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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Last Epiphany Year A Transfiguration Sunday Matthew 17:1-9 Exodus 24:12-18

There are two places in the Gospels where the disciples experience the full glory of Jesus. This is one; the other is the resurrection.

Jesus, on the mountain, like Moses in Exodus 24, encounters the glory of the father. The people cannot bear to witness Moses' face so he wears a veil. But the disciples look on the face of Jesus during the encounter and after. Jesus has revealed the power and presence of God in the flesh, something Moses could not do. Yet here we find Moses again!

Some questions that arise from this passage:

1. How did Peter know it was Moses and Elijah? Jews did not carve statues of their leaders nor did they paint pictures of him. The only thing he could base their identity on was the prophecies.

2. Why did Peter want to build tabernacles for the three? Did he think he could keep them right there forever?

3. Why did Jesus only let three of his disciples view this and not the 12?

4. Why were the disciples afraid when the voice said This is my beloved son. Was it particularly loud? How did they know it was God's voice? Did God's voice sound anything like Jesus' voice?

5. Why did Jesus tell them not to tell anyone about this incident?


Monday, February 3, 2014

Reflections on celebrity death [Philip Seymour Hoffman] and Superbowl Sunday

Why does social media light up when one famous person is found dead of an overdose of illegal drugs but doesn't seem to say anything about the millions dying everyday from this epidemic? 

Why does social media light up with complaints about lack of good commercials and bad defense over the superbowl but says little about the drug and human trafficking problems tied up with super sporting events in this country?

Where are our priorities? Drugs kill people every single day; not just users but innocent victims around the users. 

Speak out against drug use and encourage those you know with addiction to get help. I highly recommend 12 step programs. They are free and they are everywhere. Do a simple google search for Alcoholics Anonymous in your area. A Christian twelve stop recovery program is called Celebrate Recovery and it is now in most cities. Once again, these programs are 100% free.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

6 simple ways to break stigma of seeking psychotherapy

1.  Be open and honest about your own issues. Just about everyone who knows me knows that I struggle with depression. I am open about my own 13 years of therapy.

2. When your children struggle with anxiety or depression, take them to a therapist. Let them know early on that this is a normal, accepted thing to do.

3.  Talk positively about psychiatry and psychology. The words, "head shrinking" or even "shrink" are negative and derogatory. Stop using them.

4.  Refuse to use the word, "crazy" to describe someone with mental illness. Correct your children or family members when they do. "That person struggles, for everyone struggles with something," is a good reply.

5. Be thankful for medical research that has provided us with antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and psychotropics. Once human beings did not have the options we do today.

6. Watch the movies, "A Beautiful Mind," or "Lars and the Real Girl." They both tell deep, thought-provoking stories that give insight into mental disorders. "A Beautiful Mind" is especially well done at showing the distorted view of reality a person faces with a mental disorder or illness. The physician character in "Lars and the Real Girl" is beyond amazing.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to be a friend to someone suffering from depression

I am not a medical professional and I am not giving medical advice. Please see a health professional if you think you are depressed. I am simply someone who has fought depression for 13 years.

1. Practice empathy. Even if you have never been depressed, most likely you have felt down. Imagine yourself in the other person's place. Imagine a sadness that just doesn't leave. Imagine sorrow that can't be cured by a funny movie. Try to understand. Just try.

2. Sometimes your friend might want to be alone. Do not take this personally.

3. The look on his/her face is not about you. So many times I have been accused of being angry at upset at someone simply because my face refuses to show anything but sorrow.

4. Encourage your friend to get help. This can be tricky. Try, "You deserve to live a better life and therapy can help you do that," rather than, "You are seriously screwed, you need a shrink." 

But know that you cannot make anyone do anything. It will not help if you go to a therapy session with them unless you are asked by the therapist. Offer to drive the person to therapy, yes. Offer to help them find a therapist. Offer to pick them up, yes. But you can't do it for them. 

5. Depression manifests itself in multiple ways. Sometimes my depression is not sadness, but lack of 'put up with crap' energy. Often it simply means I need more sleep. Sometimes I just feel extremely irritable. Your friend may have some or all of these symptoms if they are depressed.

6. You cannot fix them. Depression is an illness. It is not an attitude or a sign of laziness. Do not tell them to just make up their mind to be happy. This cannot be done.

7. If they threaten suicide, take them seriously. If you think they are going to hurt themselves, call 911. They may get mad, they may not be your friend anymore, but what is more important, that your friend lives, or that they speak to you?


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Depression is not a sign that you have a spiritual problem. Period.

Today I read the sad sad sad news Rick Warren's son committed suicide.

I cannot imagine the pain the Warren family  is experiencing. I visited Saddleback Church in 2010 and heard Rick Warren preach. He impressed me as a man who had no problem being honest in the pulpit. The first thing he said was, "So we all have problems. I like donuts. I eat too much." Saddleback church has an amazing ministry...but I know that nothing nothing nothing will make them feel better right now.


Over the past 12 years I have struggled with depression. I have been antidepressants 11 of those years. I have had thousands of hours of therapy. When I was at my worst, some well meaning Christian friends told me that if I was truly a Christian then I would not be depressed. I was told if I praised God more then I would feel better. I was told if I read the Bible more I would feel better. I was told if I prayed more I would feel better. At the time I was a senior pastor.

