Thursday, June 28, 2007

Don't Worry, Be Happy!

After writing the last post I went and read my Bible to get myself back in orbit.
I had been reading in the book of Matthew because I wanted to reacquaint myself with Jesus words and actions.

I left off in Matthew 9 so I finished chapter 9 and read on through chapter 10. It was all very interesting but I had to laugh out loud when I came to verse 24 where Jesus explained, "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!" Jesus said this in reference to the Pharisees (religious folk) who had said, "It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons." (Matt. 9:34) These were the same folks who accused Jesus of being a drunkard and a glutton because of who He hung out with. (Matt. 11:19)
We are on the right track since we are receiving these same unfounded accusations and that makes me laugh. Laughter is good.
Life is short and we have not too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark way with us. Oh be swift to love! Make haste to be kind!
-Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Keepin' It Real

First of all, thanks to Sean who created my vastly improved Blog Header! Now I have to write stuff as interesting as my Blog marquee.

Secondly, I hope that you are listening to Herva (see right) while you are reading the posts for your well-rounded blog-perusing experience and listening pleasure.

Awhile back I had written a post about bumper stickers and how dumb some of them are. (I deleted the post) During this rant I suggested that a sticker be created that says:
Religion is not a crutch - it's a lobotomy.

In the interest of keepin' it real, a recent response to one of our church fliers was that it "looked like it could be demonic". (We had a picture of a guy with an arm coming out of his head under the caption, "Nobody's Perfect".) This "demonic thing" was the judgment call of an unknown church-goer who was strongly discouraging a person from attending our come-get-to-know-us BBQ. The person came to our BBQ anyway which is how we know all of this.

Here's how lobotomy comes in: no one wrote, no one called to bother to speak with us in person and see what our purposes are (apparently sacrificing chickens in the moonlight?!). I am resting my case on my bumper sticker theology. It doesn't surprise me that people have these default settings they think are working so they don't bother changing them. "I am uncomfortable with this, therefore I deem that it is eviil." Simple. Neatly wrapped, tied, and thrown into the rubbish bin nevermore to be dealt with.

Here's what is real in all of this: this is how genocide begins. Yep, that's extreme. Give pause though, and think about it. Once we write someone off as being evil, worthless, wrong, or subhuman we begin treating them with less respect and dignity. I wonder where the concept of honoring others comes from? Let me think - was it Jesus? The "golden rule" perhaps?
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12

What would I want, ideally? I would want someone to call me and ask me where I stand. I would want the other person to give me a chance; I would want him to withhold judgment until he had met me in person. Even after meeting me, I would want that she, or he, would extend grace and seek peace. Even if we didn't agree on all of the particulars, I would want that we still be honoring to one another; not contemptuous. I would want us to be straightforward with one another. Those are just a few of the things I would love to see brought into reality.

Ironically, an acquaintance who runs a local coffee shop heard about the "demonic" comment and said, "That is such a disservice to you!" This kind fellow does not make any claim to follow Christ but he gets it. Makes ya wonder.

What good is a default if we've chosen the wrong settings?
"Believers may not often realize it, but even as believers we are either centered on God or centered on man.
There is no alternative. Either God has become the center of our universe and we have become rightly adjusted to Him, or we have made ourselves the center, and are attempting to make everything else orbit around us and for us." -Paul Fromke
Gotta go change some of my own default settings; my recent orbit trail suggests that I think that I am the sun, rather than earth. Not working so well, Master of the Universe. Please forgive me.

Tweaking my settings:
  • God
  • Love
  • Grace
  • Honor
  • Peace
  • Joy

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut...

I've been busy coming up with all these new "mantras" to replace the 8-track of garbled 70's music that is psychedelically ruining my life, particularly because I do not trip on acid whilst listening to these horrific tunes that fry my brain.

I admit that it all feels so Tony Robbins but I know that feeling like the ultimate cheese ball is only a phase. Next thing you know I will be Robert Schuller and then, Norman Vincent Peale.
You are so gonna love being around me then. Not only will I be loving my life but I will also throw in a set of Ginsu knives and a free inspirational booklet.
If I can get to the level of Billy Graham (and I mean that respectfully) then I will have faked it 'till I maked it.

Oops, there I go again with the ridiculous burden of expectation.

Billy, please forgive me. You are you - and a wonderful you you are. I am me, and a stadium-filling evangelist I am not called to be. A nut ball writing real blog posts is more my speed. Oh, I am not like all the other nut balls who roll through here. I am a bona fide original.

No sir, I am not whatever type of nut someone else prefers. You want me to be a peanut? A walnut? A pecan? An almond? Well, too bad. I'm a coconut. You don't like it? So I'll fall out of a tree onto your head. Hey, you shook the tree hoping for a different kind of nut, not me. Peanuts don't grow on palm trees, you know! You figure out what kind of nut you are and then you'll know what kind of recipes to make. It's revolutionary! For me it's macaroons, coconut cake, aromatic Thai curries, coconut battered shrimp - see, if you're a peanut then you are making different recipes.

