Thousand Word Fridays: Fire

strongertogether

When the anger settles with the ash,

Will the fires resume their hibernation?

Fitful sleep that never rests, only starves

Weaving new blood into the fabric that binds

That shields, that neglects the wound

But staves the infection

Or will the redded streets sprout branches

Returning asphalt to its stones

Will the world itself arise

And weave its bloody branches

Into the arms of a people waiting

A trellis to divide the sky

And rip the heavens open…

Thoughts for Thursday

Or, A great way to start your Thursday.

Times have been rough lately. All the stresses and pressures of life building up, personal woes and hard times falling on dear friends. And then there are other things to consider, like the events in Ferguson and Iraq and Africa. Not to mention the debates going on in social media about whether or not to drown myself in a bucket of ice water for charity. (Which I still don’t get… shouldn’t we like…. pay money to see someone get ice water dumped on them? like, if we raise $10,000 then Lebron James gets it? I just … am not getting it. I can give money, with or without ice.)

So with all of these thoughts and digressions swirling around in my mind the last week, I was clicking through my rounds of social media and came upon these gems on the YouTube. And I fell in love, instantly and passionately. A friend posted them on Facebook and I absolutely cannot get enough.

They are just the right mix of nostalgia, positivity, good beat, and great clips.

Sometimes I need a little something to remind me that it’s not all bad; that the Holy Spirit is working to bring peace to this broken Kingdom. These silly remixes put a smile on my face, lift my heart, make me laugh, and bring joy. And while those previously mentioned stresses and sad things are still there, they still exist and they aren’t going away–I feel like there’s still hope.

This one’s my favorite:

Freshness is essential. Bring on the roasted potatoes!

Ferguson

Maybe you, like me, are following the events in Ferguson, feeling sad and somewhat helpless. Many Episcopalians are praying and preaching about Ferguson. Some people from my church held a walking vigil in the neighborhood. I am not sure what the right thing to do or say is, but listening to the voices of the people who are suffering from racism and doing all we can to make their voices heard is a good place to start.

If you, like me, are white, The Root has helpful list: 12 Ways to be a White Ally to Black people.

The one thing we can’t do is ignore Ferguson. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr (via Sojourners):

Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they do not know each other; they do not know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.

Religion deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity. Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself … Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion.

I hope we can all pray and listen, learn and preach, and pay attention.

Thoughts for Thursday

Depression is difficult. This is my story.

It’s insidious. It breaks things and hurts people and lives can be pulled apart by it. When I heard the news about Robin Williams on Monday night I was filled with a great sadness. Sadness, and a longing to have been there, to have helped. To cradle this beloved person in my arms and cry and listen and be there. That’s a bizarre feeling to have for someone I knew through a screen, with whom I never had any personal interaction with.

But that’s who I am at my core. I want to help, I want to be there, I want to serve. And one of the hardest lessons I had to learn is that as much as I want to fix things and make everything alright–it’s not just up to me and sometimes there’s nothing I can do besides pray.

I got married young and at the time my husband was not depressed. He had told me that he had clinical depression but hadn’t had an episode in a while. I didn’t really know what that meant–my experience of depression were those times I had “the blues”.. the kind of thing that going for a run or sitting on a rock by a stream or talking to God could help. In a day or two I’d be back to myself.

But this thing just crept in. It took hold in him and I didn’t know what to do. So, naturally, I read articles and books and watched movies and youtube clips and did anything I could to educate myself. We’ll fix this!  I thought, oh-so-naively. Therapy sessions booked, medications prescribed, and it’s all okay right?

Nope.

Fights began. Irrational, ugly, mean fights in which unloving things were said that hurt us both. They usually ended in both of us in tears, apologizing–but these fights will wear you down. I didn’t understand, although I tried so hard. I wanted to. It took me a long time to figure out that this is not just an episode–this is life. And when you’re that young and you have all kinds of bright eyed hopes for what your life is going to be, and then realize that in this current situation that life is impossible, it will break you. It broke me.

Things Fall Apart.

I tried. I tried for a long, long time. Therapy sessions fizzled. Medications were not refilled. Other, more harmful methods of self medication were taken. I numbed myself to the ups and downs to the point where it just didn’t effect me anymore.

I prayeda lot.

My husband was not a religious man and this ended up being a really difficult thing to overcome, especially in how we dealt with this depression. I turned to God and trusted that it would be okay. I frequently admitted that I cannot do this on my own and relied on my faith and my community to lift me up. He did not. If I could have gone to therapy and taken his medications for him, I would have. If I could have finished up those last semesters of college for him, I would have. I felt helpless and powerless and I can’t even begin to imagine all the things he was feeling and going through.

I’m not saying I did everything right. I’m not saying that you can’t help someone who is depressed–you can love and encourage and listen and be there. It’s hard. It will change your relationship to that person. He stopped wanting to change and get better and in order for me to live the life that I believe I am called to live, we had to separate.

It sucked. But it was also a good thing for both of us.

