Category Archives for Faith

depression advice

Depression: 6 bits of unwanted advice and my (unspoken) responses.

Having battled depression since I was in the first grade, I’ve gotten lots of suggestions and advice over the years on how to “get over it.” Here are just a few of those and the responses I would love to have given.

  1. “You take things too seriously.”

See, me, I think you just don’t take things seriously enough. Have you given any thought to world hunger lately? Poverty? Abuse? Because I have and it’s pretty serious stuff. You see me getting upset because of one (so-called) minor incident and you think I’m overreacting. What you don’t get is that, I’m not just responding to this occurrence. I was already thinking about the world’s pain and suffering. Then this thing happens and I’m catapulted into a thought process that attempts to take into account all sadness, all pain, all brokenness of all time. You try thinking about that without getting serious.

  1. “Just don’t think about that stuff.”

Oh okay. If you’d just hold my brain for a minute or . . . I dunno . . . a decade.

  1. “You’re just too sensitive!”

What you don’t understand is that I do not have an emotional epidermis. Think of me as a hairless cat. Wait no. No one should think about that. Ever. Think of me as . . . well . . . think of me as someone who doesn’t have an emotional epidermis. Best I can tell, my filters are super permeable. More stuff just gets to me.

Also, I’m not consciously choosing to be “too sensitive” as you seem to think. I’m trying to handle emotional difficulties better; but when you say “You’re just too sensitive,” what I hear is, “You are broken. Fix yourself.” Your not-at-all-well-thought-out advice reinforces what I already believe about myself. And that makes me want to curl up and sleep for a week. Which just makes people say, “You take things too seriously.” (See above.)

I promise you, I’m working on it. You can’t imagine how hard I’m working on it. This time, I just didn’t have the energy to use the coping strategies I’m developing. And I’m tired of picking up the mask every time I face people. So when you see me like this, please refrain from giving me your pithy solutions; instead of reducing my depression, they actually inflame the condition.

  1. “Perk up!”

On it! Thanks for the suggestion. Wow. Wish I could have known you 45 years ago. Would have saved lots of money in counseling and pharmaceuticals. Gosh, really! I’m all fixed now. Thanks!

  1. “It just doesn’t make sense. You don’t have any real problems!”

You are so right. I don’t. That’s why I don’t understand why I feel this way. Nothing is wrong. Except for everything. And also nothing. But everything.

Here’s the way things go down inside my brain:

Brain: You have no real problems.
Me: Then what’s wrong with me?
Brain: Lots of people have it worse than you! You have no reason to be depressed.
Me: You’re right; I’m such a loser.
Brain: Think about all the people who have truly difficult struggles. Victims of assault or abuse, people in poor health, those who are bereaved. You literally have no problems.
Me: You’re right. I have absolutely no right to feel this way.
Brain: Then stop feeling.
Me: Okay, how?
Brain: Ummmm. Yeah, I got nothing. Not my expertise.

So I hear you, I do. I even quote you to myself all the time. As a matter of fact, there’s no need for you ever to say this to me again. I say it to myself plenty.

  1. “Why don’t you just . . . [add overly simplistic, completely ludicrous, non-solution].”

Is that a question or an accusation? If it’s a question, settle in friend. I’ve got lots to say. Most people, though, don’t really want to hear the “why.” It’s not really a question at all. It’s an expression of frustration and I get it! It is hard to live with or around someone who is chronically sad. But if you really want to help, give me compassion not judgment. Compassion is infinitely more effective in reducing depression’s symptoms. So instead of making the above statement, why don’t you just create a safe place for me where love is plentiful and mercy is abundant, k? Thanks.


Here’s the thing: if someone you know or love is suffering from chronic depression, resist the urge to give offhand advice. Instead, offer grace: because grace, like love, never fails.

