Khmer resources

Here are some emotional words/vocab lists that I’ve picked up from a couple of friends. Many thanks to Mary and Wendy!

Emotions and Feelings in Khmer and English

Emotions according to intensity

More Emotion Words in Khmer

Here’s an additional resource in Khmer: What is a Woman Worth?

And here’s a master list (with video) about Church Planting Movements and Inner Healing.

Night shot Phnom Penh

photo credit: Nick Radcliffe

The simple tool I use with 90% of my clients: The Shapes Diagram

Sometimes you stumble across a tool that you didn’t know you needed, but as it turns out, you really do. Like pretty much everything Steve Jobs ever created.

I’ve creatively titled this tool “The Shapes Diagram.” I use it with 90% of my clients because it takes complex ideas (like emotions and inner healing) and makes them a bit more concrete.

This diagram basically designed itself as I was trying to communicate some core emotional health ideas to Cambodians in Khmer. It wasn’t that my clients were dumb, it was that I lacked enough language skill to accurately describe some things.

So I did what any former youth pastor would do, I started scribbling. And this is what I came up with:


I’ll walk you through the thing here in a minute. But if you’d rather watch an 11-minute video of me explaining The Shapes Diagram, click the video below.

OK, so here’s a rough walk-through…

Basically, we all have emotions, and most people end up seeing me because they’re having some emotions they don’t like. In other words, most people don’t come in happy (except the pre-marital clients, they do come in happy, and usually they leave happy too, but that’s not a given).

We start in the middle rectangle. For many, the rectangle (emotion) is anger or sadness or anxiety. Now, many pastors hear the story that led to the unwanted emotion and immediately start looking at what STEPS the person needs to take (or avoid) in order to get to the positive result (and avoid the negative one).

For example, someone might tell the really sad person, “Exercise, read your Bible more, pray!” They might continue, “Don’t drink when you’re sad, don’t do drugs, don’t watch Gilmore Girls. Those would be steps in the wrong direction and would lead to a negative result.”

Here’s the thing: that might all be good advice, and maybe people need to hear it, but pretty much every depressed person I’ve ever talked to already KNOWS those things. What I’ve come to believe (and experience with my clients) is that for the most part, all of that top part (the middle emotion box) and the steps and the results are all future-oriented things. That is, they force the client to ask, “What will I do now?” And that’s certainly a very valid question.

The thing is, that top half of the diagram (Emotions plus Steps plus Results), often balances precariously on the triangle that consists of emotional pain and lies from the past.

Often, past painful events in the client’s life have caused him or her to believe, deep down in their core, lies. Lies like “I’m worthless,” “I’m unlovable,” and “I’m broken beyond repair.”

It takes a lot of energy to keep everything steady on the tip of that triangle, but people try. And they try and they try. And they never deal with the emotional pain and the lies. We do them a tremendous disservice if all we do is give them Steps.

I want to ask the question, “What’s in the triangle? What’s the pain that this is all balancing on?” In practice, about half of my clients see this diagram and immediately say, “Oh, I know what’s in that triangle!” They then go on to list the traumatic event or the emotional trauma and the lies it planted. The other half typically says, “Well, I think this is probably true, but I’m not sure what’s in there.” That’s fine too, and so with their permission, we just continue the conversation.

If we can help a client to see what’s in the triangle and label it and maybe find the lies, then we can encourage them to invite Jesus into that specific place for healing. We can invite the Truth in and he can counter the lies and heal the emotional pain. The triangle can be erased, and it’s not nearly as mystical as it sounds. : )

Then, with the triangle gone, the client’s emotions are simply resting on the Truth (Jesus). The emotions are still there, because the client is still a human, but the whole thing is much more stable.

Now some people try to bypass the triangle and jump straight to the Truth. But that’s not as effective. In fact, it’s just terrible. You can’t skip the triangle and jump straight to Jesus. You want to meet Jesus in the triangle. And he wants to meet you (and your clients) there too.

