Listening to Your Pain

The other day I wrote on the value of pain.  And since then I have had so many conversations with some of you about all of the painful situations that you are currently going through, or already have gone through.  It can be so incredibly overwhelming right?  It is never easy to talk about cancer, and how that is taking the life of your dad.  Or listening to someone share how mental illness is transforming their sister who was once brilliant and vibrant and is now fading away.  Pain comes in all shapes and sizes and pain knows very few boundaries.

In the midst of pain we can respond or we can ignore it.

I’ll never forget that Saturday morning men’s breakfast that we were sitting around a table enjoying bagel egg and cheese sandwiches when someone got a call that Shelly had passed away the night before.  Shelly attended our little church and was known and loved by everyone.  She was happily married and loved on her beautiful 6 year old daughter.  Shelly was a paraplegic.  She was not only unable to move her legs, she couldn’t feel them either.  The nerve endings in her legs that were supposed to communicate to her telling her that she was in pain did not work.  So that Friday night Shelly cozied up to a gas flame heater and fell asleep.  She never realized that her legs were burning and suffering excruciating pain.  Eventually a clot formed and went straight to her heart.  Unfortunately, the nerve endings that were designed to tell her that something hurt and that she needed to do something about it were not working.  She never got the message.

Pain communicates!hurt, pain, disappointment

What is your pain saying to you?  What is the next step that you need to take to move away from the source of pain and move towards the place of healing?

There is an old Jewish proverb that I love so much.  It says, “What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.”  When I am in the midst of pain, I no longer apologize for my tears.  Those tears are as much a part of my communication process as the initial pain is.  I value the times when I have what we call in my family “a good cry”.  Don’t mask your emotions, don’t apologize for your tears.  God has given us each and every emotion so that we can properly relate to Him, and to one another.

Take a breath.  Pause for a minute.  What is your pain trying to tell you?

~Peter

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Don’t Give Up

A while ago I wrote a post on my favorite axioms.  I try to remind myself of these all the time.  An axiom is a self-evident truth that requires no proof.  Okay, so they are my axioms, which means that they are self evident to me.  They are incredibly helpful to me, and may be for you too.  They are like lights on the runway for me.  They help guide me and give me direction.  

I have realized that since the time that I wrote that post, another one has popped up in my life.  It is not as profound as some of the others, but still encouraging.  Here’s the latest.

Anyone can do anything for a year.

I warned you.  It’s not profound.  In fact it is incredibly simple.  That is one of the reasons why I love it.  It’s a timeless reminder to me not to give up or give in.  Some days I feel like a distance runner, and other days I feel like a sprinter.  On the days I feel like a sprinter and I am about to give up because the race is longer than I expected it would be or harder than I thought it was going to be I need to be reminded that anyone can do anything for a year.  

This encourages me to keep going.  Keep dreaming, keep following Jesus in the midst of whatever it is that is currently going on.  I find myself sharing this with people almost every week.  So whatever difficulty you are going through right now, remember, Anyone can do anything for a year.  I’m convinced of it.  Keep going.  Just take the next step.  And then tomorrow take the next one.  You’ll get there.  I promise!  

Likely you have your own axioms, I’d love to hear them too.  Drop them in the comments below.  

~Peter

Pain is not always bad

pain

“I never thought I was going to hurt this bad.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone share those words, or words like that with me.  I sat across the table from a woman recently, she had tears running down her face as she shared with me the struggle and the pains of her marriage.  It was a tragic story.  Her story was not a fairytale, or one of Hollywood’s romantic comedies.  Kate Hudson would never play this woman’s character.  Think more like Jennifer Lopez from Enough.

What do we do when life hurts get us down?  How do we respond when life doesn’t seem to be going the way that we expected it to go?

These are questions that I have had to answer for myself, and unfortunately I have people ask me those questions almost on a weekly basis.  We live in a broken world.  Our world is fractured with selfishness, greed, lust, anger, and pride.  Those are just a few of the ugly things that rear their heads in our world.  The good news is that Jesus came to heal not only our brokenness but the deep fracture that exists in our world today.

Pain is not always bad.  It is never fun to go through, but my experience has been that pain shapes us.  Pain has an incredible way of growing and developing our character.  Here are four things that I see pain doing in my life.

