Do Christmas Community Meals Really Help?

Call me Scrooge but I’m not sure about Christmas Community Meals.

Do they really help?

Ok, I know for sure there are many people alone and in need of food. A nice Christmas dinner or lunch with some entertainment is wonderful.

What I question is the power relationship between those are serving and those being served. What difference does it make in the longterm, 10 days later, 10 months later?

I take my question from many years of putting on a end of year Christmas dinner for those mostly living on a benefit and struggling with various Mental Illnesses. We would put on a nice meal and many people would come. Some of those that came we would only ever see once a year, at Christmas.

In overhearing dinner table conversations I would hear about them comparing various organisations meals and ‘Its  … organisation tomorrow, you going?’

They basically had a handout mentality where they wouldn’t come and form relational life transforming community with others unless something was put in their hand, a plate. The selfish mindset was seen by making sure they were first in line and then overloading their plates to the detriment of others. Not everyone was like this, but a fair proportion were.

Then there were the ‘generous’ offers to help the poor ‘special needs’ people. YUK !

‘Can I bring a Ham, can I do some fancy table decorations’ (silent groans from the pastor)

Politely I would say ‘No’. You see they also would only turn up once a year. Where was the forming of relational community in this scant commitment.

We did it quite differently by empowering those in the struggle to actually be the ones who peeled potatoes and serve the sausage. By doing it this way they felt part of the solution and not part of the problem.

They laughed and danced to the sound of carols while cans were being opened. Relational community was empowered to happen and just perhaps something of the incarnational presence of Christ was seen.

Experiencing this new found confidence and the joy of being part of something bigger than themselves, they carried this learning into the next day and its struggles. Photos were taken to remind them of what relational community can be like.

It’s not a hand-up if its only a handout.

This Christmas are you empowering others to be part of something bigger than themselves? Maybe you are providing a nice band-aid lunch so you don’t have to engage with the pus.

God became flesh and blood. Incarnation. God’s gift to us was Jesus Christ and relational empowering community meals flowed in the homes of both outcasts and religious legalist’s.

Jesus didn’t mincemeat his words either. He challenged both the poor and the rich to be part of something bigger than themselves. He still does.

Yet at the end of his life the cute little Christmas card baby was a flailed out, naked man on a blood soaked cross with but a handful of friends. Friends he had empowered to be something truly wonderful.

He didn’t give them a handout, a magic wand, or a nice slice of ham (definitely not ham!) but what he did offer them was a hand up into relational community that transformed their innermost beings.

They went away full, soul-full.

Would Jesus come to a Christmas dinner in your town and find a relational empowering community? A place where everybody knows your name?

Our little motto for our group was this

Where Everybody is Somebody and Jesus Christ is Lord.

This Christmas are you empowering the ‘everybody’s’ to be ‘somebody’s’?

What do you think? Lets have a conversation by you donating a comment.

Barry Pearman

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Learn Their Name

Whatever you don't learn their name


Each morning I start my day in a comfortable chair, listen to the Bible, thinking about the day ahead and making a list of tasks.

Often I look across the room at a bookshelf with some of my favourite books. Recently I picked up a couple of them and have begun to read them again. As I do I mark any sentences I find challenging and that I think I can share out via my various social networking sites.

One of those books is by Jim Wallis. The book is Faith Works and there is a link below if you’re interested in getting a copy.

He tells the story of a lawyer, Dale Recinella, who gets involved in helping out at a local Soup Kitchen.

 About twenty years ago, I started helping out at the noon meal of the Good News Soup Kitchen in Tallahassee.

 It was located in the city’s then worst crack/prostitution district,halfway between the State Capital and the Governor’s Mansion. I showed up everyday in my three piece suit to help from 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

 The staff assigned me to “door duty.” That meant my job was to ensure that the street people lining up to eat waited in an orderly fashion. Everyday, I stood at the door for an hour, chatting with the street people waiting to eat.

 Before I came to Good News, “street people” was a meaningless term. It defined a group without defining anybody in particular. From the comfort of my car, my suburban home and my downtown law office, street people were just “those people out there somewhere.”

Then, one day, an elderly woman named Helen came running to the Good News door. A man was chasing her threatening to kill her if she didn’t give him back his dollar.

“Tell him he can’t hit me here ‘cuz it’s church property!” she pleaded.

In true lawyer fashion, I explained that Good News is not a church but he still couldn’t hit her. After twenty minutes of failed mediation, I purchased peace by giving each of them a dollar.

