generalized anxiety

i actually wrote this post a while ago (you will be able to tell when you get to the news section) and then got nervous to post it. well, i am over feeling anxiety about posting these thoughts, so, read on.


generalized anxiety

so, lets just get this out of the way: i see a therapist weekly.

it doesn’t make me nervous to tell you, internet, that this is a reality. i do know when i mention this recurring weekly event in my life that a lot of people get nervous. they lean back in their chairs or take an unknowing step backwards. suddenly it seems that they suddenly become aware of their hands and forget how to let them just be. people fidget when i say “oh, i can’t then, i have therapy.”

we can talk about this subject of why our culture is so afraid of therapists, or talking about employing/utilizing them, some other time. for now lets leave that and get to what i have actually been mulling over enough to blog about for the past few days/week(s):

when one has health insurance one has to turn in a “code” on their receipts from their therapist showing what they are in therapy for. for example: if one has been diagnosed with depression or as bipolar or any other myriad of mental health diagnosis this would be their code. i’ve been contemplating my “code” recently when my therapist re-stated what she was putting in that box for my insurance.

i am coded for the health insurance world as having “generalized anxiety.” that phrase has been rolling around in my mind on my daily walks and runs. it seems to me that it is the existence of what many in the christian world call the “brokenness”* of the world.

more than once in the past week i have listened to the news on my walk to work and needed to take an extra few blocks to get my tears under control. (who am i kidding, that isn’t just this past week.) the violent death of a journalist in syria, the larger massacre occurring in syria, unrest in sudan and nigeria, people dumping ice on their head to fight a terrible disease, last words being “i don’t have a gun! stop shooting!”

perhaps we all have generalized anxiety.

 

 

*re: brokenness — this is a christian concept that i have also been thinking about a lot. i am not sure how i feel about the Church throwing that word around fairly carelessly. do i disagree with the concept of the world being already and not yet in regards to the kingdom of god? no, i do not disagree. it is clear that this world has not reached perfection. but the brand of perfection varies drastically from the ultra conservative to the wildly liberal–therefore the definition of “brokenness” does, too. perhaps more on that on a different day.

why would i do that?

at about the two mile mark of my run with the dog yesterday i had had enough of her tugging on the leash.

this was about half of a mile before she decided to stop dead in her tracks, about pulling my arm out of socket, to point at some ducks wandering through the park. then i had really had enough.

didn’t she know that she was my motivation for getting out and running in the rain yesterday? didn’t she know i frequently don’t want to go for a run but do so anyway because i feel guilty that i leave her in a crate all day at home? didn’t she know?

no, of course she doesn’t know that. she’s a dog.
no, of course she wasn’t thinking about the unnatural leash attached to the unnatural collar around her neck that one could say i am the one tugging on, not her.
no, of course she didn’t think stopping to point to the ducks, which is her natural-bread-into-her-instinct , was wrong in any way.

so why would i do that? 

why would i get upset that she is being a dog and not just being a dog, but being the dog  she was bread to be.

it is as if, in her sweet and furry way she was saying “DUH, boss! i am just trying to do what comes naturally!”

i have been frustrated with the institution of the church a lot lately. if i were naming our relationship on facebook relationship-status-style i would choose the “its complicated” choice. and i’m talking specifically about the institution here, not a pastor or someone in leadership–but the machine of it all–the culture of “north american sunday morning christianity” kind of church.

yesterday when running with the dog i realized that i often feel like she must–i’m just trying to do what i think is right, what comes naturally and sometimes this works in a really beautiful symbiotic way promoting growth for myself and for the institution.  but then there will be a moment when i want to linger in contemplation, or step deeper in to what barbara brown taylor is calling “lunar spirituality”* that i feel the proverbial leash yank from the institution continuing to run in the direction it was going while i’ve stopped to point at the ducks.

i want to know how to work this out–i want to know how to follow my instincts and vocation within the church i feel called and where my calling is affirmed while taking this contemplative stance** and moving slower than those around me (or stopping to think, or to “tell all the truth but tell it slant”***).

my desire is not to conform to some already laid out way, but to do it the way i feel called. (this is different than “i did it my way” because its not my way, but the way i feel called by the god i serve to do so.) sometimes the way i feel called overlaps well with the already existing parameters and way of the established institution, and sometimes it overlaps a little less than totally, and sometimes not at all.

what is the difference between do-this-to-do-that (it is all a part of the journey), biding one’s time, and selling out? how do we know when its slowing down to look at ducks which results in tugging on the leash, and when its slowing down so as to tug on the leash? it is a simple, yet complicated, difference. a difference that is small yet huge.

i learn so much more about life when i run.

