Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Isn't it something?

Over the past few days the world has been exposed to a surprising reality; the church is also seeing it's reality shift. No longer can we hide behind the idea that because we are Believers, because we are Christians, we can't and don't suffer from such strangling mental illnesses like depression. I believe the world sees us and thinks we "have it all together" that we're "perfect" or perhaps even immune to the darkness they may feel. And we are perceived this way because we continue to put some of those images forward for all to see. We don't talk about the struggles we face, the depression we feel, the hopelessness that can consume our days. Yes, we have a hope that is greater. A hope of a life that will no longer be subject to the darkness and depression, to the hurt and fear of this world. But that is a future life, a life beyond this one. It is something to look forward to.

What about right now? Mental illness is not something that only affects those who don't believe in Jesus, it affects us all. Whether you've been a Christian since you were 5 years old, or have only recently come to know him at 80, no one is exempt. The problem is, no one wants to talk about such things. There is such a stigma associated with mental illness, even one as "minor" as depression (Trust me, depression is no minor illness, but I believe most people would describe it as such in comparison to illnesses like Schizophrenia. All are serious, none are minor.) that no one wants to admit they struggle with it. It has been my experience that this is even more true within the Christian church. It is thought that if we have enough faith and trust in God we wouldn't be struggling like we do. Or at least we shouldn't be. I've even heard pastors belittle and degrade psychology from the pulpit. Granted, by itself, psychology can only benefit so much. But I think that's the wrong attitude and approach to someone in need; and yet that approach has so permeated the church that instead of seeking help from those who should love them most, people hide, often not seeking any help at all. It becomes an embarrassment, a shame that they must live with along with the illness. Now, I don't think everyone needs to know all of our business, but there should be someone or even a group of someones who can share in our burdens. Who can walk with us through the struggles, providing counsel, prayer, and support. Someone who can assure us that we are not loved less by God or others simply because we are trying to cope with an illness. Ann Voskamp likens depression to cancer, they're both illnesses, and both deadly. Why is it we're so ready as a church to cry out for healing, while still encouraging the seeking of necessary medical care, for one but not the other?

In the wake of the death of a beloved son, brother, friend, and believer, I have seen more Christians stepping forward and speaking out about their own struggles. The international awareness of this loss has brought a once hidden truth to light. The world is now becoming more awakened to the reality that even Christians suffer, and not just in persecution form. I believe the church is being called to be more, to be the Church, more so than ever. There are churches who are already acting as the Church, who provide the support and care for those struggling with more than just physical illnesses. Pray that others will follow. We're all being called to put aside the stigmas. To lay down our preconceived notions of what it means for a Christian to have a mental illness. To be the Body.

Let's be a light to the world following after the Light of the World, exposing the darkness, dispelling the shame, and bringing truth to a world very much in need.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Trust, Pray, Obey

It's been over a year since my last blog post. I have kept many things to myself, and that which I've chosen to share, I've done so on Facebook or in person. Many things have changed, and yet the important remains the same. I have a new apartment but no roommate. I have a new car, which has granted me more freedom in a place with limited public transportation. I have gone back and forth between jobs, but am now firmly planted at Starbucks (for the time being), while I get all the necessary application bits together for my counseling license. I have committed myself to a church that is doing many great works, continually growing, and clearly God led. I've connected to a small group, trying to find my place socially in a new area.

It's still hard to believe that it's been over a year since I made the trek to Texas. I remember it like it was yesterday. I still miss those whom I was closest to in Seattle, and at times have to remind myself I can't just call them up to come over. I can call them, but the connection and conversation will have to remain limited to the telephone.

The one constant through it all has been God. For He is never changing and ever steadfast. I still don't know for what purpose I have been called here, apart from the lessons I've learned in being obedient. The obedience lesson continues even now, only in different areas of my life than my physical location. One thing has been made clear. This time of living on my own in a "foreign land" is meant for my benefit and growth, to be a time of solitude and quiet. And so I continue, striving to know Him more, and remaining available to Him and what He would ask of me. Trusting, praying, and obeying.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Going Without Knowing

Today's reading from My Utmost For His Highest struck a chord. A truth chord, if you will. Now, I've been ready through My Utmost on a daily basis for the past 5 years, at least. It was a gift from my Aunt Rita on my 21st birthday. Often, as I read Chambers' words, I will pray that what has been written will be made true in my own life. But there are those occasional days when I think he's speaking specifically of my life. God has used this book to speak truth and bring healing to me an a number of occasions over the past 5 years. I can mark those events by the pages in My Utmost. Today's excerpt was one of those times.