That evening, I happened to be standing on the corner of Park and Monroe, a major intersection a few blocks from the State Capital and outside my law office. In the red twilight I spied a lonely silhouette struggling in my direction from Tennessee St.

“Poor street person,” I thought, as the figure inched closer.

 I was about to turn back to my own concerns when I detected something familiar in that shadowy figure. The red scarf. The clear plastic bag with white border. The unmatched shoes.

“My God,” I said in my thoughts, “that’s Helen.”

My eyes froze on her as she limped by and turned up Park. No doubt she would crawl under a bush to spend the night. My mind had always dismissed the sight of a street person in seconds. It could not expel the picture of Helen.

That night, as I lay on my $1500 deluxe, temperature controlled waterbed in the suburbs, I couldn’t sleep. A voice in my soul kept asking,

“Where’s Helen sleeping tonight?”

No street person had ever interfered with my sleep before. But the shadowy figure with the red scarf and plastic bag had followed me home.

I had made a fatal mistake.

I had learned her name.


The story reminds of a Jesus parable he shared with a lawyer who wanted to know who was the neighbour he was called to love.

Jesus described his neighbour as a man that was naked, unconscious, beaten up and left for dead. Someone that you would have to move beyond professional legal language barriers to actually help.

Some of the lawyers I have met have built a legal wall personality around them. They may know the name of the client but for fear of contamination they steel themselves against the story, the deep story.

I know a policeman that had to do this too. They chose to harden themselves to the story so that they could just mentally go on and do their job.

I don’t hold this against them. Dealing with quantity and depth of trauma requires some self care and boundaries.

Every now and then though God calls us to learn the name, embrace the story, and get down into the dirty ditch of a dehumanised victim because thats the only way they can be reached, with love.

Do FOR ONE, what you wish you could do for EVERYONE Andy Stanley (link to a great sermon)

Are you willing to be vulnerable to God, to bring a ‘Helen’, into your world?

 I want to write more about this. Good idea?

 Leave a comment below.

Questions to consider and leave a comment

  • Do fear learning ‘the name’? Why?
  • Who has learnt your name, your story?
  • What would happen if everyone learnt just one persons name and story?

Barry Pearman

Photo Credit: Abhishek Jacob via Compfight cc

Forgiveness Is … Letting The Little Fish Go

Forgiveness Is ... Letting The Little Fish Go

I think I must have been aged 6 or 7 when I caught my first fish. It was a sprat. I went on to catch other fish. When I can I love to go fishing and I no longer catch sprats but fish big enough for a meal.

In New Zealand we have some pretty strict rules about the size and quantity of fish you can catch. We want to protect our fishery and our future stocks of fish.

When you catch a fish and it is under the size limit then you need to let it go. Put it back in the water and allow it to swim off.

‘Let the little fish go’ is a phrase I heard a counsellor use referring to those little offences that happen to you.

Someone says something or does something that is hurtful. You’re offended and you take it on board, you fester and brood over. The ‘Little Fish’ slowly gains greater proportions to become a stuffed trophy hung on the wall.

You’re not like that of course are you?

Life is hard and it is so easy to catch little fish, take them on board and allow them to grow and dominate life. Our skill in catching them can become a habit. We become as sensitive as a snails eye. We lose friends, become bitter and a victim of the fish.

How do you let the ‘Little Fish’ go?

  1. Measure it. Is it worth the effort of holding on to it? If you hold on to this offense, then what might you be losing out on. Is it really that big? Ask others their opinion.
  2. Check your emotional response. What emotions are stirred up from the offence? Are there echoes being bounced of from past hurts? Is there actually an earlier fishy offence that you are still harbouring?
  3. Let it go. ‘I choose to not hold on to this offence. I am letting it go’. I place that offensive little fish into the hands of Christ. Do it as soon as possible. Why would I want to keep it and have it go smelly and attract flies?
  4. Make ‘Letting go’ a habit. Some little fish seem to be persistent in staying on board and you need to habitually repeat steps 1 -3 over and over again.

Perhaps as you learn the habit of Letting the Little Fish Go will become so familiar to you that when a Big Fish is landed, a large ugly offence, then you may find it easier to let that go.


A quote on muck to consider!
Rack the muck this way.
Rack the muck that way.
It will still be muck.
In the time you are brooding,
you could be on your way,
stringing pearls for the delight of heaven.
(Hasidic teaching)

Questions to consider and leave a comment.

  • Does it help to have a little phrase such as ‘Let the little fish go’ help?
  • What happens if we hold on to the ‘Little Fish’?
  • How do let the ‘Little Fish’ go?