 

*barbara brown taylor’s new book “learning to walk in the dark” explores what she calls “lunar spirituality.” i am listening to her read it as the audio book which i highly suggest–why fear darkness/unknown? especially when we learn such beautiful things there?

**the language of “contemplative stance” i learned from rev. dr. elaine heath who, among other things, co-founder of the missional wisdom foundation. she writes of this stance in the mystic way of evangelism.

***”tell all the truth but tell it slant”   is one of those emily dickinson poems that, after the first reading, has been rattling around in my soul ever since. if you must read it on the internet and not from a book it is here.

 

 

another ashless ash wednesday

the three ash wednesday’s i spent living in east africa were all ash-less beginnings of lent. there were church services, and lenten disciplines, but none of them began with the imposition of the ashes.

this was not for lack of desire on my part. as a matter of fact, i lamented this at least once on social media (i looked for the posts, but gave up. you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

it looks like tomorrow will also be an ash-less ash wednesday for me, even though i am now living in the united states. again, i will not lack ashes on my forehead because of lack of desire, but because they are unavailable in a (nearby) methodist church before i need to be on a bus at 9:15 tomorrow morning. i will still be on said bus at noon, in class at the mid-afternoon imposition times (if they exist?) and back on the busy at regular evening times (7).

why is it that we tend to only offer midday and evening services? are methodists allergic to morning prayer or offering the imposition of ashes pre 8:00a.m.?

and does it strike anyone else as odd that we tend to don our foreheads with ashes, an outward and visiable sign of the beginning of our lenten journey at 7:00 p.m., then we head home and wash this once-a-year visible sign of our faith and conviction before anyone has had a chance to see? before we have had a chance to engage in conversation about this stuff on our forehead?

why do we do it? sure, it is important for our private lenten journey–but what of the evangelism component we miss when we receive the ashes in privacy, get into our private cars and return to our private homes? i am not suggesting, necessarily, that you need to stand on a busy street corner letting people look at your forehead, or that the point is so people see that you identify as Christian.

but i am wondering, if we as a body really believe in the power of the gospel of jesus christ, and the time of preperation lent provides us in the Church–why do we not offer this to those who may not know?

maybe it isn’t procrastination // we are the revolution

yesterday afternoon i was telling my coach that i have a procrastination problem. this is not the first time that i have brought this up with her–it was, as a matter of fact, one of the first things i mentioned in both my e-mail and then in-person introductions. so yesterday when i said “i have been procrastinating a lot lately” and she gave me a funny look i was momentarily perplexed.

she asked, and this is an extreme paraphrase, “when do you do something?”

with a sheepish look while twisting hands in my lap, i blink, and prepare myself to have to explain my answer of : “when it feels right.”

“have you ever thought maybe it is not procrastination but a pause? waiting on the spirit?”
she also said something beautiful about mary waiting. and being in advent and waiting. these words i remember less clearly, but remember the weight and gravity and depth of the content of her words. and if my jaw didn’t literally drop, it figuratively did. 

tears sprung to my eyes. and i may have smiled. 

“no, i suppose i haven’t thought of it that way.”

so i’ve been thinking about this portion of our conversation since yesterday afternoon, and wondering why i would push away the liminal space that i so long for, the in-between and waiting space of already and not yet, of waiting on the spirit to speak and move and give comfort.

i have been wondering if procrastination has been mislabeled for many of us.

if perhaps what we have been taught is procrastination  is really making space for the spirit to move. for our hearts and minds to have a chance to come together. if it just isn’t time until it feels like time, and maybe sometimes that means it is never time.

what if what is labeled as procrastination for those who listen to the holy spirit is not the western-society-culturally-approved rate of movement (instant-response, always-answer-the-phone-immediately, produce! produce! produce!, numbers! numbers! numbers!, i needed that YESTERDAY!, move faster!), but rather is moving at the speed of the spirit? 

