’ experiences. Can I dare to believe that I have value? Can I trust my intuition? Can I let go of some of the control I have exerted over others? It all starts by training the mind to rest or dwell on truth. The brain will take its neural shaping from what you have given it to mould itself upon. The brain takes its shape from what  the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson I envision my brain, that physical structure between my ears, being like clay. Soft, pliable and plastic. I place it on top of some pattern. Perhaps the shape of a cross, or maybe an open and empty tomb, and then the brain molding itself over and around it. The brain’s neural networks take on the very shape and nature of what it has been resting and dwelling on. It leaves its mark. My thinking compass, a daily discipline and exercise, slowly and surely rewires the thinking. Try it. Perhaps creating your very own thinking compass might be the first toe on the water experience. As the wonderful title of a John Ortberg book says ‘If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat’. Then, after many repeated daily readings of your thinking compass you might begin to notice that things have changed. You are seeing things differently. The boat is there but you have left it without even knowing it. You’re walking on water and you might just begin to dance. Quotes to consider 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 Assumptions are what make the world go round, but they can also create hell-on-earth, until they are exposed and carefully examined. D. Riddell The most effective way to dissolve self-doubt over the long term is to pick a phrase that resonates with you and repeat it many times throughout the day. Lauren Sapala The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort. This means that to be a follower of Jesus you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life. John Ortberg  If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat The key to growing any psychological resource, including compassion, is to have repeated experiences of it that get turned into lasting changes in neural structure or function. Rick Hanson.  Resilient Questions to answer Where is Spirit nudging you to step out of the boat? What is a little phrase that you set on auto-repeat for your brain to dwell on? Could it be ‘I am loved’? What would it be like to see, feel, taste, and become overwhelmingly intoxicated with the allurement of Christ? Would you seemingly forget about the water and start walking?  Further reading         Barry Pearman Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation. Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health Share Tweet Share More 0SHARES CATEGORIESMENTAL HEALTH, SPIRITUAL FORMATION, SPIRITUAL PRACTICESEdit"Change Always Asks You to Walk on Water"Post navigation Previous PostPREVIOUSThree Words to Build a Bridge Instead of a Wall into the Secret Garden. 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We all have a secret garden. A place we don’t want others to go near, but with three little words, we can build a bridge and not a wall. I had been having a conversation with someone, and then suddenly, I felt the protection of a wall.  The conversation changed, there was a ‘downplaying’ of the issue we talked about, and a new topic was introduced. I could sense a wall protecting something, a tender topic, something they weren’t confident in exploring with me, yet if we were to grow in a relationship, we needed to be willing to build bridges and not walls. “Let’s build bridges, not walls.” Martin Luther King Jr. Three simple words build bridges and not walls.  Tell me more. A Bridge or a Wall  I remember a man coming to me once for some advice about his teenage daughter. She had become a bit rebellious, and he wanted to straighten her. I asked him to tell me more. He explained the situation further, and I got to understand the crisis that had happened. The invite for him was to either make a bridge or build a wall. His initial response was to come down hard and strong with his rules and opinions. We talked about what would be the most likely outcome of this approach, and he decided that she would most likely build a wall. A structure that would inhibit a deeper relationship and bonding between his daughter. The other option was to build a bridge. A means by which he could enter her world, get to know what was going on. Hopefully, through his being a model of good relationship skills, she might want to enter his world and understand his fears, but that is never a promise. It would take longer, require patience, and learning to be quiet and to listen. So we talked about some questions that he could gently ask her. The ‘Tell me more’ invites. He could not express his opinion (No F.A.S.S. – no fixing, advising, saving, or setting one straight). He was to probe into the problem gently. Over time and with many conversations, he and his daughter built a stronger relationship. Each of them had different views on all sorts of topics, but there was growing mutual respect. Secret Garden One of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs is Secret Garden. He tells the story of wanting to enter the deepest parts of a woman’s life. It’s a secret garden, a place she hides and doesn’t let anyone in. She’ll let you in her heart. If you got a hammer and a vise But into her secret garden, don’t think twice. She’ll lead you down a path. There’ll be tenderness in the air. She’ll let you come just far enough. So you know she’s really there. She’ll look at you and smile. And her eyes will say She’s got a secret garden. Where everything you want Where everything you need Will always stay A million miles away. Bruce Springsteen We all have secret gardens. Walls are built to keep ourselves safe. We have been hurt, so self protectively, we build protection around ourselves. But what walls do is that they hide the best of what the garden has to provide to the world. The most precious rose is kept locked away, and no one can delight in its beauty and purpose. I’ve snuck into a few people’s secret gardens. Seen the roses, smelt the fragrance, and helped some walls be taken down and rusty gates swing a little wider so others may be blessed by the beauty within. Walls are needed To be honest, some people will not treat the tenderness of your heart with the love and respect it needs and deserves. You’ve been there, done that, got the tee-shirt and the pain. So you’ve built a wall, but you still want to be known. There is a flower garden in your soul that needs tender care and love. You don’t want a mechanic, an engineer, or an accountant. You want a gardener to tend the soil, prune the vines and smell the roses. True gardeners are hard to find. It’s interesting to note that the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection was Mary, who thought he was the cemetery’s gardener. John 20:15 Perhaps he was. Maybe he was the gardener of dead souls. Tell me more. I want to know more. I want to understand. Behind the problems we have are often secret gardens. We present with this issue, but really the deepest problem is hidden away behind walls and doors. A king is one who searches things out. It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2 It might come in the form of these little questions and statements. I want to know a little bit more. Can you please explain? I didn’t quite understand Tell me more A king builds bridges over the walls, peeks through the gates, looks at the fears and assumptions we have made, and explores the beauty within. Don’t let your secret walled garden be lost to the world. We need the beauty and purpose you have within. Quotes to consider When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored. Parker J. Palmer Sensitive listeners respond to comments with words that convey an interest in hearing more, sentences that open the door to information.  Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1.‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.'” Larry Crabb A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions. St. Francis of Assisi 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  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 What is in your secret garden? What are some gently curious questions that you could ask someone? Who has gently explored your secret garden? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
We often have the same negative thoughts going around and around in our brains, but we can change them when we arise and bind the brain with truth. I always marvel at those men and women who lift heavyweights. It takes time, effort, and wisdom. Many of them you will see wrap a binding around their wrists or their waist. Boxers wrap their hands. Perhaps you have seen other athletes wrap some support around their legs. All to give some extra support to some weaker and perhaps fragile are of the body. Perhaps it has been previously injured and needs some extra support. The verb bind means to tie, secure, or fasten as with string or rope.  I don’t want to wake up in the morning. One of my most-read posts is the post ‘She prayed to God that she wouldn’t wake up in the morning.’ In fact, since writing it in July 2018, it has been read over 1600 times, and over 83% of those reads have come through a google search. There are many that pray not to wake up in the morning. Life at times can feel too heavy, too hard, and you want it all to end. The thought of having to lift that heavyweight of life, yet again the next morning, creates feelings of despair and hopelessness. In that place of emotional pain, it all feels too much. Your feelings feed your thoughts, and you find yourself in a downward spiral—a vicious spiral sinking you into the mud of hopelessness. I wonder about the words, phrases, mottos, and sentences of thoughts that are repeatedly said over and over again. Binding them to the brain. Words have power. Sentences have meaning. Paragraphs shape our beliefs. Life happens one thought at a time by default or design. Bind them on your heart In the Jewish faith, the men wear a phylactery called a Tefillin,, a small leather box containing Hebrew texts at morning prayer as a reminder to keep the law. They, in a very literal sense, are binding scripture to themselves. Then there are these verses that talk about the binding of scripture. You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. Deuteronomy 11:18 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3 My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. Proverbs 6:20-22 This seems to be an active process. Not passive. I arise, and I bind Somewhere in the years between 390 and 461 A.D., a man by the name of Patrick writes a prayer. It’s a prayer about focusing your thoughts. In the oldest translations from ancient Irish, we have the lines ‘I bind myself’ and then with later translations, we have ‘I arise today.’ “I arise today” is generally considered a better translation of the first line than “I bind unto myself today.” according to the hymnology archive.  I think both versions have merit. I pray St. Patricks prayer every morning as part of my thinking compass. I bind unto myself to-day The strong name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same. The Three in One and One in Three. I bind this day to me for ever, ⁠By power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation; His baptism in Jordan river; ⁠His death on cross for my salvation; His bursting from the spiced tomb; ⁠His riding up the heavenly way; His coming at the day of doom; ⁠I bind unto myself to-day. I bind unto myself the power ⁠Of the great love of Cherubim; The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour; ⁠The service of the Seraphim, Confessors’ faith. Apostles’ word, ⁠The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls, All good deeds done unto the Lord, ⁠And purity of virgin souls. I bind unto myself to-day ⁠The virtues of the star-lit heaven. The glorious sun’s life-giving ray, ⁠The whiteness of the moon at even, The flashing of the lightning free, ⁠The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks, The stable earth, the deep salt sea ⁠Around the old eternal rocks. I bind unto myself to-day ⁠The power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch. His might to stay, ⁠His ear to hearken to my need. The wisdom of my God to teach, ⁠His hand to guide. His shield to ward; The Word of God to give me speech, ⁠His heavenly host to be my guard. Against the demon snares of sin, ⁠The vice that gives temptation force, The natural lusts that war within, ⁠The hostile men that mar my course; Or few or many, far or nigh. ⁠In every place, and in all hours, Against their fierce hostility, ⁠I bind to me these holy powers. Against all Satan’s spells and wiles, ⁠Against false words of heresy, Against the knowledge that defiles, ⁠Against the heart’s idolatry, Against the wizard’s evil craft, ⁠Against the death-wound and the burning, The choking wave, the poisoned shaft, ⁠Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning. Christ be with me, Christ within me, ⁠Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, ⁠Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, ⁠Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, ⁠Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. I bind unto myself the Name, ⁠The strong Name of the Trinity; By invocation of the same, ⁠The Three in One, and One in Three. Of Whom all nature hath creation; ⁠Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: Praise to the Lord of my salvation ⁠Salvation is of Christ the Lord. The Writings of Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland/Version of Mrs. Alexander What do you bind around your brain?  What are the bindings that you arise with? What are the support structures that you lace around your brain, giving it protection and shape? Are there some bindings that are not so helpful? Repetitive self-talk that negates you. Wouldnt it be better to build and bind truth and hope around your neural structures? It’s not going to happen without some intent and purpose—a changing of habits. Building a thinking compass I use a thinking compass. A little tool that you can check back on at regular times to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. At its most basic, a thinking compass is a little notebook of written insights, prayers, and quotes that speak truth to you. You read these every day so that you keep going on the right track. I keep my compass in my phone. I have a list that I read every morning and often at night before going to sleep. I am training my brain. Here are some of the little sentences that I bind around my brain. What I focus on gets me. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take me down. Focus on the positive/good things will always give me hope. Since every destination starts as a thought, I focus on where I want to go. I design my life and build my future thought by thought. The subconscious can be reprogrammed through cognitive reassessments. No matter how strong, a feeling of hopelessness is an echo and perception from the past and is not how things really are. The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. I choose to rest it upon truth. When I allow achievements to determine my mood, I will always be like a puppet on a string. When my brain is full of what I’m not achieving, I will miss what I am achieving. Life happens one thought at a time by default or design. These are little truth nuggets that I need to remind myself of. There is a resistance to learning these new thoughts. The brain likes to keep us safe and in familiar territory, so it will take time for a new truth to replace the old. 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 The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson Despair is a spiritual condition. Despair is when you fall under the belief and conviction that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Rob Bell Questions to answer What are some truths that you need to train your brain in? If you were able to tell your younger self something, what would it be? Is there a scripture that you need to train your brain in? Further reading     Barry Pearman Photo by Jannis Lucas on Unsplash
There was no self-confidence. It was gone like vapour from ash. But something reignited when we looked at the pebbles and not the mountain. It was like I was looking at an empty shell. They were there in the room with me but there was very little confidence within them to do anything at all. It had gone. Any self-belief they had seemed to have been sucked right out of them. How did this happen? Well, they had been hammered on. What does that mean? Well, it was like someone had come, with a large hammer and pounded against the very fabric of who they were. The hammer was words. ‘You’re wrong, that’s not right, why are you doing that, your stupid’ It was loud, persistent, and kept on coming much like a dripping tap. Eventually, that constant dripping wore an indentation out of the soft-hearted place of their soul. The indentation became a hole. The hole became a chasm. The chasm became a vacuumous empty shell. Being a shell there was a fragility and the possibility of it being completely crushed. It was soul abuse. Sitting in the ashes I have found that there is much healing and hope to be found in simply being with the other. What this does is that it establishes the person as having significance. They matter. Not for what they do but for who they are. When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them. Martin Buber One of the familiar images we have in the Bible is that of broken people sitting in ashes. Job 2:8; Esther 4:1; Jonah 3:5–7. We find people, much like ourselves, covering themselves with ashes at times of grief, loss, and brokenness. What’s leftover is mere ash. As I write this I am looking at a fireplace. The fire Has long been extinguished and all that is left is the remnants of what was. The heat has gone, the bulk of wood has been consumed, and now only fragments of what was being left behind. I sit with the ashes of what was and wait to see what comes forth. Strawberries from ashes  Last night I had my very first spring strawberries for dessert. I went out into the garden to the strawberry bed, lifted up the bird net, and plucked six ripe large berries. A few months earlier I had taken ashes from the fire and spread them around the strawberries. You see there is something quite useful in wood ash. It’s called Potassium (K). In fact, wood ash contains 10% potassium which is very high for any natural substance that is used as a fertilizer. Ash is also full of trace elements. Potassium is vitally important for reproduction – flowering, setting seeds, fruiting. Ash contains the potency of new life. Please stop talking at me I’ve sat in the ashes where there is burnout, depression, anxiety, confusion, loss. Confidence gone like a vapoury smoke. People suggest things to do. They make recommendations, set out plans and prescribe what needs to happen. At times you just want to put them out of the room – your mental health room. But no one dares to sit in the ashes with them. No one is sharing breathe over the embers hoping something will reignite. No one is holding them in an embrace of love. Reigniting the soul I like to look and listen for the smallest of the small and in the pile of ashes, there is a problem. How do we reignite the soul? There is a felt emotion of being crushed under a mountain. I so want to see the breath come back into the dry bones of this fellow traveler. This person who can’t get out of bed, brush their teeth, or cook a simple meal. How do I empower the soul to move? I look at the pebbles under the mountain. The pebble We all have problems. They can feel like mountains. It’s important to understand that it is a feeling. For one person that mountain will seem inconsequential, a mere speck, but for the one in ashes, it may feel like a  towering dark citadel of doom. They look at it and they are crushed. Any confidence vanishes. Feelings only report what is familiar. But under every mountain is a pebble that can be shifted. It could even be the size of a mustard seed. We find that pebble and empower the moving. Building a new confidence I simply love seeing someone list out their problems in a very pragmatic way without any emotional attachment. First, we see the mountains. The obvious problems. Powerful, intimidating, and confidence-sapping. Then we break those mountains down a bit and discover other problems. Not quite so daunting but they are still there. Under those medium-sized ‘problem’ rocks will be smaller and smaller rocks until we find a pebble. To this pebble, we begin problem-solving and looking for a highly achievable solution. We create a S.T.A.N. plan and move forward. It’s here that a new confidence can grow from. Empowering those little steps. It could be the little steps needed to brush your teeth once a day. To get out of bed. To make a simple meal. Building a new confidence is looking for little achievements. Praising, celebrating, and affirming their worth. In the brain, new pathways are forming. There is healing and repair. Out of the ash a seed germinates, puts down roots, and begins to flourish through the ash of the past. There is still a fragility to the new emerging confidence. So we need others to continue to praise