If you jump over the triangle (the pain/lies) you also jump over the healing.

I ask people to imagine that someone’s drowning in the middle of the Mekong. What if I see them drowning and I ride my boat over to them and I give them five gallons of good, clean water. Do they need that water?

Well, sort of. I mean, people need clean water to drink. And the Mekong is filthy. But is it helpful to them? No. It’s also not very kind. When someone’s drowning, I don’t want to just throw clean water at them, I want to actually help them.

We do that to folks who are depressed or anxious or experiencing a lot of difficult emotions. We give them good clean “water” of Truth and throw a Bible verse at them and stuff. The verses are true and good, but the timing is way off. Help the person NOT drown. That’s what the Church has to get better at doing, not just throwing water bottles to drowning/depressed people and telling ourselves we were helpful.

One article that might prove an additional resource is something I wrote about the Psalms. You can find that article here: The Gaping Hole in the Modern Missions Movement.


Caveat: I’m all for medication if it’s necessary, and I would NEVER tell someone who’s depressed to stop their meds or go off their meds. I’m talking about a holistic approach here. So maybe someone’s on meds, fine, they should still be looking at what might be in the triangle.  Maybe there’s nothing, but maybe there’s something. Maybe it really is just a chemical imbalance that needs intervention. I believe that happens. But I also think exploring past painful events and asking around for deep-seated lies can expose someone to healing and greater self-awareness.


November, 2018 Addendum
Let’s talk about the difference between lie-based pain and fact-based pain (the stuff in the triangle), and why the distinction matters.

Here’s the new handout I’m using with clients…

healing from fact based vs lie based pain

Church Planting Movements and Inner Healing

For more discussion on this topic, check out Adding What’s Missing: Merging CPM Principles with Emotional Healing.

For more background, check out Foundational Ideas for Merging CPM Principles with Emotional Healing.

For an abridged list of Psalms that could be used in this type of ministry, check out this PDF.

Adding What’s Missing: Merging CPM Principles with Emotional Healing

Read part 1 here: Foundational Ideas for Merging CPM Principles with Emotional Healingplus

For the past six months or so, I’ve been feeling like there was something missing. I’ve had this inkling that it was the Psalms. So, beginning about six months ago, I began reading the Psalms in earnest. I began teaching on the Psalms. I began reading books and articles about the Psalms.

And I’ve come to believe that Cambodia desperately needs the Psalms. I believe the Psalms may in fact provide the bridge for Cambodian believers, helping them connect the Gospel to their heart.

Here are some reasons why I believe this:

1) Cambodians, in general, have a hard time identifying and allowing emotions. This is not a uniquely Cambodian problem, of course, but it is a Cambodian problem. The lifelong practice of denying difficult emotions and burying past hurts and pain KEEPS people wounded. It’s like denying the existence of a wound, or at most, accepting that there’s a wound but just covering it up and never dealing with it.

2) The Holy Spirit uses healed people to heal people. People who have come face to face with a Savior can help people be saved. People who have come face to face with a Healer can help people be healed. I believe that heart-level emotional healing is a major — and often overlooked — part of discipleship.

3) There is so much fear and anger here, and without a robust theology that addresses a biblically adequate response to pain and suffering, Cambodian believers are left to figure it out on their own. What we see happening, therefore, could be explained like this: when difficult or painful emotions surface in a Cambodian believer, his or her core beliefs and values take over. So that, even if a person has “believed” in Jesus for a long time, when hard stuff happens, he reverts to the “old ways” and well-worn cultural paths. The Psalms can begin to etch into the hearts of new believers new responses, new “paths.” The Psalms show the way.

4) For too long we have tried to speak information from our heads to theirs, through seminars, trainings (and trainings and trainings!), and yet we still often see emotional immaturity. It is not the young believers’ fault. Missionaries have done a pretty bad job of modeling anything other than information transfer. In addition to teaching the mind, Jesus also cared for bodies AND hearts.