what if rather than spend a large chunk of our day/time internally berating ourselves for not keeping the same sort of linear time as is expected of us because of western culture norms  but instead gave space for the waiting, for the pregnant pauses. what if, in matters of the heart and of faith and ministry we slowed down? what if we got off the rat-race track and slowed down and listened to our neighbor, sat at our kitchen tables with the windows open at 11:00 in the morning on a thursday afternoon with the advent candles glowing while quietly pondering the ordination process? what if instead of feeling bad for needing to take 30 minutes longer in the morning to make space for quiet cups of coffee, or 15 minutes to sew something creative? or take an afternoon to read a novel, a morning to lay in the sun? what if it was acceptable to take a long walk in the middle of the afternoon because you think best while moving at a leisurely stroll and not sitting or standing in an office building somewhere? what if our offices could be our favorite coffee shops? our favorite pubs? our kitchen tables? our neighbor’s kitchen table?

i want to stop apologizing to myself for taking the time i need to think. the time i need to listen and wait. there is such an expectation of what is “appropriate” and “acceptable” in our culture and the church has taken it hook, line, and sinker. but our history is one of people doing things differently–of church mothers and fathers wandering the wilderness, living in caves, living in community and keeping silence together. our history is a history of anchorites. of jesus going for a few walks alone (“to give the crazy people some space”). we are a people of contemplative thought, of congregational singing and community living. these are not things that are to be done at the western-break-neck speed.

let us slow down, and live into the in-between spaces. to the times of watching and waiting–like our trappist brothers who wake before dawn to pray while the rest of us sleep. this is not something to be rushed, but something to wait-into. 

we have really got to stop this game of trying to look like we have it all together all of the time. we have to stop faking the ability to really Do It All. we can’t! i can’t balance everything. you can’t balance everything. no one can. sometimes things just fall through the cracks because we have too much on our plates. we take on too much or too much is handed to us by the norms of our culture that the church has adopted (rather than being counter-cultural) and we cannot juggle everything. rather than honestly say “i cannot do all of this on my own.” we try to make things look good.

we beat ourselves up by saying we’re procrastinating when our brains and spirits need a break. instead of slowing down we charge ahead because that is what we feel is expected of us, keep working! produce more! work more hours!

but what if it isn’t procrastinating? what if its just not time to write the report yet? what if our minds and spirit just needs another full day before making a decision? before writing a sermon? what if it isn’t procrastination but moving to the spirit’s time, not western-culture’s time?

and so what if it is procrastination sometimes? and how about, instead of hiding behind it or pretending we just name if for what it is? what if we are just honest and sometimes have the conversation, even if it is awkward. “this email fell through the cracks.” “i forgot.” “i had a hard time putting this together.” 

let us move at the spirit’s pace.
let us make room for pause. 
for waiting.
let us tell the truth. 
let us remember we do not have it all together.
and neither does she.
nor he.
so sometimes things are going to fall through the cracks.

we are the [liminal] revolution. 

thoughts for a rainy day

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it has been raining a lot here in houston lately. and, like in a lot of places, sometimes people complain about the rain.

we send one another off with “stay dry!” wishes. 
we do not look forward to our hair, faces or clothing feeling, let alone collecting rain.

but what does this mean for those of us who have submitted ourselves to baptism? 
for those of us who have been plunged beneath* the waters–
to die–
to then be raised again, out of the water as new creation?

what does it mean for us, who when sprinkled with water, are told to

“remember your baptism, and be thankful.”

water is powerful.

in abundance, water changed the shape of rock and earth, creating something that is new.
sometimes this occurs quickly in a flash flood or hurricane.
but sometimes the change water can wrought is through the slow, one drop at a time, trickle creating stalactites taking decades to begin to show visible growth.

change is sometimes instant. change is sometimes slow. but it is still the water powering the change. 

 

walking out into the rain the past few days i choose to remember my baptism as my hair, face and clothing collects drops of the most volatile substance on our planet. i choose to recognize the power of water not merely because of the force it alone carries, but because of what it means to me as a follower of christ. i recognize the power of water but it is the symbol and sign of my death. a death that has already occurred and a death i try to live fully into every day. 

it is in that death, in my baptism and the community of the Church, that i find life. 
that i find new creation.
that i find the Me i was created to be.

so get out there, let your hair, face and clothing get wet. 

remember.

and be thankful.

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*whether the human body is fully immersed in a body of water or this occurs through the symbol of poured, placed or sprinkled water, it is the same, it is still baptism.

