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How I Found Church Can Be A Safe Space For Mental Illness

It’s fair to say when you hear the two terms, ‘church’ and ‘mental illness’, the image which comes to mind often isn’t of bedfellows, but of people at war.

Much of the Christian church today struggles to deal with matters of mental health. Either they brush them under the carpet and leave them unspoken, or, even worse, they deny the problems of mental health altogether.

Recently, on Twitter a Christian tweeted that PTSD was from God. A Christian actually tweeted that.

I’m a writer, I’ve had books out. I’m rarely lost for words. But even I was dumbstruck at that.

I’ve never actually had a mental health condition diagnosed. But many of those close to me, those who know the mental health world, who’ve heard my story, have all said I show classic symptoms of some kind of condition.

Some have said my symptoms resemble PTSD, others have said I may be at the very thin edge of the autistic spectrum. And many of the symptoms are there. So whilst I’ve never had anything officially diagnosed, it’s pretty clear I struggle with some kind of mental illness. read more…

Poema 012: Jo Cleary on her Radical Love Journey

I’m joined today by Jo Cleary, a learning development officer, and writer from Coventry in the UK, who blogs on issues of identity, self-worth and learning to love yourself. Jo shares her powerful story of depression, psychosis and chronic fatigue syndrome, and how they have all influenced both her spiritual and creative journey.

Jo and I discuss together how mental health can impact your relationship with both God and the church, and the power of creativity for healing and transformation. And Jo shares honestly and vulnerably about how the her mental illness impacted her relationships and her day to day life. Jo explains how she discovered that God is someone who, no matter how much we might push him away, no matter how much we think He’s abandoned us, will remain to pick up the pieces of our broken lives, and redeem them.

Finally Jo talks about her recent work, with the Radical Love Journey Facebook group & blog, and how she is using her story to give hope to others.

Jo has a powerful story and great insight to share, on some important issues, it’s definitely worth a listen.

Poema 011 | Chasing Lovely on the Spirituality Of Songwriting & Kickstarting a New EP

Today my dear “wolfie” friends, musical and creative duo Chloe and Taylor Turner (AKA Chasing Lovely), join me again. Today we talk about the personal stories and influences behind their work, as well as the spiritual and personal journeys which influence all of us creatively, and shape who we are and who we become.

Chloe and Taylor talk about the journey of their first EP, Unbridled, (which released 2015 and is available now), and also, the the powerful, personal stories behind the songs on their upcoming EP – which they are currently raising money to make via Kickstarter. We also talk about how we interact with our own work and how others interpret creative work isn’t always how we intended, that each of us comes to a creartive work with our own story, and how great art will meet us where and impact us there.

It’s always great fun talking to Chloe and Taylor, who are wise beyond their years, and have great insight on creativity and spirituality – and are just plain awesome people!

Take a listen, then, if you can, please help ensure their new EP gets made, by joining me and others in supporting their Kickstarter for their EP, any way you can – you can find info and support it here.

Poema 010 : Laura Parrott Perry on Surviving Sexual Abuse & Valuing Our Stories

Today I’m joined by my dear friend Laura Parrott Perry. Laura is an author and a speaker, and co-founder of Say It, Survior, a non-profit dedicated to helping survivors of sexual abuse.

With great courage and honesty, Laura shares her own story of abuse, and it’s impact on her and her family, and the story of how a phone call with her cousin and a blog post sharing her story, led to her co-founding a non-profit which now provides a safe space for survivors of sexual abuse to get the support and healing they need.

Laura also talks about the importance of valuing our own story, and the power of owning our story and being honest about our journey. Laura argues passionately that all our stories have value, and all deserve respect, and to be received with love and grace – and when that happens, we can begin our journey to healing and transformation.

Laura speak with great wisdom, insight and courage, and her story is well worth a listen.

Poema 009 : Brian McLaren on the Great Spiritual Migration

Speaker, author and theologian Brian McLaren joins me today. Brian is the author of many books, such as ‘A New Kind Of Christian’ and ‘A Generous Orthodoxy’.

Today on the podcast we discuss his most recent work, ‘The Great Spiritual Migration’, which explores how our world is looking for a better way to be Christian.

Brian shares with great wisdom and insight about why the traditional models of church and Christian faith are no longer working, why the church as we know it is dying and it’s connections with the rise of the political right in the West.

Brian then shares an exciting new vision of what church can and could be if we choose to move beyond traditional boundaries of ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ and to a more transcendent, non-dual view of Jesus and the Christian faith. He argues with great conviction that the most important thing is not simply what we believe – but how we believe it, and why it’s important to be open to allow God to take us ever onward and deeper into more transcendent, mysterious, and inclusive understandings of who He is and what He wishes for His church to be.

Brian is a man of great wisdom and insight, with a deep love for Jesus and His church – and his message is much needed. Definitely worth a listen!

