I’m avoiding writing about politics. I’m trying to limit my intake of the news, too, because there’s really no use in “staying informed” if it makes you sick and paralyzed with anxiety. I’m also just tired of the constant shock and awe. Maybe people keep being surprised because the media reported 45 as a serial liar and they’re learning that he intends to keep every one of his planet-ruining, livelihood-decimating campaign promises. Or maybe it’s because we were all taught in school that corruption in government is always “there” (Africa, Asia, Russia), that it could never be here. 45 always acts in character, though, and the never-ending “did you see what he did NOW?!” is exhausting and, quite frankly, naive.
My last post was angry and sad complaining against the Church. Not a day later did a staff member of the church I’m attending inform me of their holiday tradition of giving to those in their congregation who could use a little extra help. It’s doubtful she saw my post. The point is that I feel bad about complaining, not because my problems are magically fixed and not because, in this particular case, it was premature to assume that the church I go to doesn’t look out for its own, but because I just don’t want to be that kind of person. So what follows is not done in the spirit of criticism, but hopefully in the spirit of hope and encouragement.
To wrap up my “phrases” series, which I began back in April thinking it would only last a few weeks, I’m going to end with one I’m ambivalent about. We each only get one life and each day is the only one of its kind. Too often, we take for granted that we’ll have time to carry out the plans and dreams we talk of “someday” doing; if our days are repetitive (as most modern/postmodern ones are), we can lose track of how fast they’re flying by us, we can forget to treasure each one as if it’s our last because some day, it will be (has it already been a month since Robin Williams died?). Carpe diem! say the dreamers (and John Keating). Seize the day while you have a chance because you never know when you won’t get another. A moment of silence for those lost 13 years ago on 9/11 in New York.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:1-4). Here was one passionate and eccentric man. His clothing was camel’s hair, which makes my skin itch just to think about, and his food was locusts and wild honey – so, sweetened bugs. Most scholars agree that John baptized Jesus and was related to Him in some way through their mothers, Elizabeth and Mary. He was beheaded by King Herod at the demand of Herod’s wife, who hated John, presumably for publicly criticizing her…but we all know how the powers that be handle prophets. I picture him roaming through the wild, whether desert or forest, calling out so that anyone within earshot could hear. He may have been unusual but he was sincere. His purpose was to prepare the way of the Lord. Continue reading “Prepare the Way of the Lord”
It’s a sweet-sounding tribute to altruism, a tip of the hat to selflessness, a declaration of an other-centered life: it is better to give than to receive. It seems almost too obvious to state that the opposite – it is better to receive than to give – is surely false; beyond that, the clarification that “giving is receiving” almost always attends this well-intentioned phrase. And, of course, it does come straight from Scripture: Acts 20:35 quotes Jesus as saying the phrase. But it, too, is another one of those dangerous half-true lies and it’s not because no Gospel writer records Jesus saying, “It is better to give than to receive.” Continue reading “It is Better to Give Than to Receive”
I’m not skipping the first half of the verse (Romans 12:15) – “rejoice with those who rejoice” – because I think it’s unimportant to do so. Rejoicing with those who rejoice is just as vital to healthy relationships as weeping with those who weep; I just think that, because of our cultural fear of sadness, it’s easier to be with happy people (and be happy with them) than it is to stick around sad people, much less be sad with them. It’s not that rejoicing with those who rejoice has no challenges: jealousy is but one of the barriers to truly being happy for and with one another. But, in the recent uptick of posts by mental health organizations on social media these past few weeks, it’s become clear to me that there is a staggering number of people who are weeping alone. Continue reading “Weep With Those Who Weep”
If there’s one (new) thing I’ve gathered from the roiling discussion of Robin Williams’ death the week after the news broke, it’s that we are either misunderstanding or misusing this idea of “making it big.” In the first place, in the days following his death, the news “made it big.” Then, as if it was just another event in the world, things quieted down just as quickly: Robin Williams’ suicide was no longer newsworthy (and the implication? Neither is mental health.). This is not okay, which is why I’m writing about it yet again. One question that has come up far too many times is some version of, “What did Robin Williams have to be depressed about? He had everything, he had made it so big!” It’s not just celebrities who get this kind of questioning; it’s all too common for those with mental illness. But, as one blogger so eloquently said, “If he had died of cancer, would you ask what he had had to be cancerous about?” Mental illness and cancer are in the same meta-category: the “real diseases” one. These kinds of diseases do not pick and choose their victims. Steve Jobs died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 56; no one said, “But he was so [fill in the blank]! He had so much going for him! He really made it big.” Continue reading “Making it Big”
I’m probably not alone when I say that responsibility to and for others makes me squirm. It may have something to do with growing up in an unapologetically individualistic society, where everyone is supposed to be able to do everything for and take care of only themselves, where our main connections to others are about competition rather than compassion and cooperation and where major accomplishments are generally attributed to one person without more than a mere mention of their “pit crew” or support system. I suspect that it goes further back than American culture, too: God asks Cain, the first murderer, where the one he killed is. Cain retorts, basically, that he shouldn’t be responsible for his brother (Genesis 4:9). Now, this is a bit outrageous, of course: in the first place, the Lord knows exactly what happened, as the Lord proceeds to inform Cain (“your brother’s blood cries out to be from the ground,” Genesis 4:10) but in the second place, Cain murdered his brother. The Lord is putting the responsibility for his brother exactly where it needs to be: on Cain. Continue reading “My Brother’s Keeper”
Just in case anyone’s wondering, I’m not going to be doing any personal exposes on my own experience with depression (beyond saying this article is so very yes in hopes of encouraging understanding) as it seems to be all the rage to do these days. At least not just yet. I have beloved friends posting stories on social media, blog sites uploading narratives and Youtube clips of people sharing their journeys through the dark. I deeply respect my friends for being open – we can’t fight the stigma in the silence and stories can help remedy the secrecy, shame and fear associated with mental illness. I have been comforted by the personal stories of people I don’t know as well who’ve made it through hell – multiple times, even – and now have a little light to share around as they build resources for others. And, no, in my opinion, this is not treating Robin Williams or his death as a means to an end as some rightfully warn against doing. Not that mental anguish is the only factor here, but if Mr. Williams really was the kind, caring, big-hearted man many are saying he was, wouldn’t it honor him that we are trying to come together and do something constructive with our shock and sadness in the wake of his loss? Continue reading “Reaching Out”/”You Are Not Alone”
We’ve all heard – and maybe even expressed – the sentiment that it’s the small things that count. Sure, a romantic trip to Rome for an anniversary with surprise clues the weeks leading up to it really makes a woman feel loved (one of my friends actually did this for his wife in the recent past). But it’s the “just because” small things, the roses by the stairs, if you will, that can be more effective at getting the message deep down that you love and care for someone. So it makes sense that “start small” is perhaps the most common advice given to anyone who faces anything big. If small things can sometimes matter more than big things precisely because they’re small, then “starting small” might be more effective at accomplishing big things than starting big. Continue reading “Start Small”