I don’t have much contact with him. I know he is re-married and they have a baby girl. I wish them health and happiness and I sincerely hope he has found it. I pray for him and hope he has peace in his life.

That’s all I can do, now.

A Prayer for Mental Illness

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Although sometimes we feel we lack everything. Sometimes we cannot see what you have given us through the lie of what has been taken away. Show us how to see your blessing. Show us how to see your provision when the world teaches us an economy of fear and scarcity.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

Refresh us, Lord. Let the raging waters be quiet. Let dry pastures be watered. Let us lie down and rest without fear.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

We so often turn from your path—believing lies about ourselves, about others, about you; taking on burdens that are not ours to bear; struggling to entrust you with ourselves, our family, our friends, and our circumstances. Guide us along your path of trust and contentment.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

The valley of depression, the valley of medication, the valley of sorrow, the valley of pain and abandonment, the valley of past wrongs done to me, the valley of despair, the valley of derision, the valley of fear, the valley of waiting, the valley of misunderstanding.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of the valley in which you walk, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Although we sometimes feel abandoned, you have not left us alone. You have not left us alone with our depression, with our sorrow, our pain, our illness, our despair, our fear, our waiting. You have not left us alone with the past wrongs that have been done to us, with the derision and misunderstanding of others. You have not left us alone. You are with us.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

With your rod, you protect us from ourselves. With your staff, you protect us from the harm of others. Your truth comforts us, as we find our identity wholly and firmly locked up in you.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Although we are surrounded by people who do not understand the weight we bear, the struggles we face, we gather to eat at your table. Although we suffer ignorant comments, laughter, and sometimes shame—we are worthy to eat at your table. We can eat our fill—even feast—because you have not despised us. You have made us welcome.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

You have made us worthy. You have made us chosen. You accept us with all our flaws, with all our illness and frailty, with all our failings. You have anointed us, us, to serve with you—our cup overflows with joy.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

Surely goodness and love will follow us. Surely goodness and love will chase us down—despite ourselves, despite others, despite our circumstances—goodness and love, by the power and grace of your Spirit, have found us. And will never let us go.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Forever. In health, in strength, in love, in mercy. Forever. Amen.

The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

And as we rest in that assurance, we pray for those who live without it, and who live with the pain and stigma of mental illness. We ask that you would watch over those who live on the street, without the medication they so desperately need. We pray that you would hold accountable those systems that have let these precious children of yours down, that have left them destitute. We pray for those who are in positions of power—that, as they make policies and work to improve existing structures of care, they would faithfully and carefully consider the welfare of those who struggle with mental illness. We pray that you would prevent us from putting distance between ourselves and those struggling with mental illness. That you would grow in us the love we need to take action, and to make their struggle our own.

Comfort those who live with the darkness of depression. May we be a light in the darkness for them. Teach us to avoid false cheerfulness, and instead give us wisdom to know how to help our friends and family who struggle in this way to come up for air. To see, again, your goodness. Lord, watch over those who are, even now, contemplating suicide. Stop their hands. Send someone to intervene.

Guard our tongues from unthinking and unkind words that contribute to feelings of worthlessness. Empower us to use our words, instead, to speak for those who cannot. To proclaim your worth over those our culture denigrates. To defend the powerless, and stop others from contributing to the stigma that mental illness so often carries.

Bring the comfort only you can bring to those who have lost a loved one to mental illness. And use us to bring comfort. May we, your church, be a healing presence, a safe community, a strong advocate for the mentally ill.

Thank you for the assurance that you do not let go. That you are always with us. May we in turn extend that hope to every person we encounter.

Amen.

(From: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2013/07/a-prayer-for-mental-health/#ixzz3ANBEgX9S)

Oh, Hello

Last week I discovered this song by The Oh Hellos, which I think may be a Chrsitian band. It’s catchy, folky, group-sing kinda stuff, which I always enjoy.

The other day I signed up for SoulPulse, mostly out of curiosity. Twice a day for two weeks it sends you a text or email and you fill out a short survey about your spiritual health. Then it gives you a summary. You can read more about it here.

Measuring your spiritual health seems kind of impossible, if you ask me, but it’s an interesting exercise in mindfulness. Twice a day it pops up in my inbox (oh, hello!), and I have to  think about how close I feel aware of God or how joyful and peaceful I feel.

I often don’t know how to answer these questions. Peaceful compared to what? What exactly does awareness of God feel like?

Sometimes you do know, though, like when you get to interview a 10 year old (like I did last week) or you are with people you love. I don’t know exactly how to measure joy and peace, but I’m glad to be paying attention.

P.S. Here’s a GIF

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning…

–Walt Whitman

 

My heart is heavy today, as are many of yours, at least on this side of the world.  A great light has gone out.  A voice has been stilled.  Though we know that the moments we have with the people who elevate their art to a professional level–making so many of us laugh, or think, or escape our mundane little lives for and hour and a half while they give us a good show–it’s still a shock when they are gone.

Robin Williams made so many people laugh.  My best friend Ryan put it best, “It makes me so sad that he died from being so sad.”  It’s hard to fathom the depth of that sadness, for most of us.

