Let’s Be Kind To One Another

The confessional and personal nature of my last post meant that the comments were more important than usual to me. Each and every word of encouragement, prayer, song snippet or kindness held great meaning for me. I thank you for your comments.

But it is those words that you have not seen that are hitting my heart with power. And conviction. And pain. Look, here; read a sampling of what has come to me via private messages or emails:

“Mental illness is a subject I’m very sensitive to, and I have spent a lot of time cringing and biting my tongue…You come to expect that your position isn’t going to be understood or welcomed, so you keep your mouth shut.”

“…I know all too well the devastating effects that mental illness forces upon families…I grew up ashamed of my mother and did whatever I could, at any cost, to keep people outside the confines of our four walls from discovering what really went on behind closed doors…I continue to wrestle with the demon of guilt…because I was a terrible daughter to her. I was hateful, impatient, and angry with her most of the time. I mourn now over a lost relationship…If only I had the support as a child that walked me through the mood swings, the paranoia, the mania followed by the can’t-get-out-of-bed-for-days depression…if only.”

“I just want to say that it did my heart good to read your words…I wish my mother had reacted that way years ago. The fact that she didn’t and to this day still says “it’s in my head” is irreversible damage that she’ll never be able to undo.” 

“My youngest daughter is also suffering with a mental illness…She is filled with anger and hatred and much of it is directed towards me.”

“…our son also is bipolar. I have told almost no one…I understand the pain, the fear, the heartache, the confusion, even the shame and the guilt…And I understand the feelings of helplessness. Utter, gut wrenching helplessness.”

“I read your blog on mental illness with great pain.  My eldest daughter…The disease has affected her marriage, her relationship with her daughters, her friendships and our relationship…I worry.  I feel bad.  I feel responsible.”

And here is my further confession: most of these folks are known to me in real life. I have touched their hands, had face-to-face conversations with them. They are my friends.

And in most cases, I didn’t know. 

Before we moved into this new place, I never thought much about bipolar disease. I was ignorant. It didn’t factor into my assessment of others, my relationships, my expectations, my empathy.

But now I know.

And it makes a difference.

There’s a lot of pain out there. Let’s be kind to one another.

Thank you for all of your responses. Your encouragement means the world to me.

Parenting Tips

When it comes to blogging pastors, Mark Beeson is one of the best.

I read him daily. You should, too.

This latest post on parenting really hit a chord with me. Want to have great kids? Want to do the very best you can as a mom or dad? Want to fill in the blank spaces if you’re a single parent?

Read this. Then look around and figure out where “your” people are….

So Long Self Day One

If you’ll indulge me…I’m going to do a little experiment for the next week.

I’ll be making a daily post that’s about me. Of course, blogging is pretty much about the blogger, but, you know. This series of posts will be to the extreme of self-indulgence.
I tend to wear one of two hats when I blog here; either Church Leader Worship Person or Mom Of Awesome Kids.
But for the next seven days, I need to do an exercise of sorts, one that will require some navel gazing.
The good part is if you don’t like it, you can simply click on by.
Easy, right?
For the next seven days, I’m going to take a photo of myself with my Mac and post it here on this blog. I have my reasons, which will be revealed in a few days.
I’m also going to think through a few questions.
You can watch if you want to.
Things I don’t know yet
Where we’re going to live
When Tony will finish school
Things I’m learning
How to trust my friends
How to be a pastor
Things I’m praying for
Clarity on what to do about our housing situation
Healing for my friend Bob
Things that are getting on my nerves
The bad news that seems to come every single day
The BP oil spill
Things that scare me
The impact of all that oil in the ocean
Things that are making me happy
Sleeping beside an amazing man every night
Watching my 18-year-old daughter enjoy the last few days before her high school graduation

By the way, this little exercise was inspired by a blog post found here.

Lindsay Cookies

I met this girl a year or so ago.

She’s turned into one of those people that I can’t imagine not working with every week.
And I haven’t even scratched the surface of getting to know her.
I just know the joy of working alongside her, whether we’re making music, planning services, working out schedules or eating hummus.
I can’t imagine a better gift to me as I do the work God’s set before me at PCC. Lindsay Harris is a gift, a gem, an inspiration and an accountability partner. A good writer. An incredibly intelligent woman. A brilliant musician.
And now, she’s a blogger! Go visit – she’ll make you smile. Good things will come of this newest venture, I am sure.
Leave her some comment love, and bookmark the site. You’ll want to go back.
(Hoping for some cookies, myself…)

I’m Not Sure What Comes Next

Our friend Tony, who is part of the core group of folks who are invested in the Westchester campus of PCC, is out of town.

It’s not a business trip per se; it’s about something that has captured his heart. He goes to Moldova several times a year to try to help children who have grown up in orphanages. You can read more about Tony’s work in Moldova here.
Interestingly enough, Moldova is making headlines in other areas, for other reasons. Anne Jackson is an insightful author (Mad Church Disease, which I highly recommend) and blogger who recently returned from a trip to Russia and Moldova.
She is deftly sharing what she learned on this trip. I read her words, and look at Tony’s pictures and prayer requests, and I cannot help but think that God wants us – well, let me speak for myself. God wants me to know and really see that the world is very large, indeed; that the needs are very large, indeed; and that to continue to sit back and do nothing is no longer an option.
Read Anne’s post about witnessing the trafficking of girls in the equivalent of a local Panera.
I don’t even know what to say, except that the privilege of living a life of safety and security, numbed by American culture, seems to be somehow tainted. God wants me to see this. He’s dovetailing information about a foreign country in a way that I can’t ignore. He’s all up in my face.
I’m not sure what comes next.

