Empowering your Mental Health - Faith: Hope: Love with Barry Pearman
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Empowering your Mental Health - Faith: Hope: Love with Barry Pearman
The Shape of Love
The Shape of You
What’s your shape? I’m not talking about your body shape, i.e., weight, tall, thin, short, or wide. I’m more interested in who you are under the skin. What has happened to shape you into the person you are?
What is your personality like? What do you like to eat? Favorite music tastes. Are you a cat person or a dog person, or neither? Where were you born? What do you do to relax? What are the multiple facets that make you wonderfully different from someone else?
Who are you?
“Today you are you!That is truer than true!There is no one alive……who is you-er than you!
Shout loud, “I am lucky to be what I am!Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a hamOr a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!I am what I am!
That’s a great thing to be!If I say so myself,HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!”Dr. Seuss
The circle of your ‘I.’
I often like to share with people that I support the concept of the ‘I,’ ‘WE,’ WORK’ shared originally to me by psychologist Renier Greef. It’s comprised of four circles.
The first circle is that of the individual. The ‘I’ refers to you. Who you are.
It’s not a perfect circle. It’s imperfect. It’s freehand drawn to represent how unique and irregular we all are. No two circles are the same.
But this circle contains all of who you are.
You may only know a small percentage of what is within your circle. Much of the essential information is subconscious. It can be discovered if you want to go there. That subconscious below-the-surface flow of heart talk has been in the shaping process from before birth.
Every one of us has ‘I..’ It’s what makes us uniquely human. You have a shape full of delight.
Your neighbor does, also.
A man was traveling.
Jesus was in conversation with someone who had been shaped into having a litigious personality. They loved a good argument and getting their opponents tied up in knots.
This expert in the law enjoyed making people feel small and foolish by using their intelligence and cunning. There was no gentle curiosity in them. It was more a legal ‘I win, you lose.’
He asks Jesus a question.
Just then, a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?” Luke 10:25-29
You can sense the tossing of words back and forth. A question is asked, and a question is given in response. The legal and correct answer is given.
Another question is presented. This is a question of defining who is in and who is out. Who is a ‘neighbor’ and who is not? What shape of persons are acceptable?
But actually, it’s a question of lines. Who will I cross a line for and love, and who I don’t have to cross over to know.
Jesus answers the question with a story.
There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. Luke 10:30
Those listening to this story would have immediately noticed that Jesus was telling a parable and that the primary character, the one that this parable was about, was the first person mentioned in the story. It was a man. It was an ‘I.’
Jesus invited them to view everything about this story as if they were this man. They were to look through his eyes.
They knew nothing about this man other than he was a man and that he was traveling.
But this man had a shape to him. He was human.
Jesus tells them nothing else about the man with which they could box him within. Jesus said nothing about his ethnicity, wealth, marital status, age, or occupation. Nothing that we might be able to codify or label him with. Nothing from which we cou
We all have lines around us. Mostly invisible. People cross the lines, and we are hurt, but we also cross the lines of others.
The line had been crossed so many times that they were losing their own personal identity. Bullies, thugs, robbers, and thieves had crossed over into their personal space so many times that there was nothing left of who they were.
They felt like they were simply someone others used for their pleasure: a punching bag, a toy to play with, a commodity to be used and abandoned.
Lines had been crossed that were never meant to be. They were an object to be used and then discarded. No glory in them, no beauty inside. Impotent of purpose, much like a speck of dust in a corner.
For them, it felt much like this account from an abuse survivor.
I always felt that I was like a sort of Martian-I wasn’t from this planet.
I was never meant for this earth. And I was waiting to die, basically, just waiting for the day … I was waiting to die.
And I couldn’t relate to anybody. I felt so inferior and all the negative things, you know, so unworthy, or not worthwhile-without value.
And nobody would want to know me anyway and things like this.’ Peter Dale, John Allen and Lynda Measor, ‘Counselling adults who were abused as children: Clients’ perceptions of efficacy, client-counselor communication, and dissatisfaction’, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 26(2): (1998), 146.
It had started as a child, but it was still being played out in the whispers of today.
A line had been crossed.
I don’t think there is anything more harmful to the core of a person’s existence than to be used as an object for others’ gratification.
To be treated as something less than fully human.