Psalm 133:1

Community: A tale of an unexpected locksmith

It’s one of the few aspects of my life in which I maintain some degree of consistency, predictability if you will. Every six months. Like I’d planned it or something . . . which, let’s face it—we’re talking about me here—so we all know that didn’t happen.

Before I tell you, you have to promise me that you won’t offer me any tips on how to fix this problem. Whatever suggestions you have, I’ve tried it. I might even be doing it right now.

  1. They are on a lanyard.
  2. The lanyard is bright red and thus highly visible.
  3. Of course I use the remote to lock the door (almost) every single time.
  4. My Honda Civic won’t even let me lock it if the keys are in the ignition, so that’s impossible (these days).

I mean, there was that one time before I had the Civic . . .. It’s my husband’s favorite story to tell on this topic. One evening, he arrived at the Y a half an hour or so after the children and I did and parked near where I had parked. As he got out of his car, he thought he heard our van running. He walked closer and sure enough, it was; but when he tried to open the door, no luck. Oh yeah. I had left the keys in the ignition, the car turned on, air conditioning blaring, and locked the doors. (I only did that once, though.)

So back to my most recent keys-locked-in-car episode.

I’d gone to the post office just five miles from where I live. On the way, I was tuned into a great podcast on my ipad. I parked, took my keys out of the ignition, and continued listening. I was so distracted that I forgot to put the lanyard around my neck (don’t judge). When I came to a good place to pause, I grabbed my purse, locked the door, and got out of the car, shutting the door behind me.

“No no no no no!” Yes. Every door locked up tight as a drum, my bright red lanyard and attached keys sitting there on the passenger’s seat.

I went into the Post Office, mailed my letters, then went back to my car and called Triple A. (I get extra points here for having my phone with me AND my Triple A card—mark it down.)

“We’d be happy to help you with that ma’am. It looks like the estimated arrival time on that will be . . .”

About an hour and a half. Good grief. Ugh! What in the world would I do while I waited?

Then I saw the Terminex guy at his truck.

“Hey! You don’t have a slim jim in there do you?”

“As a matter of fact I do,” he told me, reaching back in to grab it. “I got it because my wife locks her keys in the car a lot.” (Smarty pants.)

Anyway, this fella was kind enough to break into my car for me. It took him twenty minutes and after five I started telling him not to worry about it that I’d just wait for Triple A.

“I’m not in any hurry. All done for the day. Plus it’s a puzzle for me now,” he said. “Can’t let it beat me!”

As he worked we joked a bit about his future as a car thief and my proficiency for locking my keys in vehicles. We chatted about the weather, the weekend, and other mundane topics. When he popped the lock, I cheered, he grinned, and that was that. I offered him $20 for his time, but he wouldn’t take it.

“Just let me do something nice for somebody, how about it?”

I protested, he refused. I thanked him, and we parted ways—him to go home to family, me to call Triple A and cancel my request. End of story.

He didn’t ask me who got my vote last November; I didn’t ask him who he supported. Maybe we voted for the same person; maybe we didn’t. But in those moments, the United States of America was truly great and the two of us were absolutely stronger together.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Psalm 133:1
johnpavlovitz

Let the Record Show | john pavlovitz

(While I don't agree with everything anyone says, I liked this piece a lot and thought my readers might as well.)

Let the record show that I did not consent to this. Let it show that I did not vote for this man, that he did not represent me, that I did not believe he was deserving of being here, that I grieved…

Source: Let the Record Show | john pavlovitz

be thou my vision

A Vision of Memory

Published originally January 22, 2011

Certain things bring certain people to mind. Like, at the mention of oatmeal raisin cookies, I think of my father-in-law. That man (inexplicably) believes those are the best cookies on the planet. I can just hear our ongoing debate over the benefits of other cookies, me trying to convince him that a chocolate chip cookie is most definitely superior. If I hear or see a phrase in Latin, in the same instant, my sister (a Latin teacher) comes to mind. I see her (really see her) standing, toga clad, before her students. I hear her voice, so full of passion when she talks about the language she loves. When I see daisies, my friend Traci’s favorite flower, I’m transported to her daisy-themed kitchen.