Part of experiencing human life is feeling the emotion of depression.  For most of us, that’s how we experience it–an emotion. But for some of our brothers and sisters in this life, depression is a disease.

Depression is as serious as cancer, or heart disease, or a variety of metabolic dysfunctions.  And just like all those other illnesses, depression can be terminal, even with a great treatment plan, even with lots of support, even when things seem to be going in the right direction.  Just like massive heart attacks after years of clean eating and good exercise, or a relapse after extensive remission, or a devastating little infection that won’t clear up with any medicine known to exist.  And that sucks.  It’s brutal and scary and hard.  But it’s true.  And unless and until we stop pretending that depression is something someone can help having, something someone has control over, we will continue to have people we love, famous and ordinary and next door, die from it.

We have to stop talking about how people who die from depression are selfish.  You’d never say that about someone who died from a brain tumor.  We have to stop shaming people for taking appropriate pharmaceutical steps to treat depression, and from seeking professional counseling.  You would never say that about someone who needed to take insulin, or a blood thinner to stay alive.  We have to make mental healthcare check-ups as important as our yearly physicals–and they should be affordable for everyone, including and especially children.  Most importantly, we have to be willing to talk to the people in our lives we are concerned about–we must not wait until they start acting out.  Don’t put the burden on someone who’s hurting to come and talk to you.  Think of it like being aware at the airport–if you see something, say something.  And for the love of little green apples, be kind and loving.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, please know that you are not as alone as you feel.  You are not stuck.  You are amazing.  You are beloved.  Your place in the world–who you are and how you are–is holy, and important.  You give joy in ways you cannot imagine.  People are praying for you, right now.  People are loving you, right down to your toes, right now.  Good things are coming.  Hold on.  You can do it, and all the people who love you want to help, in good and kind ways.  Your friends at thedailycake.org are grateful that you read this, and if you want to email any of us to talk about your stories, or to reach out for more information on how you or someone you love can begin recovery, please contact us by following the links on our “About Us” page.

Robin Williams…you were a piece of my happy early childhood, with your lovable alien Mork, clips of stand up I was probably too young to really appreciate, star in some of my most favorite movies, and the best James Lipton interview I’ve ever seen…may you rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Watch this…

 

love,

rachie

 

 

A Great Way To Start Your Monday 8/11/14

…Happy Birthday Joe Jackson!  Try to stay still during this 80’s classic   🙂

 

Thoughts for Thursday

Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time I feel like you know me pretty well. I love all things high church, Episcopalian, rubrics, liturgy, smells and bells, organs, the whole spiel. I’m staunchly traditionalist, let’s-bring-back-Rite-I, and it will be a cold day in hell when there’s a screen in my church.

I never went to another church, but I did go to some Christian schools growing up so I had a weird time in my youth where I didn’t know what was going on. I had two very different experiences of “church” and Christianity and they were so opposite. On the one hand I had my church, full of mystery and wonder and an old white haired priest and robes and organs. On the other hand I had contemporary worship music in mid-week chapel, pressure to “accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior”, and a bunch of other theology I didn’t really understand. Jesus during the week was different from Jesus on Sunday, so eventually I chose Sunday Jesus.

In doing so I completely did a 180 on this other type of worship. I mocked it, openly, and reveled in how MY church was better, was different, was more holy. (I was a teenager, okay?) This attitude persisted as I got older, maybe a little more toned down, but when I saw so many young people flocking to more traditional churches after having such bad experiences with other Protestant denominations I felt justified. I felt smug. These aren’t particularly good Christian things to feel but I’m only human. And I’m Episcopalian for a reason, and I have chosen to stay Episcopalian for a reason. (many reasons, really, but that’s another post.)

So God does what God does best and sent me someone to challenge these elitist, smug feelings and it has been such a humbling experience. A friend from high school moved to my town (a friend who, incidentally, in my youth I would go to her very Baptist youth group with occasionally) and introduced me to this wonderful man who is SO involved in their church he rivals me in churchly enthusiasm.

And this has been one of the most surprising and beautiful things: when I visit their church, when I sit in worship with them, I am challenged. The judgmental feelings that come up have to be dealt with, because the more I sit there and listen to the worship team and read lyrics off a screen and hear the word of God preached so passionately from the pulpit, the more I realize that there is no “right” or “best” way to worship God. There are preferences, sure, but however people connect with God and with one another is a beautiful thing. And there is always something I can find to connect with.

The song I posted above was sung on a Sunday that I wasn’t at their church but kind of wish I had been. I really, really like it. And that’s unusual and weird and challenging for me, in all kinds of good and healthy ways. I’ve started dealing with a lot of that weird baggage I’ve been carrying around for a decade, and laying them down.

Spoon and a Link

It’s been a busy week, friends. This song by Spoon is helping me through. Give it a listen. No spiritual themes, that I can discern. Just a great song.

Also, I’d like to recommend to you this short piece about grief and the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is like . . .