Did you find this post helpful? Consider sharing it with others by using the Social Networking sharing options below. Thanks

Barry Pearman
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How the most Dangerous Word in the World can Transform your Mental Health

What is the most dangerous word in the world?

I recently asked this question via my various social networks.
The responses were interesting. Here are some.

  • No
  • Yes
  • Can’t
  • If
  • Love

For me I think the most dangerous word in the world is ‘love’.

To love means risk. It means uncrossing the arms that protect the heart and inviting an embrace.
C.S. Lewis puts it well

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.
If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.
It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” 
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Deep in the core of who we are is the imprint of the creator God.

They left their mark upon us a sign of what we most truly deeply desire and what we are called to be for others. To be explored, known, discovered, touched, to be loved. To hold someone else in warm inclusive embrace.

I think of the story of a young man that was loved in this way, but decided to look over the fence to where, in his opinion, the grass looked greener. In searching for a selfish love where he was in control, he became a man knocking on brothel doors.

Every time a man knocks on a brothel door, he is really searching for God. G.K. Chesterton

His vacuous empty heart was never filled and the means to fund his addictive lifestyle soon ran dry. Fair weather friends caught the next bus and now he was left in beggars clothes, dirty, and smelling of pigs.

What a reject!

Self loathing and shame stung at his soul.

He projects onto his Father his own fears.

‘I don’t deserve a thing, certainly not love, so I will be the beggar servant and at least I will have food to eat and perhaps a bed to sleep in. Perhaps he will accept me skulking in through the back door for a few crumbs’.

He imagines his father to be what he thinks he should be like. Harsh, punishing, merciless.

How dangerous, do you think, are the self generated projections we throw on to God and onto others?

In this wonderful story the Father rushes to the son, embraces his smelliness and throws a party.

Ever had a totally unexpected surprise? You have been loved when all you expected was hate, anger and rejection.

Love is the most dangerous word because we can’t control the flow of it towards ourselves. It frightens us at times. Catches us unaware’s.

Mike Mason writes this.

Can we imagine what it would be like to so move and excite the heart of God that He would run to meet us, throw His arms around us and kiss us, dress us in His best robe, and put rings on our fingers?
Can we picture the Lord Almighty killing the fattened calf for us and throwing a big party in our honor?
Can we imagine having the Creator of the universe say to us, just as He said to Jesus Christ, “You are My beloved son, and I like you” (Mark 1:11)?
Mike Mason. The Gospel According to Job

Can you imagine this for yourself?

Love is a dangerous word.

Could you be vulnerable to a God that rushes to you, arms open wide, and whispers ‘You are my beloved son/ daughter and I like you”.

Like it? Tweet it

Questions to Consider and leave a comment.
  • Why is the word ‘Love’ dangerous?
  • What emotions and thoughts stir in you as God says ‘You are my beloved son/ daughter and I like you?
  • What false projections do you throw onto God?
Barry Pearman
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16 Tips To Help You When There Is Socially Unacceptable Behaviour In A Group Setting

Sometimes you have to have the hard talk with someone about unacceptable behaviour in a meeting. 

It maybe a church service, a bible study, even just having a one to one talk with someone and you are interrupted.

They might have been talking out loud to a friend while everyone else was quiet and listening. It might be talking about inappropriate topics that could hurt or trigger other people into painful memories.
You are wanting to create a safe social space for all involved but someone keeps on throwing in a hand grenade.

One of the hardest things I have had to do is to confront bad behaviour. No one wants to do this, however it can also be one of the most empowering and educating things you can do for them and others.

Bringing people into reality about behaviours, creating a plan with them and helping them form new habits can revolutionise their lives. It can also send messages to others in the group that a culture of love and respect is valued.