To be dehumanized is to be deprived of human characteristics or attributes, to be made inanimate, and to be treated as an object.
The other is used to vent one’s anger, to play out one’s fantasies, to rob, steal and destroy.
The other is no longer someone made in the image of God. They are now someone to be used, abused, and left for dead.
The outcome is traumatized people.
We’ve all had lines crossed.
Every one of us has had the experience of having a line crossed.
It could be in the extreme, but it could also be in the small and seemingly insignificant. Little cuts add up. We play down and minimize some wounds because we don’t want to examine the core terror of being hurt.
We also cross other people’s lines. We say things, do things, and behave in ways that are abusive to others. Often we don’t even realize that we might be crossing someone’s line.
Recently, someone said something to me that cut me to the core.
They didn’t realize how much they had peeled off an old scab and that I was being re-traumatized. They went on with their daily business, but I’m still thinking about it daily.
We are indeed broken people living in a broken world where broken choices are made. But we hold on to the hope of God making all things new.
I’ve met many broken people, but in everyone, I have seen something unique, beautiful, and powerful. Someone wanting to be known, loved, and held.
There are no ordinary people.
I don’t think we understand simply how glorious we genuinely are.
We are so curved in on ourselves that we don’t have a good view of how much we are image-bearers of God.
I genuinely love sitting with people and asking God to reveal how this human bear’s something of Genesis delight. I look for sparks of firework creation. I notice the smile, the humor, the sparkle of some garden long ago. I want to smell the wafts of Eden’s creativity, touching my senses.
Where you focus is where you will go.
It’s in every one of us.
Read what C.S. Lewis writes.
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor.
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my b
For your Mental Health Co-Create with God
You may feel alone, but you have a purpose, and that is to co-create with God, so lets L.O.F.O.
Recently a friend asked me to pray for them. It caught me by surprise, but as I listened to the struggle they were facing, I felt it was a privilege to listen to the coalface experience they were inviting me into. I held them and prayed. Later they said it made all the difference. I co-created with them.
What a privilege we have to be able to co-create.
We use the word co-create sparingly, but it means working with someone to create something. So there is an invitation to a partnership.
I received an email the other day with the question. ‘Why won’t God let me die’? My immediate thought about their pain was that ‘God needed them for something.’
Why would God need us?
The God of infinite power that can speak a universe surely doesn’t need us, but God does need us, and there is an invitation to co-create.
We co-create with God.
I look at the garden and see a rose I planted years ago. It’s flowering now with generous white blooms.
I prune, feed, and water it, yet I do not control this beauty. I have limited power over its glory.
It will most likely be there in fifty years, blessing someone else. I am co-creating with God for future generations’ enjoyment. I am simply a steward of the now for the hope of the future.
The early church leaders Paul and Apollos co-creator with God.
Paul co-creates words in a letter to his friends in the city of Corinth.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.
For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9
Paul could see him and Apollo working together as God’s servants to co-create God’s field, God’s building.
Paul’s desire to die
I don’t think Paul was suicidal, but I do believe Paul desired to be somewhere else, and that somewhere else was to be with Christ.
If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer.
I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.
Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Philippians 1:22-26
I believe Paul carried a heavy load of shame and guilt for how he treated the early church. It was his ‘thorn in the flesh,’ but God had not finished with him yet and desired to co-create with him. Read – Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh and its Meaning for You.
It was ‘fruitful labor’ that held him firm. Those times when he was able to co-create with God and others and see something good grow from a seed into a flourishing rose bush, filling God’s world with beauty.
We co-create when we L.O.F.O. and act on them.
L.O.F.O. is an acronym for Look Out For Opportunities.
It’s straightforward. We look for opportunities to co-create with God. Little things.
Picking up a piece of rubbish and putting it in a bin.
patting someone on the back and saying well done
Changing someone’s flat tyre.
Sowing some seed
Buying a friend a cup of coffee
Sharing a photograph you have taken of a little bird to the world via social media.
Adding a dollar into the churches collection plate
Sweeping the floor
Mowing your neighbour’s lawn
Sharing your thoughts through a blog post
This list could go on forever, but its little things done with love help co-create this world. It’s the antidote to suicidal thinking.