and affirm any new steps made. Remember that mountains are shifted one stone at a time. Focus on the pebble in front of you, not the mountain. Quotes to consider I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through a belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness Of the Creator of creation. Prayer of St. Patrick When I believe my feelings, and those feelings misrepresent reality, I am headed for a self-referential pit that will get deeper and darker as I dig myself into my home-made delusion. David Riddell Your feelings are not a reliable guide to what you should and shouldn’t do. They merely reflect sub-conscious beliefs, which may need to be examined. David Riddell Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Pema Chödrön Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb Questions to answer Have you ever had a time when all confidence seemed to have disappeared? What reignited it? Why do we rush to problem solve the big mountain problems rather than the pebbles? What is a pebble problem in your life that if addressed could ignite a new confidence in yourself? Further Reading Barry Pearman Photo by Somia DCosta on Unsplash
You might be helping them too much and hinder any progress for them and yourself, but we can learn new ways of helping and see the change we want for them and ourselves. She was helping too much, and the person she was helping didn’t mind one little bit. In fact, he was very adept at throwing guilt trips and manipulations to keep her supporting his lifestyle. It wasn’t that she was doing anything wrong. Many people thought she was so wonderful how she took care of him and others. She was so generous and kind. What a lovely Christian woman, they said. But underneath that mission of martyrdom, there was a dying soul. Life was being sucked out of her, and resentment was taking a foothold. For all the help, she was giving out, and nothing was coming back. She had hoped for something different, but now patterns had been formed. Expectations of her compliancy were normalized. She was a slave to the foolishness of others and not a servant of truth.  Nabal and Abigail In the bible, there is a fascinating story of an interplay between a husband and wife. The husband, Nabal, was a wealthy and successful farmer. He is described as being ‘crude and mean in all his dealings’ and ‘ill-tempered.’ His servants lived in fear of him. When they had bad news for him, they were too afraid of him. Instead, they told his wife, Abigail. Abigail is described as being ‘sensible and beautiful.’  She was one that the servants felt safe with. Most likely, she probably nudged and prodded Nabal into making good decisions and kept from making bad ones. So the story goes that Nabal’s flocks and shepherds had been protected and kept safe by David and his men. David wanted some payment for his work, so he sent messengers asking for payment. Nabal, in his arrogance and foolishness, refused David and was unwilling to be generous. David was furious and was going to come with 400 hundred men and attack Nabal. Word of this gets to Abigail, and she intervenes with ‘sensible and beautiful’ wisdom. She meets David and his men before he gets to Nabal and calms the whole situation down. When she returns to Nabal, he is partying like a king. She waits till the next morning, when he is sober, and tells him all of what had occurred. He has a stroke in the shock of it all, and ten days later, he is dead. I wonder As I read this story, I wonder how many times had Abigail, and the servants had tiptoed around an angry, arrogant Nabal. How many similar stories were in the background that had enabled this fool to remain in his foolishness. We all do it, though, don’t we? We tiptoe around some people, not wanting to rock the boat and cause upset. But all along, a growing resentment and bitterness can eat away at the soul. Even Abigail considered Nabal a wicked and ill-tempered man, a fool, and not worthy of paying attention to. We don’t know exactly what kept Abigail and the servants enabling Nabal’s bad behavior. Perhaps it was fear, often it is. What we do know is that Abigail told it like it was. She told the story, and the story had the natural impact it needed to have. Natural consequences A natural consequence is anything that happens naturally. If you go out in the rain, you are going to get wet. When you don’t eat, you get hungry. If you don’t pay your bills, such as Nabal, then the debt collectors will come. You reap what you sow, and you don’t reap unless you sow. When we intervene and protect people from the natural consequences of their actions, nobody learns anything. People often keep doing foolish things, and then we intervene, and they reap a crop different from what would have naturally grown out of their decisions. Much of our kindness, I believe, is actually keeping people in systems of dependency. People change when they One of my favorite quotes about change is this one from John Maxwell. People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, and receive enough that they are able to. John C. Maxwell Hurt enough, they have to. Often it isn’t until the pain is so unbearable that there is a realization that change is needed. Consider the prodigal son eating pig food. It wasn’t until then that he ‘came to his senses’ Learn enough that they want to. It’s all very well knowing you have to change or being told you have to change, but what is the process for changing, and what is the motivation? Often it is only when we learn some new information, have a roadmap and get some instruction that change can take place.  Receive enough they are able to. I like this because it talks to me about the need for encouragement and support—someone cheering on the millimeter movements. You have to have all three. Let’s get pragmatic about helping We can get so easily swamped down in the emotions of our problems. The fears and anxieties become giants towering over our lives. We cower and live in fear of the unknown. At times we need to get very logical and pragmatic about the situations we face. Pragmatic – dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations. It’s nuts and bolts. What can and can’t be done. This is why I love the Problem-solving process. It takes the problem out of the emotional realm and into the practical realm. When we can become quite pragmatic about the problems, we have then practical solutions can emerge. Quotes to consider God doesn’t always save us from the consequences of our actions. But He doesn’t celebrate our pain either. He doesn’t ask us to minimize it or pretend it isn’t there. Instead, He offers His love and unending compassion as we walk through whatever we’re facing. Aundi Kolber Try Softer God has solutions for people who admit they have problems. Larry Crabb Our primary purpose is not to use God to solve our problems, but to move through our problems toward finding God. Larry Crabb You cannot save everyone. Some people are going to destroy themselves no matter how much you try to help them. Bryant McGill Are you a rescuer? A person allowed to avoid the consequences of their faulty decisions is also sentenced to constantly repeat their mistakes, for they did not have to learn from them.  D. Riddell Whose problem is it? Don’t own your child’s [or anyone else’s] problem for them. They must experience the consequences of their own faulty choices.  D. Riddell Don’t punish people. Just let the consequences of their choices do your punishing for you. D. Riddell Questions to answer What problems do you need to get more pragmatic about? Why do we take on others’ problems as if they were our own? What did you think about this quote from John Maxwell? How could it be applied to your life? People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, and receive enough that they are able to. John C. Maxwell Further Reading Barry Pearman Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash   Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation. Contact me here Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health