In my previous post I shared my thoughts on having moved to Dallas recently. How I don't feel so brave, but am willing to accept some notion of courage in making such a transition. That post is the backdrop for Chambers' words that so struck home this morning.

Will you go out without knowing?

"He went out, not knowing where he was going" (Hebrews 11:8)

Have you ever "gone out" in this way? If so, there is no logical answer possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the most difficult questions to answer in Christian work is, "What do you expect to do?" You don't know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually examine your attitude toward God to see if you are willing to "go out" in every area of your life, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in constant wonder, because you don't know what God is going to do next. Each morning as you wake, there is a new opportunity to "go out," building your confidence in God. " not worry about your life...nor about the body..." (Luke 12:22). In other words, don't worry about the things that concerned you before you did "go out."

Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do -- He reveals to you who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you "go out" in complete surrender to Him until you are not surprised one iota by anything He does?

Believe God is always the God you know him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to "go out" in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to "go out" through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God.

I have gone out without knowing where I was going. Sure, I knew the name of the place and it's location on a map, but I went not knowing the area, not knowing the people, and not knowing what was waiting for me. I'm still going out, not knowing. And I still can't answer the question, "What are you going to do?" My response sounds silly, and sometimes naive, because all I can say is, "I don't know."

I ask God nearly every day what He's going to do. I also ask Him what it is that He wants me to do. He wants me to know Him. He wants me to surrender to Him. He wants me to trust Him, not just in Him. That's as much as I know, and for me, that's enough. Not to say they are easy tasks, because they're not. There is still plenty between me and God...plenty of me between me and God. But that is changing the more I "go out."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Beginnings

"And yet I know artists who medium is life itself, and to express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel, or guitar. They neither paint nor dance. Their medium is Being. Whatever their hand touches has increased life. They see and don't have to draw. They are the artists of being alive." ~Frederick Frank

I've been told I'm brave for making such a huge change, for going where I basically don't know anyone, but I don't feel brave. In fact, despite the knowledge and confidence that this is where God has called me to be; despite the reality that He has guided my every step and opened doors I could not, I sit in wonder. I question the purpose, His purpose. I have learned from experience that it is easier to obey and trust than it is to try to do what He asks on my own terms. But it is also hard to let go of other elements of those experiences. To let go of disappointments and, ultimately, fear. It is a challenge to not give in to fear. These fears are irrational, given God's evidences of them being unfounded. He has yet to let me down. The disappointments I speak of are my own let downs, the failing of my expectations not of God's plans or purposes.

For some picking up and moving half-way across the country, to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, where they truly know no one, with no notion of what is waiting for them, would be paralyzing. Shoot, the Israelites had to wait 80 years before entering the Promise Land, a place which God Himself told them to possess, because of their fear. Well, I don't know if I'd consider it brave, but I'll take courageous.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear." ~Ambrose Redmoon

God's call and direction, His glory are definitely more important than fear. So there are a lot of unknowns, so what? It only took God three days to put everything in place for me to get here. Clearly He has a plan, and His timing is perfect....always.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


To the woman who yelled at me from her car window that where I was crossing the street was not a crosswalk, I have this to say. Technically, no, there is not a crosswalk at that section of the street. Minus that, when another vehicle is stopped in a lane of traffic, with no blinker, they have clearly paused to courteously allow a pedestrian, who now has the right of way, to cross the street, as it is a crossing point, being at an intersection and all. So don't get so indignant when I give you a shocked look of disbelief as I stop up short because you had not considered slowing down or stopping until you saw me stepping out from in front of another stopped vehicle in the road. Pardon me for taking advantage of a generous & courteous Seattlite, who so graciously stopped to allow myself & another individual cross what is normally a very busy street. It delayed you maybe 5 seconds. That's enough time for another sip of coffee, or two, that you could have taken...or perhaps a chill pill!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Desperately Seeking Solitude

"The soul is like a wild animal - tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we will walk quietly into the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surrounding, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance." ~Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness

I'm reading through the book Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, and before I left for India I read the second chapter in preparation for my next meeting with my Aunt. The chapter is on solitude and creating space for God. I remember little about the chapter, having read it a couple weeks ago, in the midst of getting ready for India and heading back to school. So I came back to the book to re-read the chapter, and that quote was the first thing I read. It hit me - BAM - very unlike the first time I read it.

