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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 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.


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 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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Good Friday Reflections on the Stations of the Cross. Station 13.

Station 13 Jesus is taken down from the cross and placed in the arms of his mother

The Scriptures do not tell us that the body of Jesus was laid in the arms of his mother, but Mark 15:47 says that she was there as the body was taken down. Every mother in the world knows that she needed one last time to hold her child, to remember struggle of his birth, to see his life flash before her eyes. There are no words to express the deepest darkest depths of agony that she felt. There are no decibels to register the sound of her wails.
She had watched him die, powerless to stop the machine of religious establishment, of empire, of men’s fears that led to treachery, violence, and now death. Did she remember his promises of rising on the third day? If she did they were forgotten as his blood stained her robe and her mind neared psychosis with pain.
O Lord, your mother symbolizes every mother who has watched her child suffer. May even in this we know your presence and comfort. 

Good Friday: Reflections on the stations of the cross. Station 9

Station 9 Jesus falls the third time

Even though he has been relieved of the burden of the heavy cross, Jesus falls for the third and last time. This time he has reached the place of his death, the hill called Golgotha, the place of the skull. They are now outside the city. The crowds continue to push and yell and scream. He remains on the ground as the soldiers to begin to strip him.

O Lord our hearts ache and we shake as we know how this story continues. We cannot bear the thought of your intense agony. We recoil in horror at the thought of nails into your hands and feet. 

Good Friday: Reflections on the Stations of the Cross. Station 7.

Station 7 Jesus falls the second time

Jesus falls again. He is deeply exhausted from the loss of blood for he has been flogged with a cat of nine tails. The soldier hit him 39 times on the back with the whip.  His knees scrape the ground. He is dehydrated and shaking. Yet the soldiers drag him to his feet. It was their job to get him alive to the place of execution. Yet he forgives even them.

O Lord, may I have the strength to forgive those who have inflicted pain upon me.

Good Friday: Reflections of the Stations of the Cross. Station 6

Station 6 Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

Church tradition tells us that a woman named Veronica offered her veil to Jesus so he could wipe his face. He wiped his face and gave it back and she saved it with his imprint to remember his suffering. A woman, unveiled, was shameful, but her fear of shame left as her compassion for him outweighed social norm. 

O Lord, would I have been willing to risk my own shame and even my own death to offer compassion to you? Let me remember that every suffering person I meet on the road today is you. And let me offer aid.

Good Friday: Reflections on the Stations of the Cross. Station 4.

They are not going to be in order. That's just me. Today I was thinking about Jesus meeting his mother on the via dolorosa.

Station 4 Jesus meets his mother

Jesus meets Mary, his mother. She looks into his eyes. How can she bear this burden of pain? She remembers the prophecy of Simeon who said ‘A sword will pierce your heart.’ The sword has pierced. She feels the pain of the twist. If she could bear this burden for him she would. But she knows it is his. She says nothing, but he knows her love.

O Lord, sometimes it hurts worse when I see the pain in the eyes of others than when I feel it myself. May I never purposely cause pain for those I love and may I always have someone who loves me to look in my eyes and share my pain when I travel in anguish. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lent 4 C Luke 15:1-32

The lost sheep. The prodigal son.
Just saw Les Mis. Yeah I know I am behind. Victor Hugo captured the story of redemption.

Fontaine the prodigal? Or Valjean the prodigal? Yes.

And heaven a barricade?

Or is heaven simply liberty? Do we all see it in the context in which we lived?

I dreamed a dream.

But my favourite line

To love someone is to see the face of God. In loving Cosette Valjean was redeemed.

Election of Pope Francis I

Well I guess it's time to join every other blogger and talk about the new pope. I am not Roman Catholic. But I am Christian. I am far enough in history away from Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli and even Henry VIII to say that the Holy Father in some sense does represent me though I am Protestant.

Today the whole world  waited for the white smoke. And when it was seen there was no waiting for it to be broadcast in the next morning's news, or for the newspapers to be published. Everyone in in the world knew within seconds that the white smoke ascended via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and every other social media venue represented in St. Peter's Square.

Why did Protestants care who was elected? Didn't 'we' PROTEST the Papacy 500 years ago?

Why did Americans care who was elected? Didn't 'we' declare over 200 years ago that we would be rule ourselves and not allow a religious state to interfere?