There are many lonely people. Strangers in a strange land, but we can welcome them and perhaps discover an angel in disguise. I was visiting a home the other day, and an older lady met me. I had never met her before, and she told me that she was visiting her daughter and son-in-law, who lived there. We chatted briefly about the garden work I needed to do then she offered me a coffee. I said that would be great after I finished the job. I duly finished the job, and she brought me a refreshing cup of coffee. Then we had a chat. Nothing more than light conversation, but then she shared about a recent tragedy in the family. She opened up her heart and soul, and the words flowed. It was a sacred moment, and I felt that I was on holy ground. We were in church together. A stranger had entered my world, and I felt the pull to listen. I wondered later that if she had put her own needs to the side in her caring for her family. That there had been no one for her to be soulful with, and then I happened to come along with a few gentle questions. Story two. Recently I heard of a young man that I know and how the pressure of life and relationships had become just too much. He was going to take his own life. A stranger saw him and felt concerned. She talked him down and got him help. He’s doing well now and has some good support. Strangers and Angels There is a strange little passage in the bible about strangers and Angels. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 I don’t think I have ever met an angel. Certainly, not one portrayed in art – half-naked, wings, harps, and with that surreal faraway glow. But I do wonder sometimes about angelic interventions. Could that have been an angel that intervened in that young man’s life? I don’t know. As I listened to the grieving mother’s heart, was there a third person in the midst of it all. Were their angels in attendance? Orphans, widows, and strangers Throughout the Bible, we find the call to be hospitable to those on the outside. Ron Rolheiser writes why this was important.  First, because the Jewish people themselves had once been foreigners and immigrants. Their scriptures kept reminding them not to forget that. Second, they believed that God’s revelation, most often, comes to us through the stranger, in what’s foreign to us. That belief was integral to their faith. The great prophets developed this much further. They taught that God favors the poor preferentially and that consequently we will be judged, judged religiously, by how we treat the poor. The prophets coined this mantra (still worth memorizing): The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land; and the quality of justice in the land will always be judged by how orphans, widows, and strangers fare while you are alive. Ron Rolheiser  The Crisis of Loneliness I have made it a rule that whenever I am working on a garden, and I happen to be near the sidewalk, I always welcome the stranger. I always say hello to someone who is walking past. They may be walking to work, out for a stroll, earbuds in, or have a dog on a leash. They generally pass a welcome back to me. One day I did this, and the lady with the dog stopped. We got chatting about the garden I was working on, and she invited me to come to her home and work in her garden. She lived alone and needed some help. There were good conversations included too. The world, I believe, is becoming increasingly isolated. COVID 19 hasn’t helped either with social isolation rules and fears of contagion. Are you living on the street?  How much do you put yourself in the place where strangers walk? I know that this would create high levels of anxiety and fear for some of you, but for many of you, I would like you to step outside of your comfort zone and place yourself in the way of the stranger. I sometimes get emails from my readers. They share something of themselves. Perhaps it’s a matter of prayer or concern that they want to talk about. I’m working on the street where everyone passes by. Each week I say hi to around 550 email subscribers, and some say hi back. Some invite me, and we’re no longer strangers. Some are no longer stray dogs looking for a place to rest. Treating them like an Angel I wonder what would happen in this lonely world if we treated every stranger like they were an angel—a heavenly messenger sent by God for some divine purpose. Finding little ways to be hospitable and show kindness. Perhaps with some openness to the stranger, we will receive a fresh message or a revealing of who and what God is like.  I know that is what happened for one such couple a few years ago. Let’s build a community where we welcome strangers, orphans, and widows into our hearts. Quotes to consider In welcoming the stranger, in showing real hospitality to those who seem foreign to us, whom we do not understand, we are given the opportunity hear new promise, to hear a fuller revelation of God. Ron Rolheiser   The role of the stranger in our lives is vital in the context of Christian faith, for the God of faith is one who continually speaks truth afresh, who continually makes all things new. God persistently challenges conventional truth and regularly upsets the world’s way of looking at things. It is no accident that this God is so often represented by the stranger, for the truth that God speaks in our lives is very strange indeed. Where the world sees impossibility, God sees potential. Where the world sees comfort, God sees idolatry. Where the world sees insecurity, God sees occasions for faith. Where the world sees death, God proclaims life. God uses the stranger to shake us from our conventional points of view, to remove the scales of worldly assumptions from our eyes. God is a stranger to us, and it is at the risk of missing God’s truth that we domesticate God, reduce God to the role of familiar friend.  Parker Palmer – The Company of Strangers Questions to answer What opportunities do you have to welcome the stranger? How is modern life constructed to keep the stranger away? Who has welcomed you? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator with a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation. Contact me here Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health Share Tweet Share More 0SHARES CATEGORIESRELATIONSHIPS, SPIRITUAL FORMATIONEdit"Welcoming a Stranger and Finding an Angel"Post navigation Previous PostPREVIOUSStray Dog Church SEARCH AND YOU WILL FIND         ABOUT BARRY UNDERSTANDING MEN: HOW TO LISTEN SO YOU CAN CONNECT JOIN OUR EMAIL LIST AND GET THIS FREE EBOOK GET MY WEEKLY BLOG POST EMAILED TO YOU Subscribe * indicates required Email Address * First Name * Last Name POPULAR READS 14 Proven Bible Verses to Help Your Mental Health I’ve had Enough, Take my Life God, I Want to die How to Help Others Solve Problems in 8 Steps Why Men Don’t Talk. 26 Reasons for Silence The Lord is My Constant Companion. 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Stray Dog Church