My soul has been in hiding. It's resilient to be sure, because in the midst of this hard, chaotic experience it's still here. I know this with such certainty because two days ago this wild animal cried out in pain and frustration as it needed to roam and have a space to just be. It's a busy schedule we keep, with constant, in-your-face type confrontation of poor and helpless people, in a loud, ceaselessly busy city. There is no quiet space. The sounds of the city and the people come in through all parts of the building. The windows and doors can be closed, yet the sound of honking vehicles and shouting people come through loud and clear. Much more so if you're outside.

Where, then, can a person find a place to fade into their surroundings, patiently waiting for the soul to appear? Where can one find a place of silence, quiet, solitude? This is what my soul cried out for two days ago. A quiet place to seek quietness and solitude. A place it could roam free and just be in the presence of God. Fully exposed without fear of being spooked or trampled. I'm only just beginning this journey of seeking solitude, but the recognition of my soul's need for it has been exponentially displayed and experienced on this trip. And I'm finding that there are times I have to create a place for myself. A place of solitude that is not merely external but internal as well. When you don't have a physical, tangible external location that provides a place of quiet solitude you have to get resourceful.

How did I manage, you may ask. Well, I'll tell you. Upon a teammate's recommendation I grabbed my earplugs, pillow (wrapped in a blanket), journal, Bible, pen & light, and I went to the rooftop of the building. I found a location out of the way, that was dry and least likely to be disturbed, sat on my blanket covered pillow, put in my earplugs and began to quiet myself. There were still external noises surrounding, but they were significantly muted. However, just by removing the majority of distractions, especially that of other people, and internally quieting my spirit, I was able to find the solitude my soul was so desperately seeking.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

India beginnings

Where do I begin? Let's see, the beginning is usually the best place. It's only been two days in Kolkatta and I already feel like I've been gone for a week. But wait, that's not quite the beginning. In the beginning was a jet plane...hah. Ok seriously. We flew out of Seatac at 1:40pm January 6th. Ten long hours, minimal reading, two movies, two meals, and very little sleep later we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany around 8:50am January 7th. Another pass through security, a bit of walking around, and a short wait later and we were on our second plane headed to Kolkatta, India. By this time I've had far too much food, or so it felt like. I knew I needed to eat, but didn't think I could. I've decided that my body does not like long flights. And what airline doesn't have Ginger Ale as an option for a drink?! Apparently, Lufthansa doesn't. I had to buy some at the Frankfurt airport...$3.70! Oi. But, learning experiences, all of it. Including my lot of a middle seat on both flights...not very conducive for sleep, which doesn't help someone with a cold. Oh, my bad...I had not wanted to complain, so I am done now. Anyway, one and a half movies, at least 2 hours sleep, lunch and a snack later we arrived in Kolkata, India, about 12:50am January 8th.

We were picked up by one of the volunteer coordinators of Calcutta Mercy Ministries, and away we went.

The drive was maybe 45 minutes, and traffic was very light given the time of night. We received a mini-briefing about meal times and a few housekeeping type items. Of course, one of the first things we did was get our computers connected to the internet.

We made it to bed about 2:30am. Despite exhaustion, and Nyquil, it was somewhat of a fitful night's sleep. It always takes me time to get used to a new bed in a new place.

Of course, the barking dogs didn't help make for an easy sleep either. At about 5am came the prayer call. If you've never experienced the Islamic call to prayer, I have to tell you it's definitely an experience. It's beautiful, to be sure, but definitely loud, and it did not help me sleep.

As it begins to get light outside, the sounds of the city begin to grow. People are up, working, walking, living. It's very hard to describe the street just outside where we're staying. The way we talk about people living on the streets in the U.S. does not begin to cover how people live here. They quite literally live on the street. Shelters are built out of whatever these poorest of poor can find. It's not just a sidewalk, but it's someone's house or shop, maybe both. There is hardly any space between buildings where there isn't someone living. The poverty is beyond what we know, or could even imagine. They are not all this poor, that's to be sure, but there are more who are poor than not. In fact, at church this morning I learned that 74% of the population lives on 50 cents per day. That's not American cents, that's Rupees. Equated to the U.S. dollar, that's about 2 pennies a day!

There is much more to write about from our first day, but I think I ought to attempt my hand at some school work. More to come soon, so stay tuned!