Why did the English care who was elected? Didn't the English King say 500 years ago that he would do as he pleased no matter what the Holy Father said? And then make himself the Head of the Church?

Why is everyone so interested? Why do we think it mattered? I want to hear your opinions! Tell me.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

100th post Lent 3C Luke 13:1-9

I have made it full circle. I am now posting comments on passages that I commented on 3 years ago in the lectionary cycle.

This is my 100th post.

I am proud. In a humble, Christian way, of course. ;-)

Luke 13:1-9 finds Jesus answering a question that well ask sooner or later. Why do some suffer more than others? Do the consequences people face match the in they commit.

Jesus answers with a story like he usually does. He answers with stories that leave us to interpret. And we have a much more difficult job interpreting than his hearers as we are separated by 2000 plus years from them.

His answer seems to be filled with grace. The gardener shows grace to the tree. He wants to give it just one more chance to produce fruit.

The answer could not be more simple. Give one more chance. That seems to be what God does with his people over and over. Give them another chance.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lent 3 C Isaiah 55:1-13 If you are thirsty

These words from Isaiah are often quoted.

8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 

Usually when we don't understand something, a person will quote this to make us feel better. 

It  does not make me feel better.

If they were used in the context they were meant they probably would have encouraged me. 

Seek the Lord while you while he may be found. 
He was found. 

He was found by the Exiles in Babylon. Even when they thought he had stayed behind in Israel. He was found. 

It was in the pain that they found that God could be found. 

And when they found him, they burst into song.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lent 2 C Genesis 15:1-18 When God speaks in dreams

Shane Claiborne in his book Irresistible Revolution , tells of a dream that  John Dominic Crossan had of Jesus. Crossan had already written multiple books about Jesus, after all he is a New Testament scholar. Jesus said, "You write well. Now are you ready to join me in my vision?" This greatly disturbed Crossan.

Has God spoken to you in dreams? Abraham dreams of God in this passage. The passage is pregnant with symbolism which I will  not go into now. You can find that at other places. I think Abraham was greatly disturbed by the dream. I would have been.

Here you will find a reflection on dreams and how God uses them.

When I was a child God called me to preach. I had visions of greatness. After all I had heard preachers preach to hundreds upon hundreds of people. I had seen altars lined with sinners. I dreamed that one day I would preach to thousands and I would see weeping people at altars. I would be the best. I had seen women preach, but never seen or heard a woman preach to hundreds as I had men. I would be the best woman preacher ever. I would be the best preacher ever.

After I preached to a bunch of kids in my apartment complex, screaming at them to repent, they started throwing stones at me. I was 10. I was proud of myself for getting 'stoned' although my mom dragged me in the house before any of the rocks hit me. She told me to go to my room and think about "better ways of doing things." I went to my room and preached to my stuffed animals. They didn't throw stones at me.

But that night I dreamed. I dreamed that I walked outside of my apartment to the hill behind the building. On the top of the hill, I saw Jesus on the cross. It was close, yet far away because I couldn't reach it. I kept walking but I couldn't get any closer. I woke up as I heard God say, "Would you do this for me?"

In my child's mind I figured out that God was showing me the way of the cross. The visions of preaching to huge crowds were mine, they were not God's. They were stuffed up and arrogant.

The way of the cross, the via delarosa, was the way of suffering. Jesus preached to huge crowds, but where did it get him? Certainly not a high paying job as a mega church pastor like I sought.

I attended an inner city school. I think my brother and I were the only practicing Christians, at least that is how it seemed to me. When my PE teacher found out that I was a Christian, she said horrible things to me in front of other students. This was not the Bible belt, folks.

My dreams of God got me through. I have had many people tell me that it was only a dream. But it was not. That is one of the advantages of Christian experience. No one can take an experience away from you.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lent 1 C The Temptation of Jesus Star Wars Style

spoiler alert Star Wars series

The Truce at Bakura is the  1993 Star Wars novel by Kathy Tyers that details events that take place immediately following the 'Return of the Jedi' (1983 Lucasfilms).

In this novel, Luke Skywalker continues to fight the temptation to descend to the Dark Side of the Force. He is surprised the the temptations do not get weaker, they get stronger. The more powerful he becomes in the Force, the more powerful the temptations become to submit to the Dark Side. But unlike his father, Anakin Skywalker, Luke refused to cave. He doggedly continues the practices that Master Yoda taught him, disciplining himself to resist the temptations.