 

nb–i recognize, also, the health hazards and risk that many of our brothers and sisters who are un-housed or under-housed face with the type and amount of rain we are having in houston these past few days. it is my hope, that when we truly do remember that we have died and been raised with christ that an aspect of remembering our baptism and being thankful is what will propel us forward and out to offer radical hospitality, love and warmth to our brothers and sisters who are vulnerable to the power of water in a way that we–i–am not.

the confusing space

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“the attributes of liminality or of liminal personae (“threshold people”) are necessarily ambiguous, since this condition and these persons elude or slip through the network of classifications that normally locate states and positions in cultural space. liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial. as such, their ambiguous and  indeterminate attributes are expressed by a rich variety of symbols in the many societies that ritualize social and cultural transitions. thus, liminality is frequently likened to death, to being in the womb, to invisibility, to darkness, to bisexuality, to the wilderness, and to an eclipse of the sun or moon.”
victor turner the ritual process 


“wherever i am, i must know the people of my parish because my salvation in christ is bound up with theirs. eternal life is not something that i enjoy by myself when life in this world is over. i have been saved for life forever with other people. that life is possible because of jesus. but the apostle paul is clear: the eternal life of christ’s body is a life we share with brothers and sisters who, like us, have been called out of the kingdoms of this world into a new way life (1 Cor 12:12 and following). either we are saved together or we die as dismembered individuals”
emmanual katongole mirror to the church 


“who are these people/…/where do they come from?”
revelation 7:13

it was not particularly early, around 8:45 on a weekday morning,  as we climbed the small hill and i began looking for this Great Wall i had heard about. this Great Wall standing too far north of the border between mexico and the united states of america. i had seen photos of portions of the wall before, and was looking for what i knew from those photographs. not seeing what i was looking for i assumed that we were not yet at the wall, and that perhaps we would pilgrim further down the levee on the path to the wall.
    “it is good to walk
when one is pilgriming” i thought. 
              but we were done with the walking portion of
                                    our pilgriming for that moment.
our guide informed us that we were standing on the levee that served as a portion of The Wall between mexico and the united states of america. while she went on to explain the rules about having to place a wall so many miles north of the actual border my hearing fuzzed out and i was staring at my feet, picturing the map-line beneath them, wondering where i was betwixt and between, what other feet had crossed this space and where they were now. 
legal border or no, you build a wall, or put a wall around a levee and that symbol is going to stand as The Wall if it is the legal boundary or not.
standing there, staring at my feet, wondering about this space between swaths of land separated by thin air and mere circumstance my eyes noted some movement down to the south, in the flats, a little to my left. 
            “why are the karimajong warriors
                                                                                   .running?”
my eyes draw up to this movement and a few flashes of confusion set in. flashes of confusion that must have been nano-seconds that allowed for hours of footage to play inside of my mind. what my minds eye saw as karimajong warriors loping across the flats of kotido
 district as seen from the top of sliding rock, jaunty hats with feathers, draped in sukas, carrying stools and sticks transformed as if liquid into persons i can only assume to be from mexico dashing from tree line to tree line. 
not the gentle lope of a tall people in northern uganda headed home before sunset, but the furtive dash of those trying to not be seen. these are not the people i first thought they were. 
“we need to go.”
                             one of our guides says,
                                                                    as the other flat ignores the missive. 
i step back,
                                         away from the group  
not because i fear what could happen,
not because i do not want to hear what our friend is saying,

but because sometimes one needs to step back and take some space,
so that
when the tears fall
                                         they can fall into the gravel where her feet once stood.
                                                                                                                                     where other feet have crossed and moved
                                                                                                                                                                                     and searched. 

because sometimes, a levee is not a levee. a wall is not The Wall. 
sometimes a levee becomes a thin space for recognizing the deepest needs of humanity.
and because
sometimes
a wall stops blocking people from running
                                                                       into your heart.
it can be a confusing place, to be a daily pilgrim seeking perpetual liminality, but there is no place my head nor heart, feet nor hands, would rather be. 

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pilgriming

yesterday i saw a palm thatched roof and it nearly brought me to tears.

it is a week of restlessness and remembering, a week bookended with anniversaries marking the leaving of a place physically and a week of wondering about choices.

the beginning of the week marks two years away from kotido and the community there, the end of the week marks two years away from uganda and east africa.

and in the middle of this week, today, i am making pilgrimage to a border wall between the united states and mexico. these two things are extraordinarily connected and threaten to be just a little too much.

such is the life of a pilgrim.