So, when I saw the order of worship at First Baptist of Marion last Sunday, I just figured the music minister had known Dan Goodman. After all, it was only a few days earlier that we marked the second anniversary of Dr. Goodman’s death. So surely, when “Be Thou My Vision” was chosen for the anthem, it was in his memory; everyone knows that was his favorite hymn.

It was the hymn we sang in the chapel on the day he died. It was sung at his funeral. And whenever someone wants to honor him, they often sing that song, post the title as their Facebook™ status, or Tweet™ a few of its words. “Be Thou My Vision.” Dan Goodman. The two were forever linked.

But the music minister didn’t know Dan Goodman personally. I asked him.

Meanwhile, Dr. Goodman’s wife, Barbara, was already at the early service in another town. She was worshiping that day with one of our mutual friends. On the way to church, Barbara mentioned, “Did you see that Aileen’s preaching in Marion today?” He had. (Facebook™. Gotta love it.) Sometime during their worship service, they made a quick decision to ditch that church and head over to Marion. Now I wasn’t there, so I can’t say for sure how they made their exit. Me, I like to picture them jumping up mid-homily, hurdling over co-pew dwellers, and racing out of the sanctuary. But that’s just me.

Back in Marion, the service began. From the dais, I spotted my friends in the congregation quickly, touched by their presence. I looked at Barbara, always so beautiful, her eyes sparkling, having pulled off this surprise.

The anthem. Did she know yet?

The time came. The choir stood. The organist played. My eyes found Barbara’s. The song began.

And there was Dan Goodman. Rushing out of Greek class saying, “I’ve got a lunch date with Barbara. I can’t be late for Barbara.” There he was before our New Testament class, telling of the early death of his own father, saying how much he would hate for his sons to have to endure what he did. “Maybe that’s why I want all four of us together all the time,” he said, laughing as he told us his boys were beginning to think he was dorky for wanting to be around them constantly. There he was, sunglasses clipped to the back of his shirt, water bottle in hand, standing outside the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. “The Jews believe memory is sacred,” he said. “Sacred memory. It’s just one more way to worship.”

The song drew to a close: "High King of heaven, my victory won, May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heav'ns Son! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my vision, O ruler of all.”

The choir took their seats. The organist moved over to the piano bench. And the service proceeded, moved along by the rush of the Spirit, the light of the Son, and the immeasurable, unfathomable, inescapable love of God.

“Thou my best thought, by day or by night; Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.” From stanza one, “Be Thou My Vision.”

8 things to do when church is cancelled

8 things to do when church is cancelled

In my part of the world, frigid temperatures and icy roads have caused many churches to cancel services tomorrow. True for you? Well, don't let that stop you from connecting with your church family. Here are just a few home activities you might consider:

  1. Use the pictorial directory as a prayer list. (Know families who aren't in the directory? Add them too!)
  2. Visit the church website and listen to recorded services.
  3. Write encouraging notes to church family members.
  4. Live close to church friends? Hold home church. Early Christians often included a meal with any communal worship experience. Invite friends over to share food and fellowship.
  5. Use the latest bulletin or newsletter and prayerfully consider upcoming events.
  6. Make a call. (This is one day when using your cell phone during church is allowed.) Who do you know who hasn’t been to church lately? Give them a call and let them know you care.
  7. By yourself? Consider calling a church family member, put the phone on speaker, and hold a virtual worship service. Share scripture, prayers, and even hymns together.
  8. And if you are going virtual, maybe you could have church through some form of video chat. In fact, you could video chat while listening to the sermons your church has online.

Other ideas? Tell us in the comment section.

When the snow melts, you might even continue some of these practices outside the worship hour. But nothing can replace face-to-face connection long-term. So when you have the opportunity, get back to worship. We are better when you are with us.