5) The Psalms speak to core human needs and feelings without resorting to cliché. Often, we use clichés to smooth over human interaction, which can be helpful. However, we often use clichés as tools of avoidance. The Psalms teach us not to avoid uncomfortable feelings. They also teach us to pray even with (or because of) the uncomfortable emotions. They teach us what it means to feel things. Indeed, the range of emotions addressed and allowed in the Psalms is much wider than what we’d typically be comfortable with in our churches.

6) We’ve expected people to follow Christ and “be healed already.” I believe people can choose to follow Christ and be saved immediately, but often, the long work of transformation is just that – long work. It’s made even longer if we avoid speaking to the core of the new disciple; namely, his or her heart.


Moving Forward, a Few Questions:

Is it reproducible? I’m assuming here that we don’t want to rely on texts or booklets. The Navigators have produced and translated several booklets on inner healing that might be valuable. However, they require a high degree of literacy, as well as quite a bit of time and training. Perhaps these resources could be further developed and used in modular-type training that remains simple enough that a new believer could take the training and pretty quickly pass it on. In that situation, some printed material would probably be warranted. For now, however, I am assuming the absence of the printed word outside of the Scriptures.

Is it effective? It is very difficult for Cambodians to identify past emotions/emotional pain. Therefore, this whole process hinges on a gentle and reproducible way to help new believers identify their own emotions (past and present) and experience those emotions with Jesus present. To that end, one of the most important aspects of all of this is that the facilitator (or trainer) must not only teach, but model, what’s going on. Put another way, with this material, the trainer must speak from his or her heart. If that doesn’t happen, it will be highly unlikely that this model will yield fruit as hoped.


Overview of the Process

Psalm –> Emotion in the Psalm? –> Ever felt that emotion? –> When? –> Ask God to show you first time you felt that emotion –> Ask God if any lie/belief comes from that memory? –> God, what is the Truth?

May be able to simplify this process using body language, which should be easily memorable:

  1. Start with hands, representing reading or “holding” the story.
  2. Move from hands to heart, representing feeling the emotion of the story.
  3. From heart to head, representing the memories of prior experiences of that emotion.
  4. From head to God, representing a turning to God.
  5. From God back to head, representing God revealing lies that were believed.
  6. From head back to heart, representing God revealing Truth to our core.
  7. From heart back to hands, asking God who he wants us to share Truth with.

For a three-minute demonstration, check this out:

1. Psalm

State brief history of Psalms, “prayer book of the Bible,” quoted by Jesus, etc.

Perhaps choose one emotion to look at, but don’t tell disciples what it is. Let them identify the feelings after you’ve told the story and they’ve repeated it several times.


2. What emotions are present in the Psalm?

Note: this is by no means an exhaustive list, and there may in fact be more than one emotion present in the story/passage. Again, remember, the goal is not to “teach” the passage in the typical sense, but to allow the disciple to engage with the passage, feeling the emotions that are present. Some of these Psalms show the Psalmist’s response to the emotions, others just leave the strong feeling there, without showing a “correct” response. It’s therefore important that the facilitator NOT try to teach a correct response. Allow the disciple to engage with the passage and hear from God. Of course, if someone in the group begins to grossly misinterpret the passage or surfaces some major theological error, the leader should correct, but this will probably happen rarely.

Guilt: 32, 51,

Embarrassment: 44:9-16

Revenge/Enemies: 5:9-10, 7:1-9, 9:13-20, 10, 13, 23, 28, 31, 35:1-10, 40, 41:4-12, 44:9-   26, 55, 58, 59, 69, 70, 137

Grief: 6:6-7, 31:9-18, 38

Despair: 42:1-5, 77:1-3, 116

Abandonment/Betrayal: 13, 22:1-11, 41:4-9, 55:12-14

Anger: 5:8-11, 139:19-22, 69:19-28, 109:19-25

Fear: 55:4-8, 46:1-3

Anxiety: 38:17-22, 94:16-19, 139:23-24

Feel free to download this PDF of possible Psalms for use in this type of ministry.