I SPENT HOURS AND HOURS PRAYING, PRAISING GOD AND READING THE BIBLE.
And I DID NOT FEEL BETTER.

I spent hours begging God to make the dark shadows go away.

Even though my problem did not look physical, IT WAS PHYSICAL.

I may have looked like a healthy 20 something but inside I was dead. However, looking at pictures of myself from that time, I can see it on my face.

It was only through weekly therapy and finally antidepressants that the dark shadows gradually lightened. And when I say gradually, I mean gradually. It took about 2 1/2 years before I was 'better.' But I put 'better' lightly. I was never the same and I have never been the same.

Depression still lurks in the darkness. It is an ongoing mental illness that for some, like me, is never 'cured.' It is ongoing struggle that sometimes affects my spiritual life but has nothing to do with how much faith I have.

Through therapy and the support of my family and friends I have learned how to take care of myself to make sure I never hit the bottom again. The plan of self-help may be different for every person. This is what works for me.

I am not a health care professional and I am NOT GIVING MEDICAL advice.

 If you THINK YOU ARE depressed, SEE YOUR DOCTOR.

1. I stay on my antidepressants. I have never tried to go off of them. I see absolutely no shame in taking  a pill a day. If you are on antidepressants, NEVER EVER take yourself off of them without a physician's supervision. Some people only need a short term prescription to get them back on their feet, but I have never ever wanted to return to the person I was before them, so I don't see the need to go off of them.

2. I see a therapist regularly. The first therapist I saw was an LSW who had also been to seminary. She was a godsend and I think she saved my life.  I saw her once a week for 2 1/2 years.  I  moved away and found another after a couple of tries. You have to find someone that fits for you. Don't get discouraged if your first visit with a therapist doesn't go well. Try another. Now I don't need to see one every week, but I know I can call her if I need an appointment. She knows me and that is important. "I don't have money or insurance," you might say. Ask around. Ask your pastor, rabbi, imam, or teacher. If you are a student, most schools offer some free therapy. There are free and reduced clinics. If you are depressed, you really need to see a professional.

3.  I have learned my limits. I am not a person who can get by on 4 hours of sleep a night. I have to have 7-8 or I can not function. Of course there were times in my life when this did not happen. But I have learned that I must catch up somehow. I don't feel guilty for napping.

4. I have learned to say no. I have to watch my stress level. If my schedule gets too busy, I get stressed. If I get too stressed, I get depressed. I have to say no often when it comes to church volunteering, etc, or extra work projects.

5. I have learned what relieves my stress and I practice those things regularly. It may take a while before you figure this out. It took me 2 years. I found that I love, love, love sewing, especially quilting. Getting immediate results from my efforts, seeing the beauty I create. You can see my projects at My quilt blog. I also need to exercise. I walk my dog, I do yoga, I ride my bike.

6. I speak out. Just about everyone who knows me knows I have depression. I do not tell people this so they pity me. I tell them so they don't get offended by my sad expressions. I want other people to know it is OK to be depressed, it is not a sin, it is not shameful.

7. I stay connected to a healthy community of faith. I could not survive without my church. Not all churches are safe places for depressed people. If you do not feel safe in your church, it may be time to seek another.  A safe church for a depressed person is one that allows that person to feel sad. If I do not feel like singing in worship, no one expects me to. My pastor says from the pulpit, "Worship in the way you feel comfortable." Sometimes I am too depressed to stand and sing. Sometimes I just want to sit and cry while others sing. My church leaders do not expect me to be someone I am not.






Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Sunday John 20 He is Risen!

Every other Sunday is a rehearsal for this one.

Every church should celebrate today.

If they don't, then they don't get what this Christian stuff is all about.

Bring out the loudest music.

Jesus is risen. As my pastor said, RESURRECTION IS LOUD.

He is risen and we can't keep quiet.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday The Passion of the Christ

If I look back far enough I remember the first time that I 'got' Good Friday. I was 7.

I watched some movie about the life of Jesus at a theater. I don't know know which one it was. I have researched but haven't found the answer. It could have been the 1979 version of the Jesus movie that was updated in 1989.

But it was 1979. Movies were not so easily watched then. It was the days before digital download, itunes, DVDS, and even before VHS, if anyone still remembers that. I know the VHS was invented but it had not become household, at least not for families like mine who had little cash to spare. We had a black & white TV with a large antenna.

I had been to church that morning.

But seeing the crucifixion on the screen...it was nothing like the Passion of the Christ. It was rated PG. There was not that much blood. But I could not believe anyone would do that to my Jesus. Lumps in my throat. Agony. I cried. I shut my eyes. I decided I could not bear to watch something like that again.

Fast forward to 2004. Everyone is raging about the Passion of the Christ. All the staff at my church went to see it the night it came out: Ash Wednesday. I avoided it like the plague.

But I am a Bible professor and of course all my students began questioning me about it. So I went to watch it. Alone.

I was not alone in the theater but the experience itself was surreal. There was a group of women in front of me: about 20 of all ages that cried like the women following Jesus in the film.

The group behind me was eating popcorn, drinking Cokes and even making inappropriate comments.

I sat alone, shaking. Wondering how anyone could eat and watch something so gory at the same time. This is not just a normal movie for your entertainment! I wanted to shriek at them.

About the time they crammed the crown of thorns on his head, I left. I couldn't take it anymore.

There is no way anyone could have survived that loss of blood as long as it took. They went overboard. I understand why. but I can't watch.