One more thing. Did you know that whenever a church cancels services, its budget suffers? People just forget to send in their contributions; it’s not intentional. (Which is why I actually use automatic withdrawal—not an ideal solution as I prefer giving my offering at church, but I’m just too scatter-brained to be consistent any other way.) So, here’s your reminder: whether you go to church or not, send your offering. The church finance committee will thank you.

christmas cards

War on Christmas Greetings

Back before holiday greetings came under scrutiny, it was easy. Sometimes I would say, “Merry Christmas!” More often, though, I would say, “Happy Holidays!” because it applies to the whole season: Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s. Today, if I say “Happy Holidays,” I might be accused of secularizing the sacred; but if I say “Merry Christmas,” does it sound like I’m trying to proselytize?

It all started several years ago when a few prominent retailers purportedly required employees to wish shoppers “Happy Holidays,” rather than “Merry Christmas.” These over-anxious merchants then painted over their “Merry Christmas” signs to read “Happy Holidays,” putting the kibosh on spreading Christmas cheer. Why, you ask? I don’t really know, but I can guess: money. It’s always about money. I’d bet you an elf on a shelf that this greeting adjustment was meant to increase profits by attracting shoppers of other faiths and appealing to customers who don’t identify with any religion at all.

Now, I don’t know much about the retail business, but I think this decision was profoundly stupid. It’s pretty clear to me that the last person a shopkeeper wants to offend in December is someone celebrating Christmas. I mean, a high percentage—somewhere between 20 and 60 percent[1]—of all annual retail sales are attributed to Christmas buying.  Alienating these shoppers could lead to a serious financial shortfall. 

Anyway, once word of this ixnay on istmasChray got out, media moguls began enlisting Christian soldiers to fight in the War on Christmas. Pretty soon, folks from throughout Christendom—Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, you name it—were moving beyond theological differences to join in this holy war. Bumper stickers appeared on sedans, pickups, and hot rods saying “Keep Christ in Christmas,” or “I still Celebrate Christmas” or “It’s okay to say Merry Christmas to me.” Soon you could buy clothing, accessories, and more emblazoned with these loaded messages.

Here’s what I think.  Political correctness is a good thing. The idea is basically, “Think about your words before you say them aloud.”  Who among us couldn’t benefit from that basic restraint now and then? Like many good things though, political correctness can go too far.

Take your roadside “Holiday Tree” vendor. Now, this person is in truth selling Christmas trees. I know this because I have Jewish friends; I have Muslim friends; none of them have trees up in their houses. Paying obscene prices for trees that once grew in our mountains but now stand, freshly axed from their roots, bunched together under multi-colored lights—well that behavior is singularly Christian. Wait, I take that back. I have friends who are atheists. They buy Christmas trees too. But I don’t know anyone who buys a Hanukkah pine, or a Ramadan bush. Same thing goes for wreaths. I mean really. It’s not an Arbor Day wreath. It’s not a Kwanzaa wreath. Whatcha got yourself there is a Christmas wreath, plain and simple. So if you’re a seasonal foliage pusher, call them Christmas decorations—because that’s what they are. Or call it all “Holiday Greenery” if you want--it's your business.

That is what it is too: business. And since when was it retailers job to keep Christ in Christmas? What matters to corporations is money. So, if they are putting the name of Jesus Christ on something to make it sell, then I believe they are using God’s name in vain. Plus, I don’t know anyone who has come to a saving knowledge of Jesus because they looked up in Toys-R-Us™ and saw a “Christmas Discounts” sign; do you? (One more thing, I don’t think we can begin to guess what Jesus the Nazarene would do with this mess of affluenza and consumerism we’ve got going on in this country; but I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t want his name on it. Just sayin’.)