Additionally, a story from the Gospels could be used, using as the focal point the emotions of the people in the story. For example, what did the lame man feel before Jesus? What did the woman at the well feel before Jesus? What did Jesus himself feel on the cross? In the same way, after identifying the emotions, proceed to point 3. The goal is to get the disciple to identify the emotions in the story and identify with that emotion. When people aren’t used to seeing emotions, they will begin to answer with facts. They will begin to tell the story accurately, but only factually. It may take some prodding at first, but once the pattern is established, the disciple should be able to quickly identify a possible emotion from the text.


3. Have I ever felt that emotion?

It’s a simple question, but powerful. Allow the disciples the time and the space to sit with the passage and their own hearts.

Have I ever been told NOT to feel this emotion? By whom? Why did they tell me that?

Am I afraid of feeling this emotion? Do I usually push away or bury this feeling? What might happen if I begin to feel those feelings?

If these questions generate deep fear in the disciple, it might be appropriate to pause and ask Jesus to provide safety. “Jesus, can you show me a safe place where I can go when I feel afraid like this?” Or, “Jesus, can you show me why I’m afraid to feel this emotion?”


4. When was a time that I felt that emotion?

You want the disciple to begin to feel the emotion and not just talk about it. If the disciple stays up in their head, it will be very hard for the process to continue. If they begin to tell a story but they’re only relaying facts, gently ask, “Thank you for sharing that story. What is the feeling behind those facts?” Or, “What did you feel when that happened?” Maybe reiterate that Jesus cares very much about our hearts, and our hearts are where we store our feelings.

Asking something like, “What did that little girl feel when that happened?” or “What did that little boy feel when that person did that?”

As part of this process, the facilitator may ask himself or herself, “What are the feelings behind what the disciple’s saying?” It’s rarely just about the facts. There are usually feelings and needs that are under the surface. If you can identify those and then ask a few key questions that shows the person you really see them, often, the person will begin to open up. That’s not the whole goal, of course. The point is to help them identify their own emotional pain and then take that to Jesus and let him heal it.

– Remember, anger can be a sign that something hurts. Anger may indicate sadness, and is usually a secondary emotion.

– Our emotions are like a bridge, leading us to the place of pain.

– Often, when we experience VERY STRONG emotions or pain, it’s not just coming from   whatever’s going on right now. The roots are probably deeper and from what happened in the past.


5. “God, would you show me the first time I felt this emotion?”

Often, our painful emotions cycle back again and again, and there is great benefit from seeing an early experience and letting God speak directly to that. It is not necessary to search and search for an early memory, however, giving God the space and freedom to connect us to a past experience can be very beneficial.


6. “God, were there any lies that I began to believe at that time?”

This is probably the simplest concept in any healing prayer ministry. That is, if I believe lies about myself, others, or God, the end result is pain. Satan, as the father of lies, knows this, and longs to keep us living in lies. His power over us is destroyed by Truth.


7. “God, what is the Truth that you want me to know about this memory/situation?”

There must be great reliance on the Holy Spirit at this point. The power of a person hearing from God, personally, is amazing, especially when the truth God reveals deals directly with long-believed lies.

Often, simply inviting Jesus into the memory can be very healing. After inviting Jesus to be present in the memory, you may ask, “What do you see Jesus doing or saying?” Ask Jesus to bring truth in whatever way he wants. When He does, and I’ve seen this many, many times, it is amazing.

There is a danger that the other disciples in the group will immediately begin to “problem solve” and tell the person what THEY think God is saying. There may be a time for teaching later, but during this process, advice-giving should be limited or completely absent.

That being said, the small group could be ideal, allowing each individual to process past pain out loud and hopefully to feel loved and cared for by God’s people.

