Empowering your Mental Health - Faith: Hope: Love with Barry Pearman
Empowering your Mental Health - Faith: Hope: Love with Barry Pearman
Picking Up The Broken Pieces
It was tasting the dust of devastation. The broken pieces. But those fragments can be brought together, and so we quietly form a new mosaic
Broken pieces. That’s all that was left behind.
It was a moment that captured the world’s attention.
A massive explosion of ammonium nitrate brought a city to be a pile of rubble.
But amidst the dust 79-year-old May Abboud Melki, played Auld Lang Syne on her piano in her broken apartment.
Playing in her pain.
She then went on to play Arabic hymns, which caused those around her to gather around and start worshiping.
“To see her lean into her faith, lean into God was something that was a strong message to her community and our family immediately”May-Lee Melki – granddaughter.
Most of us will never have to face the type of devastation caused by such an explosion. But it could be an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, bush-fire that brings us to a place of picking up the pieces.
As you read this tap into the emotions of loss.
Something has swept through your life and now it’s like everything has been turned upside down, shaken around, and thrown to the four corners of the universe.
You are left with a few fragments from which to rebuild.
As part of my devotional life, I find it helpful to meditate on scripture. One of the ways I do this is through the ancient art of Lectio Divina.
Lectio Divina asks the listener to be quiet and listen to a passage of scripture and allow God to speak to you personally through this.
I use a podcast called Daily Lectio Divina.
One of the readings this week was about the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus. The miraculous turning of a few loaves of bread and some fish into a banquet for the multitude.
At the very end of the story is the mention of the cleanup crew.
and they took up what was leftover of the broken pieces. Matthew 14:20
I could see all those people fanning out and collecting the scraps. There would be joy, amazement, and songs of thankfulness.
But I wanted to know what they did with all those pieces of fish and bread.
Did they get creative and make some sort of fish cake? They didn’t have freezers to store it for later use so perhaps they gave it away.
I think that’s what they probably did.
As they traveled along, following Jesus, they told the story and shared the bread and fish. They, and others feasted on the leftovers, the broken pieces.
We like nice stories
It’s a nice Jesus story, isn’t it. Everyone is happy. Full stomachs and the needs of the heart met. We like it like that, don’t we.
For Jesus, there were thousands of happy people following him. Ministerial success! He was now the leader of a mega-church!
Yet, a few years later, after walking a very narrow path of crushing discipleship only a few friends remained.
I wonder sometimes how long Jesus would last in our modern PC church world.
Political Correctness and Pastoral Correctness might just see him excommunicated while the good people continue to sing him their happy songs.
Your broken pieces
Life is full of broken pieces. Leftovers after a storm of life.
The marriage fails, a child dies, cancer rages through the body. You’re made redundant after years of faithful service. No longer needed. A pandemic sweeps through your village.
You sit and look at all the shards of debris and grandma moves to the piano.
She’s been there before.
She knows the grit and grind of what life is actually all about. There is a time to lament and mourn and there is a time to pick up the pieces.
What prompted the nudge?
As I pondered over the passage I wondered why Spirit (Holy) gave Matthew the nudge to write this little facet of the story down.
Perhaps God wanted us to know how amazing the miracle was in that there was so much leftover.
Or might it be that God wanted us to know that there was a divine interest in the broken pieces? Those little things that mo
Is COVID-19 An Invitation To Check Our Wisdom?
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage through our lives, but perhaps simple wisdom could save the world. The most important thing is people.
In January, I could see that it was going to be war. It was going to be a battle for our lives.
This was the attitude I had to have about the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the enemy was unseen to the naked eye.
Perhaps my realization was strengthened by having just read a biography of Sir Winston Churchill (The Character and Greatness of Winston Churchill: Hero in a Time of Crisis by Stephen Mansfield). Still, I knew that the world was about to experience a war that would test everything and everyone.
Some questions came to mind.
Would leaders lead with humility and resolve?
Would people listen to their leaders?
What political structures will be revealed as flawed?
Which leaders would prioritize dollars, politics, and the economy before the health of people?
Will we love our neighbor as we love ourselves?
Who will be wise but quickly forgotten?
Who will be unwise and be remembered forever?