Once a coconut, always a coconut that's what I always say.

Inspirational booklet, anyone?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bat Girl Checks In... To the Loony Bin

What do you think about bats? We went to the Portland Zoo and they had a sizable bat habitat. I happen to like bats because they remind me of P.N.G. where I used to live. When we lived out in our village there, these bats would fly overhead every evening during twilight. I always wondered where they had been all day and where they were going every night. I vowed that I would follow them someday and find their mysterious bat cave but I never did and still wonder about them.
I heard that bats were some good eatin' too...

I suppose this feeling of being "batty" has been a part of my life for longer than I'd like to admit. I think that there are times when everyone feels out of control amidst this thing called life. My four year old has actually picked up my phrase, "You're making me crazy!" I regret that she missed the sarcasm because I do not actually believe that anyone can make me do anything let alone go crazy.
(unless they are holding a loaded weapon) The other day I tried to pin my looniness on my children and then I stopped and said, "I am a total idiot if I am going to hand my remote control over to you!" Yes, it was another stellar parenting moment, I admit. If I had a dollar for every one of these moments... I'd have at least six or seven hundred dollars by now.

Thus I have added several new phrases to my mantra list:

I can handle this!
I am calm!
This isn't that big of a deal!

So far it's helping. That and prayer: "Help! I'm losing it here!"

I read a verse from the book of Proverbs the other night: "Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains." (Prov. 14:13 NLT)
That may not seem so encouraging but the reality of it was encouraging to me. See, God gets this. He really does get it. He gets that we can laugh and still be sad. It's not all either/or to Him. He gets that there are layers to our lives. He gets that some days are better than others. He's the only one who knows what is causing this depression in it's totality because He knows all of the contributing factors, right down to my DNA and very molecules. He also gets how hard it is for we humans to be in control of ourselves - which is why He offered to help us out with that.

When our four-year-old asked where were going one day I said that we were going to the "Loony Bin". I described to her how there are people who wear white coats there walking around with big butterfly nets. I also mentioned that sometimes you get to wear special jackets. (It sounds like a fun place, right? A place where you don't have to be in control of yourself because, ultimately someone else will do it for you with the nets and special jackets)
As it turned out we were only running boring old errands and going to a coffee shop so we hear this wailing from the back seat, "Where's the Loony?
I wanted to go to the Looooony!"

Me too sweetheart.
Me too.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

That's My Story...

One of my best friends from high school started a My Space called Free from Ed – as in free from an Eating Disorder. She has struggled with it for nearly 18 years and is on the long hard road to recovery.

The thing is, she is not free from Ed in the truest sense but she is claiming that statement for herself in order to keep encouraged.

I took my girls out for a walk today along the river and it was absolutely gorgeous out. Was I enjoying myself? No. I was on the verge of tears and feeling once again like I was being pinned underwater by a giant boulder and there was no way to get out from under it. That is life with depression: drowning with land in sight.

Maybe it was in my subconscious due to my thoughts about my friend but as I watched my kids playing in the park I thought, “I can’t take this anymore. It’s killing me. What if I just kept telling myself that I am loving my life right now? Even if it sounds like a blatant lie right now, but what if I keep telling myself that anyway? Is it possible to create a new version of reality?”

At this point, what does it matter? I am on the verge of self-annihilation. Every day, week, month, that this goes on I am losing myself and not in a good way; I cry for no reason, I am tired and filled with melancholy and pain, and I dread each new day, feeling that I cannot cope with the day’s demands. What is the point of going on? It totally sucks.

So I started saying it: I am loving my life right now. I am so loving my life. Look at these great kids; they are so sweet. They are amazing! Look at where I live. It is so beautiful here. Look at all that God has given me. Look at the ways that He has provided for us.” I kept saying these things over and over like a mantra. I repeated verses from the Bible that came to my mind.

Was I miraculously cured? Nope - but I agree with Albert Einstein when he said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is causing me insanity to keep doing the same things. If I can create a new internal reality I might as well try because there’s no point going on otherwise. I’m not going get all spiritual about this because I already know what steps to take in that direction. Steps in any direction away from the one I’m going in would be a relief. I have no doubt that part of this thing is chemical imbalance because there is no rhyme or reason half the time, just fatigue and crying and heart-pain. I don’t have enough bad experiences in my entire life to cause a problem like this. There are no freaky-deaky skeletons in the closet or people that I hate and want revenge on so that a desire for revenge is eating me alive. I have suffered no losses save those that were to be expected. I said a lot of long, hard good-byes to friends from high school (overseas) – friends who were family to me and who I had an intense sense of belonging with and deep community that I have never had since, save with a very few. For many of those friends, I knew that I would never see them again. That was hard. Good byes are hard. Is it possible that I have unresolved grief? Sure. But who doesn’t? There just isn’t anything there that I can come up with to explain this idiotic soul-sickness. Thyroid problems? Genetics? Loneliness? Who knows?