Stray Dog Church


We meet in my garage on Tuesday night. That’s so if you wanted to go to a normal Church, you could. Some of my friends still go to the big church on the corner, but most of them call 32 Calvary St their home base. Let me introduce you to some of them. John – he plays a mean guitar. He said he had learned some licks from his Uncle. He didn’t know many Jesus songs, but we love him belting out the stairway to heaven. Mary – Her scones are her specialty. We have them each week with some diet coke, and we call it the last supper. Mary sometimes hears voices, and we help her by telling her the truth and reassuring her. Nick – here is an interesting character. He had once been a high rolling businessman but then lost heaps of money and found himself on the street. He knows a thing or two. Shame and loss seem to fill his life. He’s our kind of treasurer. Susie – Now this lady can talk. She could talk the spout off a boiling kettle. Actually, she is very lonely and needs others to hear her and sense their love for her. We listen and love as best we can. J.C. – he is ugly. Ugly as sin. Scars and wounds all over his body. Even in his hands. It’s hard to even look at him, but we love him so much, and he loves us. One night, he told us that he was the Son of God, but we wondered if he was hearing voices or something. He is kind and caring and often has some very wise words to share from time to time.  Strangely he is always here. He goes by the name ‘J.C.,’ and we still haven’t figured out his real name. Mystical kind of man. Francis – or Fran as she liked to be known lives in a posh house on Baker st. She is retired now and lives on the pension. She had grown tired of the big ‘normal’ church where everyone seems to pretend and be nice. Pews full of folks with masks up and socially distanced hearts. Jimmy – some of the ladies aren’t too sure around Jimmy. He has a porn addiction. We love him because, well, we all have our flaws. We listen to his failures and the hunger of his heart. Teri or Terry – she/he was born a female but feels more male. We love Teri, and she loves us, and that’s all that matters. She’s on a journey like all of us. J.C. seems to have a special affection for her. Bill – that’s me. I’m an ex-pastor for Jesus. I have a house, a garage, and a few vegetable plots in the back yard. The front deck is my favorite place in the universe. I sit there in the sun, read a book, and chat with friends, neighbors, and stray dogs as they pass by. Sometimes they come and rest awhile and sit next to me, and we go deep. There are others too. It’s a place where anything can happen and usually does. It’s love, forgiveness, grace, and hope. People from the big church come with their programs and personas. They want to change us and to conform us to what they think a church should be. Some of them actually stay and sit for a while. They lean into the love we share and discover some morsels of love and wisdom. J.C. seems to be always at the heart of all that. We sit on old couches, beer crates, and those cheap plastic chairs the rich people throw out when they begin to look a bit tarnished. We have a donations box by the back door, and if you can put in a couple of cents, that’s cool. As I said, Nick takes care of the wealth. Sometimes there is enough to buy a few sausages for a barbeque. We’re actually saving up so we can go to the beach. Some of us have never seen the sea. I suppose at the heart of Stray Dog is that we want to listen and love. Sure, some of us have plenty to say, but most of us simply want to be known. I tried big church for along time. Sit here, sing this, listen to that. Give this, vote on that. Conform to a tightening square box. Didn’t work for me. I simply like to listen to them, share a scone and a coke, and to laugh at their jokes. Stray Dog. People ask us why we call ourselves ‘Stray Dog.’ Well, it because we all have at times felt like stray dogs. Wandering from place to place, looking for a home and a meal. We have scavenged a few morsels from here and there, but no one has truly made us feel welcome for who we are. Want to have a stray dog church? Go out into the highways and byways and look for the stray dogs and find empty garages with old tattered couches. J.C. told us once that he likes to visit friends in the ‘city streets, alleys, and country roads. They look like they need a square meal. They are the misfits, homeless and wretched’ Luke 14:15-24 This is the church, but probably not as you know it. Quotes to consider The wounds you have experienced are valid. Maybe no one has ever said that to you, so I hope you’ll receive this now: What’s happened in your life matters.  Aundi Kolber ‘Whom do we listen to and whom do we trust? Trust is essential to listening. Why do we believe the myth that the poor people don’t know anything and can’t be trusted? Where do you really find more truth about society – at the top or the bottom? Are the best solutions conceived in the corridors of power or in the neighbour hoods? Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem. Jim Wallis People with handicaps teach me that being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and caring together is better than caring alone. Henri J.M. Nouwen 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 In your neighbourhood who are those on the city streets, alleys, and country roads. The misfits and outcasts? Do you know their name? What do we need to let go of to create a stray dog community? Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that the person who loves those around them will create community. What would that look like, on a vulnerable level, in your community? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Sonya Brady on Unsplash Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation. Contact me here Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health