15 tips.
  1. Shift your mindset from Boundaries to Lines of Love and Respect. I have a problem with the word ‘Boundary’. It conveys no sense of purpose other than defence or protection. As a kid on the farm we had ‘Boundary fences’. Often built with barbed wire, it was there to prevent and preclude intrusion. I prefer now to use the concept of a Line of Love and Respect. When you cross over this line you are not showing love and respect for the other. Lines of Love and Respect challenge my thinking to learn about what being loving and respectful to others may look like. I am brought to thinking about relational values rather relational rules. 
  1. Show Grace. A useful definition of Grace is undeserved kindness. Think theologically that while we sin and our behaviours show a lack of love and respect to God, they (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) still show unmerited grace and mercy towards us. Can we be like this to others. 
  1. Determine very clearly what is appropriate behaviour and what is not. This may take having discussions with everyone involved in your group about what is appropriate. What does good look like for the group, for you, and for the person involved. You may want to write it down.  In a Renovaré Spiritual Formation Group there is a meeting sheet and everyone reads the expectations of conduct together out loud.
Welcome to the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Group. May God’s Holy Spirit bless us, and may we find fellowship and encouragement during this time together.
We gather together with one aim – to become better disciples of Jesus Christ. We do this by encouraging one another to keep Jesus’ word, which, as he said, is what we naturally do when we love him (John 14:23-24). Through the grace of mutual accountability, we strive to inspire one another to love and good works.
Everything said here is in confidence and stays within these walls. Only then can we feel free to share honestly. This is how we help each other.
You might like to add in other grace filled qualities that everyone in your group is in agreement about. You may think that certain behaviours and social norms are obvious and everyone knows them. That is an assumption on your behalf and may not be reality for others. Ask them. 
  1. Point out graciously the behaviour that happened. Be specific not general. They need to know exactly what they did and how it was disruptive. 
  1. Write expectations down. People forget, and may also choose to not remember certain details of the discussion. Avoidance using the excuse of ignorance is a little game we all try on at times. So having written notes can help everyone take personal responsibility for what needs to happen. Having written notes can be useful in reviewing progress and as prompts for celebration. If possible get the other person to write down their own dated notes. This helps the memory to take it all in, and encourages a sense of personal ownership of the issue. 
  1. Express feelings. ‘When you did this it caused me and others to feel …’ They need to know how it made you feel. They may not even be aware of what their actions did. 
  1. Negotiate practical pre-prepared strategies for the next time this could possibly happen. It might be someone to sit with them and coach them through the event. Write this down.
  1. Determine what will be a carrot and what will be a stick.  The “carrot or stick approach” refers to offering a combination of  reward and a punishment. A cart driver dangles a carrot in front of a mule and holds a stick behind it. The mule moves towards the carrot because it wants the reward of food, while also moving away from the stick behind it, since it does not want the punishment of pain, thus drawing the cart. Negotiate with them what would be the reward of a change in behaviour, particularly in the relationships they have. The stick will also be a negotiated natural consequence. It may well be a period where they are unable to be part of the group.
  1. Provide regular feedback on what they did well. Accentuate the positive. For every negative behaviour try and find ten positives.
Encouragement is oxygen to the soul. George M. Adams
  1. Always keep coming back to them taking responsibility for themselves. We all at times want to play the blame game and shift responsibility away from ourselves, and blame others or circumstances. They need to own the choices they make and the consequences, both good and bad.
  1. Don’t indulge the P.L.O.M in their mouths. The ‘Poor Little Old Me’ that wants sympathy. Bring it back to the here and now and what they can do to see a different outcome. See this post for more on P.L.O.M.
  1. Have review dates. Not a long way in the future, but maybe after the next meeting. This provides all parties involved a time and a place to reassess and celebrate the successes.
  1. Don’t tell them or others that they were being naughty. I cringe when I hear those words. At times people behave in certain ways because that is all they know. They haven’t learnt otherwise and due to their illness they do not pick up on social cues. Saying they are naughty is just an easy and sloppy way of avoiding getting to know what is really going on.
  1. B.G.E.S.C.
This is a little rhyme that will help you to remember the skills required.
  • B- Brief. Make your reply short, don’t go on and on. Keep it short
  • G – Gentle. Speak in a tone appropriate to the situation. We don’t need to yell and we don’t need to be meek and whisper. Look at them and speak gently.
  • E- Early. Give your reply as soon as possible. Don’t leave it till later unless you need to prepare your reply. You don’t want this anger to go on and on. Paul writes ” Don’t go to bed angry” Ephesians 4:26
  • S- Specific. Make sure your reply is specific to the issue. Don’t go on to past hurts and problems. Deal only with the issue that is current.
  • C- Consequences. A good reply points out the consequences of what has happened and will happen. It is important to state how you feel about what happened. “By you doing this, you made feel very sad etc”. You may also need to point out what will happen if they do that again. ” I have decided that if you behave like that again then I will….”