This must always be aligned with what we know of God through the Scriptures. However, God may reveal a picture or a phrase to the disciple that is not directly from the Bible, but that aligns with solid Biblical principles.

To conclude, encourage the disciples to remember whatever it is God has shown them. Is there anything they can do that would help them remember the Truth God revealed? Help them realize the importance of remembering and meditating on the Words of God.



Psalm –> Emotion in the Psalm? –> Ever felt that emotion? –> When? –> Ask God to show you first time you felt that emotion –> Ask God if any lie/belief comes from that memory? –> God, what is the Truth?

May be able to simplify this process using body language:

  1. Start with hands, representing reading or “holding” the story.
  2. Move from hands to heart, representing feeling the emotion of the story.
  3. From heart to head, representing the memories of prior experiences of that emotion.
  4. From head to God, representing a turning to God.
  5. From God back to head, representing God revealing lies that were believed.
  6. From head back to heart, representing God revealing Truth to our core.
  7. From heart back to hands, asking God who he wants us to share Truth with.



For a pdf of this article: Adding Whats Missing.Merging CPM Principles with Emotional Healing

For a pdf of part 1: Foundational Ideas for Merging CPM Principles with Emotional Healing

For a wonderful description of the importance and necessity of the Psalms in the life of the Church.


Amazon Links:

Psalms: the Prayer Book of the Bible, Bonhoeffer

The Case for the Psalms: Why They are Essential, NT Wright

Foundational Ideas for Merging CPM Principles with Emotional Healing

This document was developed for CPM (church planting movement) practitioners in Cambodia. It is my great hope that this article, when combined with Adding What’s Missing, will encourage and enable practitioners in Cambodia and beyond to care about the hearts of people in a new and whole way. It is a work in progress, of course, and I am acutely aware of my limited cultural knowledge and expertise, along with my general inexperience in the realm of church planting. However, these articles are not written from my head, lacking outside input. They form the synthesis of countless meetings, counseling sessions, observations, discussions, and prayers, both here in Cambodia and abroad. As a work in progress, any suggested edits/additions are more than welcome.

May the Bride of Christ in Cambodia grow explosively and mature deeply, in every single village.


You can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. — Peter Scazzero

Emotional damage from our past affects how we view ourselves, how we respond to others, how we treat others, how we respond to others who touch our pain, and how we view God. It is important that we resolve the emotional areas of pain so that our present relationships will not be negatively affected. Unresolved emotional damage causes us to build walls to protect our heart from further hurt. We do not allow others to get too close lest they hurt us like we have been damaged in the past. Neither can we give love if we have been too emotionally damaged. — John Regier

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” — Matthew 22:36-40


Jesus spoke to the core of people, to their hearts. He connected with the hearts of his audience, and that was relieving for some and threatening for others. He cared about actions, of course, but primarily because actions spring from the heart.

The heart is where we store our pain. We’re also told to love God with our whole hearts, and people too. The trouble is, in order to love God (or people) from our hearts, we have to spend some time down in our own hearts, and that can be scary, especially if we’ve buried and stored a lot of pain down in there.

Our hearts are where we store our pain AND it’s where we experience joy and the deepest form of healing. Jesus doesn’t want us to paint a thin veneer over our hearts, saying “It’s all in the past and I’m pressing on now!” In reality, that’s often just fake, and it’s a way to NOT deal with our deep pain. Like a wound, if you just cover it up with a bandage and say it’s all better, you might feel better for a bit, and others might think you’re fine, but the wound is still there. And it will probably get worse. It needs to be gently exposed and treated.

The great news is that Jesus is the great Healer. He can take care of our pain, our past hurts. He can handle it all, and in fact he wants to. He doesn’t want us living with bitterness and fear and anger and pain.


Practically Speaking

Keep in mind, always, that the most important thing required to help someone connect with their own heart is that YOU are connected to YOURS.