1. Pain causes us to Cry Out.

My wife Tiffany always makes fun of me, because whenever I get hut I vocalize it.  I can’t help but yelp when I mash my thumb with a hammer.  I can’t help but grunt when I twist my ankle.  That is me vocalizing what is going on inside of me.  When we go through pain, we need to vocalize what is happening.  Pain should cause you to cry out.  I’ll never forget laying in the hospital bed  almost 3 years ago now, unable to move, or even open my eyes because the pain was so intense.  All I could do was just quietly cry out to God, “Jesus help me… help me…”

2. Pain causes us to Slow Down

If you’ve ever broken a bone you know that life doesn’t go back to normal immediately after they set the bone.  The doctor prescribes a period of healing.  Sometimes it can be 6 weeks or more before you are healthy enough and before your body has been restored to the place where your bones can handle the stress and pressure on them.  Emotional pain has the same effect.  It should cause you to slow down and proceed with caution.  Your hurt causes you to test the waters a little bit before you dive right in.

3. Pain causes us to Think About the Root

I don’t know about you, but I never want to repeat painful situations.  If we don’t want to repeat the pain, then we better figure out what caused it.  After injuring myself I will never do that activity the same again.  You can’t right?  We have to figure out the root cause for the pain and then try to remedy it.  I was always taught that the most dangerous knife was a dull knife.  So now I try to keep my knives sharp because I remember the pain of cutting myself…

4. Pain causes us to Live Differently

Living in the wake of pain is not necessarily bad.  It does however have the ability to affect our daily patterns.  Sometimes pain is so difficult that it causes us to live totally different than before.  It may cause us to rely on God in a new way.  It may require that you wake up on a daily basis and change your routine.  We do this to avoid getting hurt again.

Pain is not always a bad thing.  I love what it says in James 1:2-4, “Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  That is not always an easy pill to swallow, but then again it is easier to go through pain when you know that there is something good that will come out of it.

Don’t be afraid to cry out in the midst of your pain.  Our God is there to listen!

~Peter

Scraped Knees= Shepherding Opportunities

Bleeding KneeMy kids have fallen down- many times.  In fact it happened recently.  Noah fell and scraped up his elbow pretty badly.  When we were trying to bandage it up he said, “IT BURNS LIKE LAVA!”  Ah to have the mind of a six year old again…

My kids have made mistakes.  They have written on walls, gotten pen on the couch, spilled milk, disobeyed, talked back, and been obstinate.  They have found that there is a whole lot of life that they want to explore and boundaries that they want to push.

These are the times as parents that are incredibly hard, right?  When your kid is in pain, pain so bad that it can only be likened to “burning like fire”, you want to take that away for them.  You wish that you could bear the pain on their behalf so that they didn’t have to feel it.  When I watch one of my kids fall, my whole body cringes, not because I am hurting, but because I know that they will be.

It is hard as a parent to watch and experience your children disobey, make poor decisions, and mistakes.  If you don’t believe me ask any parent of a teenager, they will tell you it is hard!

These are the moments when parenting is tough.

It is in these moments that parents have to step in and show their children that their is a better way.  There is a safer way to get from one side of the pool to the other than by running.  There is a reason why we don’t color with markers on the couch.  There is a reason why we eat over our plates.  All of this is for a reason.

When our children disobey, as parents we have to have the difficult discussion about why obedience is important.  We have to discuss why attitude is everything.  We have to talk about forgiveness.  We must teach our kids how to say sorry.  All of these things are important to teach lovingly and graciously to our children.

The Prophet Ezekiel

The Prophet Ezekiel by Michaelangelo

In the book of Ezekiel, God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel and tells his people that they haven’t been shepherding, or taking care of His people.  God reveals the condition of the shepherds heart as well as the condition of the flock.  Neither one is doing very well.

You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the disease you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.  They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered.

~Ezekiel 34:3-5

God speaks through Ezekiel and is trying to get the attention of those who are taking care of God’s flock, or God’s people.  This passage is challenging to me both as a parent and as a pastor.  It makes me ask the question, am I caring for the people that God has entrusted to me?

What about you? I don’t care if you are a pastor, or a parent.  A father, or a friend.  Are you lovingly guiding and caring for those that God has placed in your life?  How do you help your kids, friends, etc… know that you care?

~Peter