4.10.20

I combed my hair today. I got dressed in jeans and put on socks and shoes.

Yesterday I did not. I couldn’t. I managed to get out of bed, and I cried a lot.

When I am depressed there is a real temptation to disconnect from my body. My body feels like a weight I am dragging around. I chose to ignore the signals of hunger and thirst, and then because I am still embodied I feel sick.

I wrote in a journal more than a decade ago that I thought the hardest part of the greatest commandment was “the love your neighbor as yourself.Self love seemed so impossibly hard to come by, but as I have aged I can grasp more its need.

There is a sacred simplicity in the act of combing hair. When I was a hairdresser I suspected that the reason that near strangers would share intimate details with me was that in a world of loneliness, I was one person that they let in—mere fractions of an inch from their face.

So I combed my hair today, not because the heaviness of yesterday is gone, but to love my body, to acknowledge that is from my body that I can love others. I don’t mentally feel warm emotions yet, but I could comb my hair again tomorrow.

4.5.20

I have been thinking of my paternal Grandma as of late. I have been wishing that I could call her and ask about all of the ups and downs that her life held.

Being born January 1, 1929 she had lived the reality of the Great Depression. I remember some bits of her stories, and her buttered noodles and toast—a Lenten substitute for fish when none could be procured.

She watch as a nation entered another Great War, her own Love wasn’t drafted, but I am sure she knew others that had been called. She missed the parade to commemorate the end of the war because her curls weren’t dried.

She married young and her parents disapproved of her marrying a Protestant boy. I can’t remember how many anniversaries they celebrated exactly, somewhere near 70 it seems. They lost a baby, raised two other girls and two boys.

She lost to the ever advancing enemy of Parkinson’s, but in her final weeks she rallied for that birthday she loved—Born the first girl of 1929, she had a picture in the paper with her mother.

I had returned to Michigan to say my goodbyes. I looked into her hazel eyes and search for what I would carry of her.

Grandma. I will make your buttered noodles and toast for my kids. I will tell them that we are not the first people to be in a time with no certain outcome. I will tell them that when we feel we have little we still have more than enough to be generous with. I will tell them that while we celebrate the history overcoming we can still be sad in the time of unknowing.

After all that is the week we are in—the palms are already drying on the street and people have returned to their homes. By the end of Holy Week people will be dead and hope may be lost. We don’t always know when on our cosmic calendar when the easter will come, so we better curl our hair in case.

4.3.20

Well I had all the best intentions, I wrote another draft on the 1st, but in some twist of fate the draft did not save–April Fool joke on myself, perhaps? Maybe its best it was a half baked thought, that was leading down to no true end and a lot more questions.

Yesterday I met with a psychiatrist for the first time in years, a wonder of telemedicine that I could be on the comfort of my couch and drink coffee while recounting my history of medications that have worked and the others that failed and my symptoms that have followed me around since at late grade school. It wrapped up hopefully, with a new medication addition and reminder from another professional that navigating the world on fire with additional support is good care of my self.

Since the disappearing draft I have been contemplating the crooked path of symbols of sacredness. Items that are both means of grace, but have sorted pasts of their own. I told my wife, “we often quote that God lead God’s people to ‘a land with vineyards that you did not plant,’ but if someone else planted the vineyard–that means that there are people who planted and are now displaced.” Displaced planters, those who broke up rocky soil and drew the lines, who pruned and grafted and watered and cared–these are the plans of those that wish to see it through. Yet another drinks deep.

Wine is in a lot of sacred spaces, Passover Dinners and Communion, gifts of libations at temples, feasts to celebrate weddings and it crosses trembling lips with a promise of warm calm for a moment. Song of Songs praises the Loved as being a goblet of wine. I have participated in some of these moments, I have held for a moment on my tongue the work of another. What is it to see the Divine in the glass and still to know that justice may seem off for another? Who am I to receive what the other has labored for?

I don’t have a great answer, after all the justice of food is a complicated one in our world. I know that I can make choices on what to buy and what to do without. I can hear the echos of sermons past that grace at all is given through the suffering Christ, who offers his body to feed those that did not labor, and his blood to quench the thirst of those that did not care for the vines. Sacred is not unencumbered by the complexity of our world–if anything it is a reflection of how joy and grief are not opposites but cooccurring realities–there is bitterness and comfort in every sip. So I will grieve and I will praise.

What sacred things do you find most complicated?

2.15.19 Dance

I think one of the most distressing questions I have heard over my whole life is, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” or its sister statement, “do what makes you happy.” You see I find “happy” to be a very wild emotion to hold onto, let alone crawl inside and live there, for more of my adulthood then I would like to admit my companion emotion has been the gray muddled emotion that seems best captured by the word ‘melancholy’.

Melancholy is not quite sad, but there is a discomfort at the current conditions. Melancholy is anxious, sort of, it allows worry and doubt to dance along the daily thoughts. Melancholy sometimes is inexplicable tired and makes the tasks of life mundane and appear to drag on. I have always been ashamed of my melancholy bend, my propensity to see the world as glass with the dredges left in the bottom, especially when I fell in love with The One that sees the world as a jewel colored ocean begging to have you jump in and taste and see all that is wonderful and good.

Being next to her is a spark in the inky night and I began to wonder if being next to me was a bit like sitting next to pile of wet wood that should be your campfire. In some of my darker moments I wonder if I need to just snap out of it, find a way to be bright and warm before I smother the good that she is, in her brightest moments she warms me enough to believe that a fire is starting in the wet kindling of my being.