Poema 008 : Sarah Heath on Creativity & The Art Of Community

It’s my pleasure to welcome Rev Sarah Heath onto the podcast today. Sarah is a minister in a small but growing church in Costa Mesa, California, as well as an artist, writer and author. Her first book ‘What’s Your Story? Seeing Your Life Through God’s Eyes’ releases this coming April.

Sarah talks about her biggest passion, creativity. And together we explore the process of creativity and how this applies to all walks of life, not just the arts. Sarah talks about how she expresses her own creativity through painting, drawing, art, as well as writing – and how she’s applied the principle of creativity in her work of helping create a church community.

We discuss the myth that some people are creative and others are not creative – and Sarah makes a strong case to say we are all creative people, whether we’re accountants, scientists, pastors, or writers. Sarah talks about he sees her role as helping others create the authentic lives and work they were made to live, and how that begins by her living authentically.

Sarah is great fun to talk to, and has such wisdom, insight and passion for creativity and spirituality, and her words are so life giving and inspiring. Take a listen to her today & you’ll be inspired to go out and create.

Grace Has An Edge: Mosaic Of Grace Excerpt 2

My first trade book, Mosaic Of Grace, launched last week, and was a #2 bestseller in it’s category in the UK, and #3 in the US, as well as #1 Hot New Release.

I’ve been blown away by the response to the book, and many of the hugely supportive and encouraging comments I’ve received from people. I’m truly grateful. Thank you. If you’ve not yet bought the book, you can get the hard copy on Amazon here, and on Kindle here.

So today on the blog, I have another excerpt from the book – this part is about how grace compels us to make a commitment to change – and how true grace has an edge to it. Take a read, and then if you’ve not already, go get your copy today!

*****

In the scriptures, Jesus tells a story about a shepherd who had a hundred sheep but lost one. Instead of looking after the 99, he left to find the one sheep that was lost. Jesus says that this is a reflection of how God loves us. The summer of 2013, God took me on a journey into the truth of myself. He showed me the complete train wreck I am inside, with exposing the messiness only He and I know really exists.

One Sunday that summer, I went forward for prayer at church. I knew I had issues, like all of us, but I felt that I was in control of them. But then, faced with God’s truth, I realized that I was a lost sheep. I had strayed further away from God than I’d thought. I was suddenly more aware of my state. The experience of knowing that I had issues to work on overwhelmed me.

read more…

Poema 007 : Shelly E Johnson on Finding Our Mosaic Of Grace

Today on Poema I’m joined by singer/songwriter/worship leader Shelly E Johnson. As well as being a bestselling and critically acclaimed worship artist, Shelly has served as worship leader alongside Beth Moore, Tony Nolan, Andy Stanley, and toured North America with renown Irish Hymn-writers Keith & Kristyn Getty.

In this episode Shelly shares her own powerful story, of losing a parent at an early age, how it impacted her relationship with God and her creative journey – and helped her understand the true meaning of grace. Having lost a parent myself, and as an artist, much of her story resonated with my own, and we explore some deep truths about grief, suffering and the spiritual journey.

We also discuss the true meaning of grace, and how God through our experiences, we have seen how God takes these broken pieces of our lives, and rebuilds them into something more beautiful – a Mosaic Of Grace, the title of one of Shelly’s most memorable songs, and the title of my own bestselling book.

You can find more about Shelly’s work here.

My #2 bestselling book, ‘Mosaic Of Grace: God’s Beautiful Reshaping Of Our Broken Lives’ is available in print here & on Kindle here.

Mosaic Of Grace Exclusive Excerpt: The Truth Of Grace

As many of you know, my first trade book ‘Mosaic of Grace: God’s Beautiful Reshaping of Our Broken Lives’, releases tomorrow, Monday Feb 13. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon now. We’re holding a Facebook launch party Monday Feb 13 at 2pm CST, 3pm EST, 12pm PST, 8pm UK time – with lots of competitions, fun and prizes. You can go add yourself to the guest list here. In the meantime, here’s a little excerpt from the first chapter of the book, to give you a little flavour of what to look forward to. In this section, I begin to uncover the truth of what grace really is. Enjoy!

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Our culture tells us that it’s when we have it all together, when life is good, when all our ducks are in a row, then we are blessed. It sells us an ideal story of how we’re meant to live without any mess, any brokenness.

The story that western culture sells us goes something like this: You work hard at your job. You get a promotion and a pay rise. You behave correctly. Then you find a partner and settle down. Finally, you get the blessings from God. It’s a reward-based culture. Our actions define our reward, and once we’ve dealt with our issues, we can be blessed. Blessing comes after dealing with the mess, not in the midst of it.

We all know this isn’t true. read more…

Poema 006: Sarah Bessey on The Altar Of Creativity (& The Spirituality Of Doctor Who)

Today Sarah Bessey, author of ‘Jesus Feminist’ and ‘Out Of Sorts’, joins me on the podcast. We talk about writing and creativity as ways we interact with the divine, and express ourselves spiritually – as well as the spirituality of the TV show Doctor Who. read more…