Luke has just experienced the most majestic victory of his peripatetic adult years and even his entire life. He has seen the destruction of the Empire's Death Star. He has convinced Darth Vader to remove his mask. He has witnessed his dead father's apparition in the Force along with his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi.

It is often after the greatest victories that we experience the driest deserts and the strongest temptations.

Jesus has just been baptized. He has seen the Holy Spirit descend upon himself in the form of a dove, and heard his Father say that he is well pleased.
 He had experienced the
of his life.  
Then he encounters the
of his life.
Veggie Tales puts it this way
We didn’t have a lot of fun in the desert
We didn’t have a lot of fun in the sand.
Now of course Veggies refers to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness.

But there is a reason why Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness.
There is a reason why he is in the wilderness
There is a reason why he is in the desert.
It is no accident that there are parallels to the trials of his ancestors.
Like Luke, Jesus practices the disciplines taught him.
Like Luke, Jesus refused to give in to the Dark Side.

Jesus emerges from the desert as Luke emerged from the swamp in the Empire Strikes Back.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday Joel 2 Psalm 51 2 Cor 5:20-6:10 Matt 6:1-6, 16-21

Ash Wednesday

Ashes to Ashes Dust to Dust

Reminders we are mortal.

We remember today that we will turn to dust.

Yet at the end of this Lenten season is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Because Jesus has conquered dust, death, sin,

and everything that goes with it.

Resurrection will come.

But today we are dust.

Today we will repent in dust and ashes

Today we will commit to self denial

Today we will remember that Jesus lived this human life

Today we will receive the imposition of ashes

Monday, February 11, 2013

What is the Christian Year?

This is how I teach the Christian Year. Feel free to use it in your church settings. All of the images are from microsoft office.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Transfiguration Sunday C Luke 9:28-43 Psalm 99 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 Exodus 34:29-35

I don't want to come down from the mountain. I saw Jesus in all his glory. I saw him as I have never seen him before. I saw him as I wish all the world would see him. He was shining, like the sun, like the moon, like the stars. My eyes were almost blinded. On each side of him were two others. They must be Elijah and Moses; like our tradition said. Elijah and Moses; God's greatest prophets  stand on each side of Jesus. Suddenly I cry out, Jesus, let us build tents for you and....but before I can finish speaking they are gone. It was as if lightning flashed in a split second. I blinked; wondering if I had been dreaming. But the look on James' and John's faces told me they had seen too. If there had been a dream we all had it. Then a cloud covered Jesus. I heard a voice saying, "This is m son, my chosen, listen to him!" And it was gone. Like the lightning flash. Again.

Oh how I wanted to stay. My heart raced. James, John, and I rushed to Jesus. He looked stunned. He didn't say anything so we built a fire and just sat with him most of the night. What had the prophets said to him? Whatever it was, it made him sullen, silent, and sad.

Why should the son of God be sad? God himself had thundered from heaven! That should make anyone excited and happy! But Jesus was still quiet.

Epiphany 4 C Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71:1-6, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Luke 4:21-30

Two thoughts rise to the top after my first reading of the four passages. Both provoked memories from my childhood.

1. Jeremiah's phrase, "Ah Lord God Truly I don't know how to speak for I am only a boy!" I remember reading this not long after I was called to preach at the age of 10. I was not a boy, of course, but I focused on the issue of youth. I never told God I couldn't speak because I was young, mostly because I had heard multiple stories of people running from God's call and how it turned out bad. I wanted to speak. I wanted to preach and I did not want to wait until I was grown up. I preached to the kids on the playground and I preached to the kids in my apartment complex. Once the kids in my apartments threw stones at me while I was screeching, "REPENT!" to them. That God me in trouble as my brother told on me and my mom made me stop. I couldn't understand why she would punish me for preaching!

2. The Love Chapter.
I memorized most of this chapter around the age of 12. I remember reading something in my study Bible that wondered why Paul had written this and not a poet like David. And that Paul wrote it right in the middle of an argument about spiritual gifts. But that is where it was needed. Love is the greatest gift. Most people do not understand what true love is. This chapter explains agape. Agape is the Greek word for STEADFAST love or LOYAL love or God's love.