Nine Key Learnings from Writing 500 Blog Posts
Writing blog posts over many years teaches you many things, but what are the key learnings? Knowing these can help you create words that connect.
This blog post recognizes the momentous occasion of publishing 500 posts. Some posts are from guest writers, but most are from my authorship.
Five hundred posts are a lot of words, and when you create something of worth for an extended period, you begin to hone the craft. You pick up skills and techniques that work for you.
So I am going to share nine key learnings since I started writing in July 2012.
Do you want to create something meaningful? These pointers will help.
What I have learned from publishing 500 blog posts
Everything starts with listening.Before you write a single word, you will need to listen. Listen to the multiple streams of thoughts that come flowing around your brain. It might be something you read or a podcast you have heard. A verse of scripture, a poem, or a song. It comes down to listening and discerning the one idea for you to focus on. Listening takes time, unhurried time, and permission to give yourself for that seed to germinate.
Your vibe attracts your tribeThere are people out there who will connect to your writing style, thoughts, and wisdom. You simply need to connect with them. Your vibe, what you find helpful and interesting, will attract your tribe, those who truly get you and want more. So share what you are reading and finding helpful—little quotes and thoughts. When you do this, others like you will gather around your campfire of wisdom and form a community. Please, be yourself; everyone else is taken.
Be consistent, and show up.Every week at the same time, share your creation even if you think it’s not that great. People, and search engine algorithms, will get to know when to expect your latest piece. Showing up creates habits in your brain and patterns in your lifestyle. ‘This is what I do, this is who I am, and this is when I do it.’ You will start to see everything as a potential idea for writing. You will move from being someone who writes to being a writer.
Do it anywayYou will have your detractors. You will have people close to you that are ambivalent about your calling. You may have people who might thoroughly criticize and seek to destroy your work. Write and build anyway.At times, I have had to hold onto this beautiful writing from Mother Teresa.‘In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.’ Mother TeresaThe full quote is in the quotes section.
Write from your coalfaceI have a little phrase that keeps singing to me. No one knows coal like a coal miner.I want to hear words from people digging away at their dark coal face. I don’t want theories, philosophies, or any unlived truths.So I write from my heart first, then the head, and then dance between the two. I want to connect with the dark coalface of other people’s lives and shed some light. To connect, I have to share something of my coalface. I am a beggar myself, searching for bread and sharing a few crumbs.
Write and then editIt’s so easy to write and edit as you go. Try and resist this. Getting all the words out on the page first is best, then go back later and edit. When I want to get the words out with no distractions, such as spelling checkers, I use a free app called Write Monkey. It’s a simple, distraction-free tool that’s like writing on an old-fashioned typewriter. Make as many mistakes and errors as you like. Then, you will find yourself free to pour out the words without distraction.
Keep the focus on One ideaWhen hammering a nail into a piece of wood, you have one nail and one hammer. The point of what you are writing is that one nail. What is that nail? What is the one point? If you have multiple points, you will confuse the reader. If you confuse, you lose. Noise is the enemy. Too many ideas will dilute the one that truly needs the focus.
Have an overarching theme. My focus in my writing
Does God Hate Me?
One tough moment after another can bring you to the question, ‘Does God hate me’? But I want to know more, so I sit with those at the coal face and grow in my knowing.
No one knows coal like a coal miner. I could go to a scientist and get a scientific explanation about coal. A commodities dealer could tell me the dollar value of coal. Someone cooking over a coal fire would give me another limited view.
But for me, if I wanted to know about coal, I would go to a coal miner. One of those old-fashioned coal miners who has entered the bowels of the earth and dug away at the dark. Covered in the dust, there is noise, danger, and fear, but there is a camaraderie among fellow miners.
No one knows God like someone who has been at the dark coal face of life.
I suppose that is why I am drawn to people who chisel away at the coal, face the darkness of life, and find God there with them. It’s not the theologians or the pastors that pull me in. More so, those who, in all the struggle of daily life, have found something like a diamond amongst the coal.
I would rather sit and shed tears with them for hours because that is where I believe Jesus the Christ would be.
Does God hate me?
If someone was to ask you that question, how would you answer it?
Would you give an intellectual answer, quoting scriptures such as John 3:16?
For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
They are in a dark place and want to know heart truth, not head knowledge.