It is cliché to compare us to the great opposites attract tropes–we are not close to Paula and a cartoon cat. We make good partners. We are good friends. Our natural bends twirl around each other as she swings toward the light and I sway to the shadow.

When I shared my thoughts with her on my melancholy she smiled with her knowing grin–the one that comes with the empathy eyebrows and told me, “I have melancholy too. Whenever I see a sunrise or beauty in the grey–I still feel a little sad in those moments, because I know for every place that I saw beauty, I still have missed so much.”

 

March 31, 2020

I will just start by saying that I assume there are other minds much more qualified to discuss what sacred practice looks like during shelter-in-place orders. I am not reading any of those great mind’s work. I am just trying to get this mind to work.

I have Major Depressive Disorder.

I have not had a job since October.

There is a pandemic.

Those are not cause and effect.

The choice to end my job was related to making a move to another state, and taking care of my kids, but then…one month stretched into many more and then into a pandemic.

The thing about MDD is that when I am structured, intellectually stimulated and more or less well rested, my meds can take me the rest of the way to nearly normal functioning. When I am stressed by change, inactivity and lack of sleep, well– all bets are off and I may spend the day on the verge of tears crying because I believe I am failing my wife, our kids, and the good Lord above.

Speaking of the good Lord, I have been deconstructing and reconstructing my faith for a bit here, and with winter and moving and MDD and vicious viruses (suggested emoji–>🦠 (this looks more like an ameba)) I have been in a bit of a lull on feeling the closeness of the Divine walking with me. I know from the touch points in my past that these are the moments that standing stones, memories of when the goodness of God was so tangible I could taste it like honey and drink it like communion wine, are of invaluable hope. It lets me pray, “I can’t feel you, but I trust that you remember me as I remember you.”

I am here to remember, to rest and to confess. I am here to share in the communion of memory, the baptism through boredom, the bowed head of grief, and ultimately for the resurrection from the weary. I am here to listen for the small voice that isn’t the asshole in my brain. I am looking for moments of sacredness and hopefully sanity in the midst of all of this that we are going through.

I have never been good at disciplines (ask my dentist and my running shoes), but with no intension, the malaise that rolls in extinguishes my will and steals my joy. But I am not promising to do great big things everyday–this isn’t a story about bootstraps–but I am setting my intention to look for the ebenezers that are in my house, my lawn, in my Love’s eyes, and in eating bread (because God didn’t limit carbs, so neither am I).

See you tomorrow.

 

abandoned drafts

This is the start of a series where I return to older things I have written and didn’t finish, or they got absorbed into another thing, shedding some of the nuggets of thought that may have been  interesting to return to. I will leave the abandoned draft as I found them and continue thoughts in another color.

“You are just like your father!”she said with more than a touch of annoyance in her voice. She was right in some respects, whether by biology or by learned behavior I have some of my dad’s less than complementary responses to set backs in home improvement projects. I am like both of my parents in some ways, I bear my mother’s face shape, but the eye color of my father’s family. I am prone to run most of my thoughts and decisions through my emotion like my mom, but can organize thoughts and think of spacial items in my head like my father. I could go down the list, but I won’t bore you.

In Genesis, God says, “let us make humanity in our image, male and female in our likeness.” Imagio Deo, in God’s likeness, this likeness has intrigued theologians through the centuries. What is it about humanity that reflects an image of God? During the enlightenment the answer came much like Des Cartes’s philosophical foundationalism, “I think therefore, I am.” And great supremacy was put on humanities ability to reason, and it became the common way to speak of what in us is the reflection of God. The problem comes in when we note that their are those whose lives do not include the ability to reason, either by illness or disability or accident, but we seem to instinctively know that they are still image bearers. By hinging the image of God on a attribute that it’s not shared by all humanity we do damage, looking only for God in our perceived “normal” expression of humanity, and by doing so create idols in which God is made in our normalized image.

So what if this image bearing? Why note that we when have a passing resemblance to the Divine? I think that the reason it may be important is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it reminds us that when we look for God in ourselves we may be clouded in our judgement. I carry with me memories, lessons and scars; and for better or for worse my sense of self has been in part constructed on those pieces. One such weakness I know of is a twenty year struggle with depression–and with it comes thoughts of shame and questions of my worthiness. At different times my view of God has been colored by these oppressive thoughts, and I have believed God to be ashamed of me and willing to punish me at a second’s notice. When I glance in I do not find an accurate reflection, and so I must ask for others to guide me to a better understanding.

Just a couple of days ago, a friend and mentor of mine died unexpectedly, and in mourning his death I have been reviewing my memories of his life–and one of the things that time after time I have heard from others that knew him was his great gifting to call out where God shown brightest in you. We are creatures that were never meant to stand alone, and I think that we are to point to the truth that all humanity bears God’s image and we are to call that out in the other. Stanley Grenz built his Trinitarian theology on the idea that our reflection is in part the community that is in the Godhead and in the everyday it reminds us that we cannot exists in our fullness without being in community.

Secondly…

A time away

For the folks following along at home, I have been nearly silent since April. I have not written anything more than some thank you cards. I have not created anything. I have not enter a period of being deeply depressed. Its a reasonable thing to worry on, after all–I am medicated for depression and anxiety. It has been a season of change–job and car (good-bye Violet!).

I have been silent, but I have not been still. The new job has taken a large amount of the energy that I would have put toward writing, but more then that I have been in a season of listening and learning. I will be back. I will have more to write. I will have more words of my own, but right now I am doing my best to let the words of others draw me deeper in thought and higher in expectation.