You can answer those questions yourself.
The poverty of wisdom in COVID-19
Today I read these lines from musician Bruce Cockburn.
Every day in the paperyou can watch the numbers riseNo such event can overtake us here,we’re much too wise.Radium Rain – Bruce Cockburn
I thought, ‘Wow, this so describes our times’.
Numbers of deaths on the increase, but still some people think that they’re ‘much too wise’ to be vulnerable.
I watched a protest march on T.V. the other night. Thousands of people angry about losing some of their rights.
They were being forced, by law, to wear masks in public places. It seems that they considered themselves ‘much too wise’.
By the way, ‘Radium Rain‘ was written by Bruce a few days after the Cheynoble explosion back in 1986, and he was pointing out to the west the foolishness of thinking that a Chernobyl event could never happen in their backyard.
There is an arrogance in the heart that demands personal rights without considering the responsibilities of being human in a community with others.
The kindness of a mask
A self-centered view of life says that the mask is to prevent contracting the virus from other people.
It’s all about me—an addiction to the self.
‘Incurvatus in se’ – turned/curved inward on oneself.
Whereas a community-centered approach sees things differently
A community-centered view of life says that the mask might prevent others from contracting the virus if I unknowingly have it.
It’s about others. Compassion and thoughtfulness. Care and wisdom.
So we wash our hands, we use hand gel, we keep our distance, and we wear a mask because we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We lead by example.
Being a wise leader
You are a leader.
One of my all-time favorite Bible stories is the short story of a poor but wise man that saved a small city.
I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me:
There was once a small city with only a few people in it.
And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it, and built huge siegeworks against it.
Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.
But nobody remembered that poor man.
So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” Ecclesiastes 9:14-16
Wherever you live, you are part of a small town. It could be as small as the group of people you live with—your family, husband, wife, flatmates.
Small as a tight community.
That’s where we start to be leaders and exhibit wisdom.
It starts in small places where we have personal control.
You, in your small town, have the power to make the difference. Leadership is influence, so you lead by example.
We have a Maori proverb here in New Zealand.
He aha te mea nui?He tangata.He tangata.He tangata.
What is the most important thing?It is people,it is peop
There’s a Gum Tree Shadow Hanging Over Me
We can live warped lives because of a shadow hanging over us, but that shadow can be removed if we face what’s causing the shadow and allow the light to flood in.
Have you ever walked in a shadow?
Of course you have, but you probably didn’t take much notice of it. We do it all the time.
What about filtered light? Light that has been defused and filtered as it has passed through clouds. Again yes.
We don’t notice it because we are used to it. It’s commonplace and the norm.
Taking this metaphor a little further, we all live with a certain amount of shadows affecting our lives. What I am talking about are the shadows from the past.
She is a grown adult woman, but she can still hear the voice of her father berating her.
What about the man who never knew the fullness of a mother’s love, now the shadow invites him online.
They and we grow used to the ambiance of the diffused light. It’s all we have ever known. Sure, at times, we get a glimpse of sunlight, of something different, but it’s so different that we don’t know what to do with it.
We scurry back into the shadow. It’s safe. Normal and familiar.
The Beetles sang ‘There’s a shadow hanging over me’ and the rock-solid belief in the power of ‘yesterday’.
Plant in full light
At the moment, I am pruning fruit trees. One of the trees I am pruning is an apple tree, but it’s on a lean. Not from the wind, or from being hit by some object, but because it’s hungry for light.
Right above the tree, hang the branches of a large gumtree.
Barry having dangerous fun!This larger tree casts its shadow over the apple, and the tree compensates to seek out the light.
I really should cut the gum tree down. It would be quite a job, and to cut it down from the base would cause it to crash on the apple tree and destroy it.
I would need to get a cherry picker and go up into the tree and cut it down section by section.
I’ve done this sort of thing before. It’s kind of dangerous but so rewarding when you get to see the results of more light flooding into the garden.
Turning to see
The cause of the problem shadow will only be seen when we look at what is causing the shadow.
I can look at the apple tree all day long and not solve the problem. It’s only when I turn my gaze and see what might be shadowing it will I come to an understanding.
When we come to experience the full light, when we turn and see that which has its shadow on us, it can be like a gum tree has landed on us. For some of us, that’s what is needed.