Six people you don’t want help from, and there could be more; therefore, its time to detach from them and have them leave your emotional room. There are some people that I am wary of getting help from or even suggesting others get help from. They may be well-meaning, have good intentions, and a deep desire to help, but they come up short on wisdom. There is something about them that just doesn’t feel right and shouts ‘avoid.’ Have you come across people like that? People to avoid In my ebook, ‘So you want to help,’ I list five helping type people that I would encourage you to avoid. Today I add a sixth.  1. Fundamentalist Fred. Fred comes alongside and doesn’t lighten the load but adds to it. He lays down the rules, the principles, and tells the person to try harder. It’s all black and white. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no room for mystery.  2. Super Spiritual Sally. Sally comes alongside with a big cheery smile on her face but ignores the reality of what the person is facing. She offers a few quick spiritual platitudes, tosses a ‘Praise the Lord’ here and there, and then she’s off to the next person.  ‘Can I pray for you’ is offered before truly listening for the depths. It’s too scary and unknown to go there. She lives in a spiritual ‘La-la land’ with doses of ‘Woo -Woo.’ 3. Rescuing Rachel. Rachel just loves to help. She comes alongside, takes the burden off the other person, and makes it her own. Isn’t she just so caring! She continues to carry and rescue without wisdom. She eventually becomes overwhelmed and exhausted. Caring does not mean carrying. The servant becomes a slave. 4. Program Pete. Pete has the answer. He has a course, he has a book, and he has a lecture to give. Pete comes alongside and informs. He takes people to the course; provides the information and says, ‘just go and do it!’ He walks away in frustration because, in his learned opinion, people are lazy and don’t want to change. 5. Superficial Sarah. Let’s keep things light on the surface. If you’re smiling, Sarah will smile with you; if you’re not, she won’t know what to do. Sarah is hesitant to talk about anything that might be difficult. She avoids the people who are in obvious pain. She likes happy endings and fairy tale novellas.   6. Blind Bill Bill has sight problems in that he can’t see beyond the here and now to what could be. There is no compelling vision that excites or allures him to go deep and be patient with the larger story being played out. His mindset is stuck. Worse still is that he can be quite mocking and cynical of those that can look beyond the present struggle.  There might be others too that are less than helpful. Perhaps you can see yourself in some of them. Put them out of the room. One of the enjoyments of reading the Bible many times is that you start to see little snippets and sentences which make you want to reread the story again and again. You start to see things that weren’t so obvious in the first reading. One of those is this Jesus story, where he came across some people he chose not to seek their help or opinions. He was laughed at for his wisdom. When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet.  He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him. While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.  When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.  He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. Mark 5:21-24; 35-42 I have this movie in my imagination, where I see Jesus shooing out all these people from the room. A bit like a shepherd moving stray sheep that have wandered into a house. Or maybe it was like herding cats. Chasing them around the room to get them out. Some people want to be there for the show, the entertainment. This, of course, was the synagogues leader and his daughter. But nothing great was going to happen while the room was full of critics and mockers. Nothing of astonishment was going to be seen while a bunch of Blind Bill’s were dominating the stage and holding the microphone. Jesus put them out of the room, and then the healing began. Who are you surrounding yourself with From time to time, you have to think about who you are surrounding yourself with. Who is in the room? Some questions need to be asked. Who is in ‘my room’? Friends, family, neighbors, celebrities, writers, podcasters, etc What influence do they have over me? Do I give them too much sway over me? Am I trying to get something from them that they don’t know how to give, e.g., approval, love, recognition? Are others wanting to keep me in a box that I sense I am moving out of? Jesus warned his followers about giving out your very best to people who don’t appreciate it. He described it like this. “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” Matthew 7:6 Those wailers and naysayers in the home of Jairus were trampling and mauling over Jesus’ holy intentions. Nobody needs pigs and dogs, soiling God’s good work. Putting them out of the room  I suppose it’s about lines of love and respect (boundaries). We need to prayerfully ask Spirit (Holy) to nudge you about those people that are in your room and not helping. What emotional connection do they have? What sway? For some people where there is little physical connection, such as celebrities, writers, etc., it’s easy to unsubscribe, disconnect, and turn off. But what about if it’s your spouse or a family member. Someone who you cant easily turn off. Jesus offers us some wisdom about taxing people. People who want to tax your life, restrict it, and hold you back. They sent some Pharisees and followers of Herod to bait him, hoping to catch him saying something incriminating. They came up and said, “Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don’t pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He knew it was a trick question, and said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” They handed him one. “This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?” “Caesar,” they said. Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.” Their mouths hung open, speechless. Mark 12:13-17 We give others what they rightfully deserve – love and respect, but that which is in the room called holy, beautiful, tender, and full of Spirit delight, well, only those who have earned the right get to have a look are allowed in. It’s about acknowledging your self-worth that you have something both beautiful and impacting inside of you. Then you quietly, and maybe not so quietly at times, kick out the stray dogs and greedy pigs. Pigsty When my kids were little, I used to read a story to them called Pigsty. It tells the story of a boy called Wendell Flutz. Wendell Flutz’s room isn’t a mess. It’s a total pigsty. But Wendell’s mother can’t get him to clean it up. Wendell doesn’t think the mess is so awful. In fact, he doesn’t even mind it when one day he discovers a real pig sitting on his bed! Wendell didn’t mind when the first pig moved into his room. They were friends, but then other pigs turned up and started to dominate his life. Spoiler alert. It all started to change when Wendell took control, cleaned up his room, and the pigs didn’t find it so appealing. They left. Perhaps many of us have allowed pigs into the living room when they should be out back in the yard doing piggy things. A better friend We can’t live in isolation. Cheerleaders and people who ‘get you’ are crucial for your ongoing journey. In seeking out the ‘Jesus’ type people, those who deserve to be in your room, it’s going to be slow and tender. Look for those who will hold you in love and respect no matter what they might discover. They ask gently curious questions rather than being quick to advise. Prayerfully ask for discernment amongst the myriad of voices that come to you. It takes time to clean up the pigsty, but you can do it. Quotes to consider Talk’s easy, work’s hard. Consistent trustworthy behavior over time equals trust. Notice the word consistent is emphasized. Consistency is the key to the process. Stefanie Carnes Mending A Shattered Heart If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when? Hillel the Elder And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live. Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat. Perfection is static, and I am in full progress. Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones. Anaïs Nin Questions to answer Who is in ‘your room’ and has an influence that is not helpful? Why do some people want to keep you in the same box and not want you to change? What are the qualities of a ‘Jesus’ type person you want to have in your room? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Michael Jasmund on Unsplash