Years ago, my daughter and I were watching a Christmas movie when a Wal-Mart™ commercial aired. After advertising the prices that had just been lowered on Christmas must-haves, they signed-off promising, “Christmas costs less at Wal-Mart™.” I winced like I do when someone uses the name of God as a swear word. My daughter looked at me with 14 year old wisdom and said “Christmas doesn’t cost anything.”

She was right; it doesn’t—at least not in the way that commercial meant. Yet there are incalculable costs: the preparations for Christmas meals; the sacrifices we make to be with family; the practice time musicians invest in preparing annual concerts. These things can’t go in sale papers. They can’t be discounted. They can’t be put on glitzy signs in high-dollar department stores.

In order to Keep Christ in Christmas, we don’t need merchants to put the name of the holiday on their signs. Instead, we need to turn our own eyes away from the modern accoutrements of the season, and focus instead on the gift God gave us in God’s son Jesus.

“Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth (and in social media) Peace to All People!” Luke 2:14 (paraphrased)
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

[1] http://www.wilkes.edu/pdffiles/holidayretailsalesforecast2013.pdf

8 tips tense conversations

8 Tips for handling tense conversations

Worried about holiday togetherness and the uncomfortable conversations that may arise? Here are a few tips to help you make it through.

  1. Fact Check everything. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.: memes, news stories (also known as “news” stories), website articles, even youtube videos. Check it on snopes.com first. Seriously. For example, remember the video of cell phones popping popcorn? Totally not true. Just a prank. But so believable as to prevent folks from fact checking. (Also, John Wayne did not make a deathbed profession of faith prompted by a child’s appeal. And PBS’s Barney is not based on a 1930’s serial killer either. Just sayin’.)
  2. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Want to be heard? Listen. Want to be spoken to with respect? Speak that way to others. Want to be understood? Seek first to understand. This is generally a good life rule. Just ask Jesus. It worked for him.
  3. Remember your medicine! Especially if it’s high blood pressure medication. Or an anti-anxiety pill. Go medicated or stay home. Seriously. Even if you are planning on going, faking an emergency, and excusing yourself early. Don’t take the chance. Take your pills! It’s better for all of us that way.
  4. Avoid saying what’s already been said way too many times. You know what I mean, right? Like, everyone knows Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Saying it again will not make it more true. We’ve heard it all: about his bankruptcies and her speaking fees; about his philandering and Bill’s; about his Twitter feed and her emails. It’s all been said. Over and over again. Got something new? Save it until after the family gathering. You’ll be glad you did.
  5. Repeat after me: I will not change anyone’s opinion. Not through social media. And not through rants. (You might need to repeat this frequently. I know I do . . . .)
  6. Find some common ground. No really, you can do it! Even on hot button topics. Like this:
    • Say you want Obamacare completely repealed, but your cousin has health insurance for the first time because of this legislation. You can both agree that health care is important. You can agree that medical bills can be overwhelming. See?
    • How about if you are pro-life and your aunt is pro-choice? Well, neither of you thinks that it is ideal for a baby to come into the world unwanted, do you? You also both know that unplanned pregnancy is scary and life-altering. You can also agree that the mother’s health matters. And I think you can probably agree that there are no little girls out there who are hoping that they will grow up and have an abortion. Right?
    • Are you against capital punishment even though your parents have lobbied for the death penalty? I bet none of you is pro-murder, and I bet that all of you would prefer that the crime was never committed. Additionally, I bet you both agree that murder should not be legal. Poof: common ground!*
  7. Remember you are probably irritating to the person who is irritating you. I know. I prefer to think that I’m never the annoying one. Not true though. My kids can attest to this fact and will do so gladly. The thing is, when you allow yourself to consider that maybe, just maybe, you are part of the problem, you can start to become part of the solution.
  8. If none of this works? Have yourself another piece of pie. Pie always helps.

What else might soothe the tension at the table? Tell us your tips in the comments.

*This TED talk by David R. Dow introduced this concept to me of finding commonality despite what appear to be insurmountable differences. It's well worth the 18 minutes it takes to view it.

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