    A good rebuke is quiet, brief, specific and warns of the consequences of further faulty choices. A bad rebuke is loud, repeated, generally condemning and relies on emotional pressure to effect change. David Riddell

  1. Remember that it is Millimetre Ministry. It wont happen over night but it will happen. Change generally doesn’t happen quickly. It takes time. Millimetre Ministry is a little term I talked about with those supporting people with Mental Illness. Little steps are realistic to the change process. Having expectations that are owned and that are achievable to the other makes progress possible. Do you do that for yourself?
  2. Assess your own raw response to what they have done. Were you angry, compassionate, frustrated, curious, judgemental, hopeful. Before you go and help someone with their behaviours assess your own as you might just project your own pain on to them and escalate the situation.
It has been my experience that when you help people with their behaviours in a group setting you will find a lot of support from others.
Others in the group may well have been there themselves and can offer support and help in the process, as long as you do it respectfully and sensitively. If in doubt ask them for their advice and direction.
Questions to consider and leave a Comment.
  1. Why is important for the person involved to be challenged to change?
  2. What is the long term benefits of learning new social skills?
  3. Why do people consider others who are behaving badly to be ‘Naughty’? What does it say about them?

Barry Pearman

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You Want to be Known but …

To be known is to be pursued, examined, and shaken.

To be known is to be pursued, examined, and shaken.
To be known is to be loved and to have hopes and even demands placed on you.
It is to risk, not only the furniture in your home being rearranged, but your floor plans being rewritten, your walls being demolished and reconstructed.
To be known means that you allow your shame and guilt to be exposed—in order for them to be healed. Curt Thompson

Do you want to be known?

Deep in all of us there is a desire to be known and loved, yet I am not too sure whether I want you to know me fully. You see if you knew me completely, then that would give you a lot of power. You could expose me to others. Reveal all my thoughts and feelings. Tell others all my secrets.
Naked, just like Adam, I run and find some fig leaves to self protect, yet again.
Do I want to be known? 

Hmm, not really, not by anybody other than by someone who has experienced the kind of shame and humiliation that I fear.

I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified
in a cathedral between two candles,
but on a cross between two thieves;
on the town garbage heap;
at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title
in Hebrew and in Latin and in Greek;
at the kind of place where cynics talk smut,
and thieves curse,
and soldiers gamble.
Because that is where He died.
And that is what He died about.
George MacLeod

Yes, I feel safe enough with Jesus to let down all defences.
The only problem is that I only know Jesus dimly, like looking through a mesh curtain.

I know something of him, I have some mind knowledge, some experiential knowledge, yet I still only know him partially. I have had a taste of knowing him, which excites my taste buds with an expectation of an eternal everlasting feast of knowing, and being known.

‘I wish I had a friend, a real friend’.
I have heard this so many times, said and unsaid.

People have a craving for the loneliness to be filled. Yet dig deep enough and you will find an obstruction or a wall to being known.

‘If you really knew me you wouldn’t love me’ or the wall of ‘I will never let my heart be broken again’. Perhaps there are many other walls that we raise up to being known.

We have our walls because we like to be control of the outcome. Jesus comes to us, knowing fully well what is beyond the wall and mask we present, and greets us with an embrace that imparts a love that dismantles a wall brick by brick.
Surely this is the way we are to approach knowing others. Knowing that behind the wall lies mess because we know that we also have mess behind our walls.
When someone pulls down a wall and reveals they have Depression, Suicidal Ideation’s, Psychosis, Desires to Cut and Self Harm, Addictions, how do you respond? 
Do you …

  • Back off quick?
  • Refer them to a ‘professional’?
  • Give quick advice?
  • Problem solve?
  • Self reference with your own story or the experience of someone else?
  • (insert your favourite avoidance tactic here)
Or do you

  • Gently and respectfully ask questions that demonstrate your desire to know the person and not just the illness.
Many run or avoid the last option because they consider that don’t have enough knowledge to help.
A lack of knowledge does not constitute a good enough reason to avoid the knowing of another. 
There is a vicious cycle associated with the Stigma of mental illness.

In a Lancet study it was discovered that people with mental illnesses adjust their expectations to society’s views.

The study discovered that more than a third of participants had not started a new relationship because they expected it to fail as a result of discrimination. For the same reason, 71 per cent said that they wished to conceal their diagnosis of depression from others. The cycle of social exclusion and self-exclusion is therefore complete.

Most research on discrimination shows that direct social contact between people in good health and people with a mental illness is an important way to reduce stigma.