Sometimes we can find ourselves stuck in a dark hole and feel like we are going down, but there is hope when we open ourselves to the connection and support from others. One of the properties I work on as a gardener is a small farm and I get to use a tractor for some of the jobs I do. I was driving the tractor one day when all of a sudden I couldn’t move forward. I could see my wheels going round but there was little movement. All had been going well. I was having a great day. Driving the tractor, shifting dirt, and making the paddock I was in look tidier and neater. That was until my large wheels broke through the crust of soil and I discovered the mud and muck underneath. I sunk. I tried to back out but that didn’t help. The tractor was now up to its axle in mud. The heavy back wheels were a rim of mud and any movement I tried made the situation worse. I got a spade and started to dig tracks out for the tractor, but it stuck like glue. I was also stuck and felt shame. That sense of embarrassment and self-loathing. All the old familiar critical self-talk started to flow around me. I’m so stupid I’m a failure I should have … I read once that the word shame can be an acronym S.H.A.M.E – Should Have Already Mastered Everything. In my emotional life, I was sinking fast. I have been at times stuck in the mud of my own life. Dark black holes have seemed to want to swallow me up. Telling yourself to ‘Pull yourself together’ doesn’t have any effect on the glue of a dark hole. When you’re stuck I remember getting that tractor stuck and I also remember what I did next. I phoned a guy I know with a truck to come and help pull me out. He turned up and we attached a rope between the tractor and the truck. With his truck pulling and my tractor wheels turning we slowly and quietly got free of the hold. That was easy. Getting out of a personal dark hole is not as simple but we can learn some lessons from this very exciting and riveting story. (I’m open for movie deals) Friends, Neighbors, and a Birds Nest I was raised on a farm and when you live in isolated rural communities you understand the need to have a connection with your neighbors. You never quite know when you might need the help of a neighbor to pull your tractor out of the mud, fight a fire, or to be rescued from a flood. Survival relies on being in community. In good communities, you look out for each other. You notice when someone is acting differently. A change has occurred and you are gently curious. Years ago a counselor suggested that I might like to become part of a bird’s nest for one of their clients. Puzzled, I asked for more explanation. He explained that this particular person had several people in their life that offered some sort of gift, skill, or role in their recovery. Each person was like strands of fiber in a bird’s nest. There was a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist, support worker, dietician, friend, family, and many other people. I was invited to be the pastor and our small church – The Living Room could add other layers of support. We all have a birds nest of relationships that support us. People we can call on when we get stuck. People who might also notice when were heading for the mud pit. Ropes My friend with the truck brought a rope with him. There had to be some sort of connection to the power and resources he had and the power and resources I had. In that bird’s nest of relationships, people will have different gifts and skills they can bring. But there must be a connection for the transfer of power and resources to take place. In the darkest of holes, there has to be some sort of reaching out for help. I’m not a huge fan of rescuing. Doing something for someone that they could do for themselves. It can create both dependency and repetition of behaviors that got you in the dark hole in the first place. Instead, we need truth and insights to help ourselves change. Much like you build into your life in a thinking compass. Encouragements ‘You can do this’ ‘I am with you’ ‘Together we will get through this’ When you’re in a dark hole, stuck in the mud, you need people on the sideline who will cheer you on. They have a compelling vision of seeing you out of there. They believe in change often because they have been in those very same dark holes themselves. When we encourage we breathe courage into the heart of another. The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart”. So does the word courage.  To have courage means to have heart. To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart. “Encouraging the Heart – A leader’s guide to rewarding and recognizing others” by Kouzes/Posner Are you stuck in a dark hole? Has something I have written connected to where you are at the moment? Perhaps a total stranger might be the one that can reach down into your ditch and offer you a hand to help you out. In that famous story that Jesus told of a man robbed, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch it wasn’t the professional and trained that first came to his aid. It was someone unexpected. A stranger. I have noticed that people at times open up to strangers in ways that they wouldn’t with family or friends. There’s no history or social conventions or pretense that gets in the way. They let their guard down and it all pours out. If you want to talk to a total stranger and let it all come tumbling out without judgment then here is my email address or you can use the contact form in the sidebar. You can also find out more about me here. I may just have a few ropes that we can use to pull yourself out of that dark hole. Quotes to consider  When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb The main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. The danger is that of coming to love the prison. C.S. Lewis Questions to answer In the past, when you have been stuck in a dark hole, what has helped you? What are the qualities of a good friend? Why do we at times open up to complete strangers in ways that we wouldn’t with friends or family? Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash
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