A deeply religious man, Saul, was one of those who had a light shattering moment.
All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.
He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”
He said, “Who are you, Master?”
“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”
His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing. Acts 9:1-9
Saul thought he had been walking in the light.
That he had been doing what God would have wanted him to do, yet he was in the darkest of shadows.
The shadow of religiosity. Black and white, rules, and regulations, religion, and self-righteousness.
What casts its shadow on you?
This is an impor
The Cup. Paying Attention To What Fills and Drains
We are like a cup in which energy both fills and drains. But we can grow by paying attention to the cup and understanding the fillers and the drainers.
It was always a challenge to get them to care for themselves. They were always giving out to others, and I could see that life was being sucked out of them.
I explained that you can’t give out of an empty cup, but self-sacrifice and martyrdom had been drummed into them from childhood. They remembered that Sunday School song – J.O.Y. Jesus first, Yourself last, and Others in between sung to the merry little tune of Jingle Bells.
But now all that giving out was leading to their fragile body forming cracks. The body was breaking down. It couldn’t keep on giving out. Illnesses came, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression. The body was trying to send a message – Stop abusing the cup.
Many years ago, I once spent some time with a counselor by the name of Ruth Penny, and she suggested that I do a simple little spiritual exercise. I don’t know if she had developed herself or it was someone else’s, but I use it all the time.
Its simply to imagine yourself as a cup and to notice what is filling your cup and what is emptying it. The input and the output. What is flowing in and what is being taken out.
It’s a simple exercise of attention.
1. Get your journal or a piece of paper and a penHave some writing paper, a journal, or your diary so you can write down your experiences.Keeping a record of your entries will enable you to see trends in your life, and it may well point out to you things that God wants you to take notice of.
2. Quieten yourselfThis is an exercise of attention, so you will need to be quiet and give yourself space to breathe and focus. Allow yourself to be still.Prayerfully ask Spirit (Holy) to open the awareness of your cup to you. To see what God sees.
3. Imagine your life as a cup.A cup is something we are all familiar with. Jesus used a Cup as a metaphor for our lives.The cup is a container for something. They have a purpose and practicality to them.This exercise is not about the external aspects of the cup, such as color, age, cracks, or chips, but more about what flows in and out.
4. Write down your Cup fillers and Cup drainers.As you consider how your life is a cup, take note of what has filled your life and what has drained your life.Cup Fillers – what has given you a sense of life?It might be the smallest of things such a smile from a stranger, something you have read, something you have achieved. It is anything positive that has been poured into your life. Don’t dismiss even the smallest of droplets that made their way into your life. They all add up.Cup Drainers – what has drained the life from you?Write down those things where you have sensed a drain on you. It might be a relationship, a conflict, or a work situation. It could be anything, but for whatever reason, this has drained some sense of life from you.
5. Prayerfully look at the Fillers and Drainers.Examine them and ponder over them.· How full or empty is your cup at the moment?· Do you notice any patterns in what has filled you or drained you?· Is there anything you need to do differently?· What do you need to let go of?· What do you need to embrace?· What will repeat itself if you don’t make some changes?
You might like to discuss and problem-solve some of the drainers with others. Set yourself some small and highly achievable goals that focus on both filling your cup and dealing with the drainers.
Note: Some things can be both drainers and fillers. For example, I love talking with people at a deep level. It both fills my cup but also drains it. This is ok, as long as I am aware of it and learn ways to fill up.
6. Repeat the exerciseI encourage you to repeat this exercise. Make it a regular part of your life. It could be every day or week. As you do this, you
Is The Load Too Heavy? Watch With Me
The load we carry can get too heavy, and we can breakdown. But we can grow through it when we have others who will watch with us.
I needed help. I vividly remember the day I rang emergency services. I had come to a point where I knew I couldn’t carry the load by myself anymore. I had been beaten down emotionally and needed help.
Every one of us is different. We all have different tolerance levels and abilities to handle what life throws at us. For some, they seem to be, for want of a better word, hard and tough. Nothing seems to break them. They have built a toughness around themselves, and nothing seems to get to them.