Concealment therefore reduces social contact and perpetuates stigma. On the other hand, disclosure also brings real risks of discrimination. Those with mental illness are constantly confronted with this dilemma of keeping quiet or opening up. New Scientist

Someone has to break the cycle of social exclusion and self-exclusion. 
Why not you? 
Would be you willing to know someone without a desire to fix them, problem solve them, heal them, pray on them (yes, I wrote that correctly :)), self reference them, or give quick advice?
Has anyone done this for you?
Consider these quotes about knowing from Dr. Curt Thompson in a book I highly recommend Anatomy of the Soul.
  • It is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love. And it is love that transforms our minds, makes forgiveness possible, and weaves a community of disparate people into the tapestry of God’s family.
  • When I know that I know something because I can logically prove it, I step away from trust. When I no longer trust, I am no longer open to being known, to relationship, to love.
  • Ultimately, then, knowledge alone does not satisfy. What does satisfy is being known.
  • We have failed to see that this need to be right, to be rationally orderly and correct, subtly but effectively prevents us from the experience of being known, of loving and being loved, which is the highest call of humanity.
  • Is not hard to see why we are infatuated with knowing things in this way. It gives us the illusion that we are secure and in charge. We are no longer vulnerable. We believe we are safe, protected, and happy. We delude ourselves into thinking that we know God, but God as we believe him to be—in control and invulnerable—not God as Scripture describes him to be: risk-taking and able to be hurt badly. We no longer have to trust since we’ve got him all figured out. Knowing things and being right is very important to us, but when overemphasized it comes with a price.
Questions to consider and leave a comment.

  • How have you seen the cycle of social exclusion and self-exclusion demonstrated in your life?
  • What walls do you or others put up to being known?
  • What avoidance techniques have you experienced by people afraid to truly know you?

Barry Pearman

Photo Credit: Darwin Bell via Compfight cc

How to say Goodbye with a Parting Gift – Grief and Loss Part 2

The tough part was saying ‘Goodbye’.

Photo Credit: xJason.Rogersx via Compfight cc

A few years ago we enjoyed the experience of having an exchange student from Argentina live with us for 6 month. The tough part was saying ‘Goodbye’.

As a farewell gift to her we gave her a photo album of all the things she had done while she was living her with us. 

We also went out for dinner and celebrated.

So it came the day when we took her out to the airport and after many tears and hugs she got on the plane and headed off.

We drove home feeling rather sad.

But when we walked down into the kitchen we found a lovely big card and a present for us. Inside the card were words of thanks and appreciation for all that we had done and the present was lovely photo of us all including her.

It was very touching.

I then remembered that as we were just about to leave I watched her dash back into the house and myself getting slightly annoyed at her for doing so. It was at this time that she set out the card and the present for us. She is now back in Argentina, we hope to see her again one day and we still keep in contact with her over the Internet, but we do miss her.

We have a sense of loss in our lives because she is not here with us any more  But it was lovely to honour her and for her to honour us, to give parting gifts to acknowledge this love and appreciation.

There is a story in the Bible where a lady lavishly gives a parting gift to Jesus.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. John 12: 1-11

This must be one of the most beautiful stories of love and worship that is recorded in the Bible. Here is Mary, one of Jesus closest of friends giving a parting gift to him.

In the previous chapter we can read about how Jesus came to Mary and Martha at a time of their deepest need. Their brother Lazarus had died, they had buried him, and the mourning was in full cry.

Then Jesus came to the tomb where Lazarus was, prayed and spoke the words ‘Lazarus, come out!’ and he was raised from the dead. 

A little while later Jesus was passing through Bethany on his way to Jerusalem and a meal is given in honour of him.

Now not many of his followers had grasped that Jesus was on the way to the cross to die. They were living in blissful ignorance of this, they were still looking forward to him going to Jerusalem to become the King of the Jews and overthrow the Romans. 

There was one lady however that knew something different.

Mary in her love and appreciation of Jesus goes and gets a jar of perfume.

This isn’t any old perfume, it is Nard.

This perfume is very expensive. As Judas reveals ‘It was worth a year’s wages’. He was referring to year’s worth of wages for a labourer, so perhaps between $25000 – 30000 dollars in our terms.

Nard came from the roots of the plant Spikenard and is grown in the Himalayas in India. In doing some research on this I found that this oil is apparently useful for healing deep seated grief or old pain. It is supposedly used for people who are dying as they move from life to death.

Mary may have planned to use this perfumed oil for dressing Jesus’ body after his death, but consumed with a desire to worship and bless her King in the ‘Now’, she pours it over his feet, wiping them with her hair. 

She could not restrain her self. 

Something out of the beauty she has as a women came bursting forth. She couldn’t contain her passion any longer.

Her parting gift to Jesus filled the room with the scent of love.

Mary was worshipping the one about to die.

How do you feel if you are with some one that is about to die?