A Freaking Radical

Sitting in Barnes & Noble with my daughter, in something of a holding pattern.

I read this post, and sorrow or something like it enveloped my chest, crawled up through my throat and leaked out of my eyes.
I don’t know why it struck me so powerfully. Perhaps because I am in a season of walking through a land that is littered with dry bones and carcasses. Maybe because I have a deeper sense of the fragile hold we have on the simplest of things, like just making sense of life. Maybe because I’ve had the painful privilege of holding hands with some friends and family members through a broken, desperate time.
Maybe because walking through my current book study on the crazy, relentless, all-powerful love of God, my eyes are being opened to glory of a magnitude that I have never considered.
Whatever the factors, I know this: the faith I have in God continues to deepen. I do not have to imagine or invent it. Something literally has taken hold in the deepest part of me and is rooted, immovable. It is intrinsic to my life.
It is a mystery to me.
I speak occasionally of the fact that the God we celebrate on Sundays is mysterious and supernatural. There is some definitive power in Jesus that is beyond our understanding and, to some degree, beyond rational thought or reason.
Milton Brasher-Cunningham wrote about the transition from Epiphany to Lent, about “our picture of Jesus moving from the One Who Came to the One Who is Going to the Cross.” And it just shredded me.
Not long ago we celebrated the birth of the baby, the iconic, helpless infant who was somehow part of Creation and key to Redemption. And in the liturgy of the structure of Christian faith, we are quickly swept along through the season, from Christmas to Easter, to the horrific, tortured death of that same baby.
Brasher-Cunningham writes:

“…moving into Lent moves us from rejoicing in the compassion of God in human form to the somber reality of Jesus’ example of what it means to be human calling us to our own more authentic and dangerous existence. Long after Magi and mangers, we are left with a Messiah who is a freaking radical.”

I think this resonates with me today at the core of my maternal heart, which – after five kids and a lifetime impacted by my role as a parent, is the deepest, most definable part of me.
The concept of a baby growing through childhood into her “more authentic and dangerous existence” hits my tender spot today.
Brasher-Cunningham ends his post with welcome anticipation of what kind of “glorious damage an untamed God can do.” It is not without pain, tears, and gut-wrenching sobs. But, in God’s hands, it is glorious indeed, and the violence to our bodies done by the wild mercy of a freaking radical is bearable.
Because in the end, love wins.
By the way, Milton blogs at Don’t Eat Alone. Every year, he writes a disciplined series of posts through Lent. It has been a consistent part of my faith journey for a few years now. I encourage you to read him, daily, from today through Easter. Find him at donteatalone.blogspot.com. You can start today.

As Sweet As Honey?

One of the most fascinating components of communication via the internet is the ability for a conversation to continue after an event. I’ve seen it – and participated – in real-time commenting on awards shows, the concert for Haiti, the inauguration and other occasions.

I love how it happens on Sundays, as well, after church. It’s intriguing to see people post their thoughts and reactions on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. I’m especially interested because it offers me a bit of feedback on the service.
Often, someone will connect the dots in a way that reveals something new to me.
Yesterday, my friend Connie did just that. She and I were both present at two events yesterday where we heard excellent communicators unpack different Biblical texts. Connie drew a few lines and put together a good blog post that made me think.
Check it out here. You’ll like it.

My friend Connie and her husband, Tom.

Wine Or Grape Juice?

Michael Hyatt tweeted this quote this morning. I found it thought-provoking, and for some wild reason, it brought a huge smile to my face.

Why Jesus Used Wine Instead of Grape Juice
“Unfermented grape juice is a bland and pleasant drink, especially on a warm afternoon mixed half-and-half with ginger ale. It is a ghastly symbol of the life blood of Jesus Christ, especially when served in individual antiseptic, thimble-sized glasses.

“Wine is booze, which means it is dangerous and drunk-making. It makes the timid brave and the reserved amorous. It loosens the tongue and breaks the ice, especially when served in a loving cup. It kills germs. As symbols go, it is a rather splendid one.”
— Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC

Loves Like A Hurricane, I Am A Tree

A few Sundays ago, we finally used Jon Mark McMillan’s How He Loves in a service.

The song is powerful, loaded with a unique opportunity for awe-struck expression. The lyrical images differ from the usual worship song fare these days.
I got to sing it. It was an honor. There is no possible way the melody and the harmonies can convey the gut-wrenching glory of four simple words, launched in repetitive declaration:

“He love us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves us, oh how he loves…”

As the band played and sang, the painters painted. Two of our artists were incredibly moved by the song, as we were, and they expressed their declaration with paints and brushes.
Read about their experience here, where my friend Angie blogs.
And don’t forget: He loves us. Oh, how he loves us.