Then others are more sensitive and soft. They are more open to getting hurt. With enough poundings from the fist of life, they can be pummeled to the ground.
We need both groups of people, and I would say that each can learn something from the other.
Which group do you think you would be in? What would those who know you well say about you? Soft or hard? Tough or tender? Maybe somewhere, in-between?
The load that’s too heavy
Every one of us, at some point in life, will come to a place where the load gets too heavy to bear. It’s what you do at that crucial moment is vital.
For me, it was calling emergency services. I knew that there was nothing I could do within myself to dig my way out. I needed others to help me. I was sick, unwell, and required those who had skills, knowledge, and resources to help me rebuild.
For a brief period of my life, I was receiving support from Mental Health Services. It was good, and it was what I needed. The stress load had become too heavy for my fragile human frame to handle.
In the garden
In one of the most precious stories from Jesus, we find him when his load was too heavy. It was before his crucifixion, his agonizing death where all the pain of the world would be loaded on his shoulders.
That is a heavy load, one only the God of the universe could handle. Yet, in his fully human, fully divine self, he invited us into his expression of load-bearing.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Matthew 26:36-46
At that moment of deepest anxiety and fear, he wanted community. Yes, there was the prayer to his papa, but there was also an invite for closeness with friends. He asked for three of them, Peter, James, and John, to step aside and watch with him.
He wanted connection, someone of human form that was going to be physically there with him.
We value rugged individualism, the self-made man or woman, independence, yet God needed others. God, in the form of Jesus, exposed his vulnerability and
Am I My Brothers Keeper? Guilt-Trip Anyone?
It was the feelings of a guilt trip and the words of being a ‘Brothers Keeper’ that triggered me. But was it genuinely helping me and them to think this way? Something needed to change.
Some people seem to be able to push the manipulation guilt trip button every time. They tell you how life has been hard. They share their background and a wide range of struggles. You listen, and you empathize with their struggle, and indeed life is hard for some people.
Then you look at yourself and all that you have. You may begin to feel some guilt, then some sense of a need to help them. You want to help, but you have only so much life, energy, time, and money.
In the Bible, there is a story, or in particular, a phrase from that story, that can kick into gear and hit the guilt-trip button.
My Brothers Keeper
It is the story of the first murder and an attempt to deflect blame.
It comes right from the story of Cain killing Abel in the first book of the Bible – Genesis.
Two brothers, Cain and Abel, bring gifts to God. Abel’s gift was accepted because he did what was right. Cain does not do what was right, and so it was rejected. Cain was furious, and God could see that he was angry. That is where we pick up the story.
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance [facial expression] fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! Genesis 4:6-10
Before we go any further, the word ‘keeper’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘Shomer’ which means ‘keeper,’ ‘guardian,’ and ‘watcher.’
At first glance, Cain wanted to avoid the issue. He knew exactly where Abel was. Avoid and hide by saying a lie. We all do it to see if we can get away with our murders.
Then he says, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ asking if he is the one that is meant to know where his brother is located. He is essentially saying, ‘How would I know that? There is no GPS tracker attached to him.’
God is offering an opportunity for Cain to come clean and confess to what he has done.
Instead, Cain tries to shift responsibility away from himself for what he had done and to put it on to God. Its a manipulation, an attempt to guilt-trip God.
Essentially he is saying ‘God, you knew I was angry and you did nothing about it. Arent you, God, the keeper, guardian, and watcher of Abel? You could have stopped all this. So don’t blame me. I can’t be held responsible for my actions.’
The point is that God could see Cain’s heart and the murderous anger within him. God warned him of it and Cain’s personal responsibility to master it. Cain chose to ignore God’s counsel.
Life is hard, and it’s easy to blame others and God for our difficulties, some of which may be quite valid.
But then we turn around and expect others, including God, to fix life, without any acceptance of our human failings and personal responsibilities. We project onto others our anger, pain, resentment, and try to guilt-trip manipulate them, including God, into making things better. It’s all about us.
We want God and others to do for us what we are expected to do for ourselves.
The ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ of being a brother or sister keeper
This little story tells us a lot about responsibility and where it starts and finishes.
I believe that to some degree, I am to have a caring, loving, and keeping relationship with others. When I see injustices, I n