For most of us I think we have a wide range of feelings. 
Awkwardness would be one emotion – what should I say, what should I do? Sadness as we are going to lose someone we love. 

Some times when the person has been unwell for some time it is a sense of blessed relief, mixed with sadness.

How we respond to death is a crucial question if we are going to grieve well.

Too many times I have heard “I wished I had told them …”

Sometimes it is to say how much they loved them, or to say thank you, or possibly to say sorry or to seek forgiveness or to seek some peace in an argument that had occurred.

So how do we honour them?

Often the funeral service is a time when people bring their parting gifts, they share stories, they share their love, they remember.

I quite like the way the Maori people express their honour of the person who has died.

They have a ‘Tangi’ where the funeral essentially lasts over many days, and people come and pay their respects, they talk about the person a lot, they share food together, they sing. All of this happens with the deceased in the casket in their midst and people speak to the body as if the person was still very much there. The Maori believe that the spirit doesn’t leave the body until the burial. They honour the person and the ancestors the person came from. All this helps people to express what they need to share.

Some times you’re not able to give a parting gift because the person has died suddenly and you simply weren’t there. 

Perhaps you just weren’t ready to say certain things to them.
I remember supporting a young lady who went to her uncle’s funeral. When she came home she told me that she hadn’t cried, and if she could have she would have spat in his grave. She had been sexually abused as a little child and had no sense of forgiveness towards him.

I pray that for her she will come to a point in her recovery where she is able to forgive, not for his sake but for her sake.

Whenever people come to me and they feel that they haven’t shown honour, or perhaps they have some unresolved issues with the person that has died I generally ask them to write down on a piece of paper what it is they would like to say. I ask them to write it as a kind of prayer expressing what is deepest on there heart. Then if possible, take it to the place where the person is buried and leave it there. If it is deeply sensitive material then they might like to shred it up into little pieces or burn it. They can do this as many times as they like because it is helping to process the thoughts and feelings.

Grief and loss can haunt us for years and years until we give an appropriate parting gift.

The story of Mary anointing Jesus feet and wiping them with her hair is also found in Mark 14:3-9. There are some differences between the two stories but it is so much like the story we have looked at in John that most people think it’s the same story, but at the end of story Jesus says these words.

I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her Mark 14:9

Mary’s parting gift has been told about ever since she knelt, and broke the vase of perfume.

How we say goodbye, 
         how we show honour, 
                 how we resolve our hurts, 
                         has impact on ourselves and others.

You may have critics for how you say ‘Goodbye’, Mary certainly did, but let’s give parting gifts that come from the heart and its not about others opinions is it.

Questions to Consider and leave a comment.

  • How have you said ‘Goodbye’?
  • Why is it important to say ‘Goodbye’?

Barry Pearman

To the Power of Being Known

Have you ever been

     found out, 
        or found wanting?

Woman caught in adultery naked stone Jesus forgiveness

This picture comes from the story of the Men caught in Hypocrisy.

Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

“No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” John 8:1-11 (The Message)

Being found out exposes us to the judgment and potential condemnation of others.

Being found wanting brings us to a point of need, a cry for mercy, a hunger for grace. 
Being found and known is what we all need. 

Jesus knew her. 

He knew the reasons why she did what she did, he knew her background, he knew the pain that coursed its way through her life, and he found her. 

If he can find her, he can find you, and its ok.

Jesus in finding this unnamed woman gave her the gift of being known. He knew her deepest core need of being considered as worthy of love. Under all the pain and stain of life, here was one that was made in the image of God. 

Here was beauty waiting to fully released. 

I have recently been reading Anatomy of the Soul by Curt Thompson. 

He writes this. 

It is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love. And it is love that transforms our minds, makes forgiveness possible, and weaves a community of disparate people into the tapestry of God’s family. 

To be known is to be pursued, examined, and shaken.

To be known is to be loved and to have hopes and even demands placed on you.

It is to risk, not only the furniture in your home being rearranged, but your floor plans being rewritten, your walls being demolished and reconstructed.

To be known means that you allow your shame and guilt to be exposed—in order for them to be healed. Curt Thompson M.D

Jesus sided with the sinner. 

Question to Consider and leave a comment.

  • What makes a person safe for you to allow them to know you? 
  • What fears surface at the thought of being fully known?

Barry Pearman

Do You Ever Want to Clean other Peoples Windows?

Photo Credit: andyaldridge via Compfight cc 

A young couple moves into a new neighbourhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbour hanging the wash outside.

“That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.”

Her husband looks on, remaining silent.

Every time her neighbour hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments.

A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband:

“Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.