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) He is close; He is not glaring at me from across the room telling me to get over it already. He gets that I am hurting and that my pain is real. He saves; He doesn’t try to run me down for my flawed thinking or condemn me for being such an idiot. He wants to save my life and make it beautiful. Listen to this: “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) He delights in me? He rejoices over me with singing? Who does that? Do I know anyone who has ever said that they delight in me? Sean, maybe, but no one else has said that I can think of. It’s the image of a mother soothing a child, rocking and singing, full of strength and calm to weather life’s storms.

So I say:

I am free from Depression.

I am loving my life right now.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

I was reading the words of a friend today:
The other thing that has snuck up on me is how badly I want to find a church that I "fit". A place where all else fades and all I am there for is to worship. There's not the fashion contest, or the who can talk more spiritual contest...or even the worst, talk about where the church has gone wrong contest...I'm so sick of it all. I don't trust peoples actual words, it takes years for me to believe in someone, that what is coming out of their mouths is really how they live...but at first meet, I am SO skeptical it's ridiculous really.

There were other words, of course but I was struck by the hurt in those words. Most of us relate to this I think, and we reject those same things. In this world of advertising and hype we get so sick of feeling like we are being used by the media or the church or politicians or even by our friends and families. One pastor I know said that he and his wife had made some friends outside of church who didn't know that he was a pastor and he said that it was great to be in a relationship where you didn't feel like either they wanted something from you or you wanted something from them. I totally related to that.

Doesn't anybody love me for me? Isn't that what we are asking?

I got in touch with an old friend recently and we've been emailing back and forth, trying to catch up. The thing that has surprised me the most is how much I love this person for who he is and how deeply loyal that I am even having not seen him for nearly 17 years. I have this little band of friends from those days and I feel the same way about them: deeply passionately loyal. I think that this is how God views us. He is deeply passionately loyal.

That doesn't mean we don't get on each other's nerves at times. But that kind of love goes so far beyond that stuff.
So I say to my friend:
I love you for who you are.
I love your you-ness.
And I am deeply passionately loyal to you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

New World Order

I've been reading about five different books simultaneously and finally finished Lifesigns by Henri Nouwen. Near the end of the book he quoted Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche who said of teens in the 80's (Gen Xers!), "They feel powerless in the face of the enormous powers that rule the world. Twenty years ago young people believed they could do everything, and now they are convinced that it is impossible to do anything" Nouwen was addressing the problem of fear and how it keeps us from being fruitful, intimate and ecstatic in a spiritual sense. As a Gen-Xer I can relate to that statement. When I was becoming of age as an adult a whole slew of problems seemed dumped upon us: saving the whales, the hole in the ozone layer, the massive debt of our government, air and water pollution, species facing extinction, overflowing land-fills.... the list goes on an on with new problems being added daily: the AIDS crisis, cultural genocide, the "War on Terror", global warming, waning natural resources...
What are we supposed to do as individuals? I can't possibly fix all of those things or even a few of them. I am all for being part of solving these tough issues. However, it seems illogical to allow them to be my life's purpose; there must be some higher purpose in this life. For, in the end - no matter how great our efforts - we cannot control the actions of others; nor can we control the weather. Thus our efforts can only take us so far.

Earlier in the book Nouwen shares some profound insight regarding activism. He says, "All Christian action - whether it is visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or working for a more just and peaceful society - is a manifestation of the human solidarity revealed to us in the house of God. It is not an anxious human effort to create a better world. It is a confident expression of the truth that in Christ, death, evil, and destruction have been overcome. It is not a fearful attempt to restore broken order. It is a joyful assertion that in Christ all order has already been restored. It is not a nervous attempt to bring divided people together, but a celebration of an already established unity. Thus action is not activism. An activist wants to heal, restore, redeem, and re-create, but those acting within the house of God point through their action to the healing, restoring, redeeming, and re-creating presence of God."

I am to be a vessel.
I am to allow God and His love to flow through me; this is my choice, however. God won't force me to do anything. If I would rather spend my days being paralyzed by fear then God will allow me to do that. I know that this kind of order exists when I see the ways in which God works and heals through His love and grace. I don't fully know how, even though I keep asking and yearning to understand more of God and His order.
When I reject taking part in God's order, I am an anxious, selfish, petty, prideful fool.
When I do take part in His order, I am the person that I was created to be.
I may be powerless but He is not and His power is at work within me.
I so needed the peace and hope of that reminder.

Sometimes I must consciously seek to jump into God's existing order. I pray, along with angels who are presently in chorus:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is,and is to come;

Holy, holy,holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come;

Holy, holy,holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come
That is but one layer of the pattern but it is a place where I can jump in and take part.