Even if people don’t have the words to describe it, they know if you’re just talking from your head. They know if it’s just your mind conveying information. And they can tell when it shifts and you’re speaking from your heart.

Before teaching these ideas, it would probably be a good idea for you to pause and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Is it important? What if this impacted this disciple? And then their children? Their community and nation? How would Jesus feel about the disciple sitting in front of me? What would his vision be for their life? Would Jesus want to see them connecting to the heart of the Father, experiencing the comfort of the Spirit, and feeling the presence of the Son?”

These questions should help you connect with your own heart. This is not just about teaching content – this is about watching Jesus heal people through the love of the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Jesus.

These ideas are all somewhat esoteric. Here are some visual aids to help convey these truths. These are designed to set the stage for Adding What’s Missing, and I believe they could be taught to Cambodians who could then teach them to others, and so on.



The bubbles represent our feelings/emotions. When they reach the surface and pop, we see them as actions. Sometimes, what we see is an angry outburst or a lustful act, or simple crying. We often try to stop the bubbles from surfacing, either because we don’t want others to know, or maybe because our actions when the bubbles pop are wrong. However, just trying to catch them before they get to the surface doesn’t work very well. We need to ask, Where are they coming from?

What causes me to get angry like this?

What causes me to want to sin like this?

What makes me sad and cry like this?

A big goal here is to be brave enough to trace the actions we see (bursting bubbles on the surface) to the feelings/emotions that cause them (the bubbles) to the box (historical event or pain) that produces them.

Of course, it might be as simple as the person’s sin nature. However, I believe that the general brokenness of our world, plus the specific pain (abuse, neglect, etc.) experienced, exacerbates the effects of our sin nature. For example, looking at porn is wrong and stems from a basic lust of the flesh. However, there are emotional and historical components that can’t be ignored. Jesus didn’t just tell people to “stop sinning.” He cared about their stories too. He cared about their hearts.



Even if you can’t see a mine, it can still hurt you. Even if it’s been buried and out of sight a long time, it can still injure you and others. God wants to “de-mine” our hearts, healing us, and making that land usable again.

What happens to land that has mines? It’s dangerous. You’re afraid to go there. Other people are afraid to go there. What can the land be used for? What happens when the mines have been removed? It’s good for farming or planting or building a house. It’s good for so much! What would a landowner feel like after being told that his land has been completely cleared of mines? Would his behavior change?

So, what can be done? First, you have to recognize that there is danger there. Are there things you don’t want to talk about because it hurts too much? Are there emotions or feelings that you often begin to feel and then force yourself to stop feeling? Why? Is it because of fear? If so, that’s very normal and understandable. Jesus wants to give you a safe place to go when you are afraid. And he wants to heal the hurting places.

Have you ever heard someone say, “We don’t talk about what’s in the past”? Why do you think they said that? Maybe they were afraid of the pain. Maybe they didn’t want you to talk about it because that would be like stepping on a mine. So, we don’t ever want to force anyone to talk about something they don’t want to talk about. If a person is not ready, if they do not feel safe even with Jesus, that is their decision. It is wrong to try to force a person to remember something that is painful. If they don’t want to talk about it, that is their decision.

Even so, we can teach that when we bury our pain, it’s like we’re burying landmines. We might not be able to see it anymore, but years from now, it could still hurt us or someone we love.

Jesus wants to bring safety. He wants to locate the mines and remove them so we can live free from fear, with hope and a future. If a person does not feel safe enough to “go there,” it might be good to step back and do some teaching on the heart and character and presence of Jesus. His presence is healing, and understanding how he cares about our fear and pain can be transformational.


More Resources:

Read part two: Adding What’s Missing: Merging CPM Principles with Emotional Healing.

For a pdf of this document: Foundational Ideas for Merging CPM Principles with Emotional Healing.

For general resources on emotional health.

For a wonderful description of the importance and necessity of the Psalms in the life of the Church.