The husband replies, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”

And so it is with life…

What we see when watching others, depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.

I found this little story from Men Supporting Men, a great website with a Facebook page I would recommend. 

I have shared this little story with a few people and had a great laugh.

I would like to take it one step further and suggest that as a little exercise place yourself in the shoes of each of the three people in the story. 

  • The Neighbour. Here she is hanging out her washing. Going about her daily business while all along being judged, unfairly, by her new neighbour. Ever been judged by others? You know how it feels then. 
  • The Young Woman. She knows how to wash clothes. She sits in superiority over her neighbour, judges with personal comparisons and condemns her unfairly. She wants to give advice and bring the neighbour up to her standard. Ever judged others? 
  • The Husband. He has a bigger perspective and looks at the whole story. He sees something his wife doesn’t see and then does something about. He enables his wife to be potentially capable of reaching a different conclusion all by herself. He doesn’t tell her the window is dirty and that she is reading the whole situation wrong. Instead he provides an opportunity for her to see things differently. For her to learn in her judging manner. He realises that her perspective is her reality and that it will be her choice to change her perspective.

Well I am sure we can all identify the first two characters, but being the Husband requires patience, wisdom, and listening. It will require us to look for third options. 

Jesus said this

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

I have been going to our mainly music group recently. 

This is a little time we have in our church buildings for parents to bring their preschoolers along to sing, dance and play. There is one little girl, who twice now, has come up to me and reached her arms up for me to pick her. I do so and chat with her mum about cute her daughter is.
This little girl has childlike trust, she hasn’t yet learned to views things through dirty windows. It’s all clean, fresh and untainted. 

I want to be a ‘child of God’, a peacemaker, someone who sees things in childlike openness. Do you?

Peacemakers see things differently. The have a desire to reconcile differences, and for all to be at peace with each other. 

Jesus went on to say this.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. Matthew 7:1-5 (The Message)

Ok, I am off to wash some clothes and clean some windows.

Questions to consider and leave a comment. 

  • How did it feel to be in each of their shoes?
  • What would it take for you to stop judging your neighbour in certain ways?
  • How do we become like a child with clean window perspective?

Barry Pearman

Who do you Want on your Mental Health Recovery Team?

There is no ideal community. Community is made up of people with all their richness, but also with their weakness and poverty, of people who accept and forgive each other, who are vulnerable with each other. Humility and trust are more at the foundation of community than perfection. Jean Vanier

Lars and the Real Girl
Lars and the Real Girl
It was one of those movies that you wonder if you should really watch, but then you’re so glad you did.
A guy buys an anatomically correct blow up doll on the Internet.
There is a very good reason for Lars to do this, he has a Delusional Disorder and sees ‘Bianca’ as being real, totally and utterly real. I have known people with various types of Delusional Disorders and they are so fixed about their beliefs its heart breaking.
Lars and the Real Girl is humorous, but it has a very serious side to it.
It challenges the viewer as to how they treat others who are different to themselves.
This was the challenge for Lar’s community.
How do we help Lars.
They embrace him, and Bianca, and over time with therapy and support Lars changes.
It’s pretty idealistic, but it has to be one of the best portrayals of what recovery from a Major Mental illness requires.
A community of people all supporting the individual in their journey. 
Who is on your team? 
         Whose team are you on?

The better the people on your recovery team, the better the outcome. 

I have seen this time and time again.

The team hopefully will involve specialists such as Doctors, Nurses, Social Workers, Counsellors, Support Workers, Pastors, Chaplains etc. All generally paid to perform a vital function with the skills and knowledge they have.

Then there are the other team members. Those that unpaid, have no formal qualifications, and are just there because they are. Family, friends, workmates, neighbours, etc.

These are the ones that are going to be there generally in the long-term. Relationships here are probably more crucial to long-term recovery than those with the professionals.

What do safe relationships look like? 

Safe relationships are where Grace overwhelms Judgementalism, Wisdom replaces Technique, Hope eliminates Pressure, and the listener resists the urge to merely empathize, give quick advice and provide a “religious” fix. Larry Crabb

As I said, ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ is idealistic, but not unrealistic. 

The first step in forming safe relational communities is to be a safe relating person yourself. 

Questions to consider and share a comment?

  1. Larry Crabb lists 6 requirements of a safe relationship. Which holds the most difficulty for you and why? 
  2. How have you felt when you have been judged, processed through a technique, pressured, listened with ‘Oh you poor thing’ empathy, given quick advice and or a religious fix? How could they have done better?
Barry Pearman 
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