First of all, I think they would want to be known. To have their world explored and not sidelined. Maybe connection is the best word.
I would like to know how their understanding of what God is like was formed. Was it through various church experiences or parental influences? We’ve all got to start somewhere, so where was their starting point? What winds have blown across their path that has shaped their course?
Whenever I hear the words’ God hates me,’ I am filled with a kind of sadness for the person and the journey they have been on to get to this point of expression.
Quoting scripture upon scripture and getting into intellectual arguments rarely helps. This is because they need to hear words from the heart, not the head.
Our great problem is trafficking in unlived truth.We try to communicate what we’ve never experienced in our own life. Dwight L. Moody
Alongside ‘God hates me,’ other words are often spoken, such as ‘God is punishing me’ and ‘God doesn’t care.’
I have found that there are at least three ways that people express this belief.
God never answers my prayers. I pray for all sorts of things, particularly those that cause me a lot of pain. I pray for others, but those prayers don’t get answered either. I pray, but nothing happens. Everyone else seems to have prayers answered for a better life but not me. God must hate me. God withholds good things from me.
God didn’t stop that from happening. I’ve been hurt, and God could have stepped in and stopped it from happening. I have been injured in so many, many different ways. Where were the angels? Where was the ‘deliverance’ all those silly church songs sing about? I feel like God overlooks my struggle. God simply allows terrible things to happen to me. I wonder if God gets some perverse delight in watching me in pain. God must hate me.
I can’t reach God’s standard. I believe God has a performance standard, and I can never reach it. He hates my pathetic attempts. Everyone else is accepted, but I’m not. I try and fail.
They go on to say other things.
Look, I know you will tell me that God is love. I know you can quote all the scriptures about God being love. Then you will sing all those sappy songs about God being good.
But my reality is that I am in pain, and I want relief. I can see right through your intellectualism head knowledge, spiritual bypasses of avoidance, and coping stra
Where Do You Find Delight?
Life can go on and on from day to day, but when we stop to notice little moments of delight, something profound can begin to grow—hope, joy, and thankfulness. Bible stories come alive.
For me, there is nothing quite like sinking my teeth into a perfectly ripe Black Doris plum and tasting the fullness of flavor as its juices flow across the taste buds.
As I write this post, it’s mid-January in New Zealand, and it’s summer. The Black Doris plum tree has come to its time of harvest, and I gorge myself on its delight daily. I have pruned this tree, given it fertilizer, and watched it flower.
I have longed for this harvest time whenever I have walked under its canopy. It’s the moment of tasting and seeing that Lord is good. God has provided a tree full of delight for me and others to enjoy.
This is a time of delight.
It is the little things that I need to train my brain to focus on.
The sip of coffee first thing in the morning.
The attention my grandchild gives to the story I am reading her.
The way a mother bird feeds a demanding chick hopping around behind her.
Where do you find delight?
It’s too easy to find dismay. Far too easy to find rotten fruit, bitter moments, anguish, hardship, and despair.
The brain is trained to have a magnetic pull to the dark.
The songwriter of the Psalms sings these words.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
What does the word ‘delight’ mean in the Bible?
In Hebrew, the word delight is ‘anog’ and has the meaning of to be soft, delicate, and dainty. To be pliable and tender.
Something good for the brain happens when we stop and notice that which is soft, delicate, and dainty. There is an element to delight that is fleeting. You will miss it, and it will cut you unless you stop to take it in.
As I write this, my thoughts wander to the story in the Bible of Jesus feeding the five thousand.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’
Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:13-21
All those loaves and fishes being multiplied and given out.
Questions float through my thinking about the delight of this moment in the Bible.
I wonder what the fish tasted like?
What sort of fish were they?
Was the bread soft or chewy?
Was there anything unique about the flavors?
Did anyone slowly roll around a piece of the fish and morsel of bread in their mouth? Delighting their brain in the flavors?
Delighting in something takes a conscious noticing and slowing down.
Now my mind is wandering to the delight of connecting a few words together that might help you, the reader, find new ways of living. The gift I am giving is vulnerable. You could easily skip over the words and not take them. I will write anyway because I find delight in them.
I take delight when someone emails me and shares their life with me.
How do we grow delight?
Open yourself to notice. You probably don’t realize how many moments of delight are happening around you. Op