Posted in Musings

Depression 1.9 – Swimming in Inadequate Sea

Part of the struggle is listening through the noise, the endless chattering of Elegiac and its kin.

The negative carries more weight than the positive. Criticism is easier to believe, to receive, over affirmation. My mind cycles through blow upon blow, Elegiac’s incessant pecking at my neck.

Elegiac likes to remind me of my inadequacies. Social Media plays on those with its endless notifications.

Did you post yet? Your friends haven’t heard from you in awhile.

Notifications remind me of what I am not getting done. Look at me. Click here. Go there.

So I have begun to remove myself from the sticky strands of the world wide web. I am scattered all over the place. Is it any wonder I do not feel whole? I have rediscovered the power of the delete button, the unsubscribe link, the cancel subscription choice.

I did not choose to have depression, but I do have a choice about what I will pay attention to. What I will participate in. Who or what I will follow. Where I will invest my life.

To ask the question, does this give me life?

Simply put, if something brings me down, bums me out, depresses me, enrages me, makes me feel inadequate, I must have the wherewithal to notice and then (newsflash!) stop doing it, listening to it, reading it, click, click, clicking on it!!

The constant clicking is what Elegiac would want me to do.

Yet I must resist.

I do not wish to desert the Master, to be led astray nip by subtle nip by distractions.

Can I honestly say each and every day as Simon Peter did,

“Lord, to whom would (I) go? Only You have the words of eternal life.”

Posted in Longreads & Essays, Musings

Depression 1.6 – Tough Enough To Talk About It

(From November 9, 2011)

Recently my wife asked me what book I was reading.

“I Don’t Want To Talk About It,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, somewhat taken aback. “I was just curious . . .” Her voice trailed off.

“I Don’t . . .” I started to repeat, then I smiled. “That is actually the title, it’s a book about depression.”

We both had a good laugh.

We can laugh about it now although that wasn’t always the case. I am on medication, reading books like the one with the title above, and actually, I DO want to talk about it. Or actually, talk more openly and honestly about it. As I look back over my journals, I realize that I have been talking about it. But I was talking mostly to myself and resisting what was staring me in the face.

I was depressed.

And wonder of wonders I am not alone. According to psychotherapist Terrence Real, the author of I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, depression among men is a silent epidemic that we don’t want to talk about or deal with because it isn’t “manly.” He differentiates between overt depression and covert depression, the different symptoms of both, and how both can destroy lives and relationships if not acknowledged and healed.

While I have found the book generally very helpful, there are a couple of things in particular that have jumped out at me so far. Early on, the author describes his learned understanding of men as “wounded wounders.” I resonate with this idea. In a sense I have been very adept at recognizing and dealing with my pain. My plethora of writings reflect this. However, it is only recently that I have begun to move from the narcissism that such inner work can lead to and into the more transformative power of letting my vulnerability out, through the same power of writing.

Real also describes the relationship between depression and violence, namely the violence men perpetrate on other men, especially as boys. I understand this as well. I was a smart and sensitive boy, gifted with near sightedness and thick glasses. My peers teased me mercilessly about my lack of manhood whatever that means. I was called Gay and Queer as if those terms make one any less of a man. At that time it still hurt deeply. One guy even told me something like I might get good grades but he got the girls. Typical misguided macho stuff. But I believed it. It was only later when I looked back from the relatively safe vantage point of adulthood that I realized that girls and women were attracted to me mainly because I was a man that they felt safe with and could trust.

There were worse things done to me which for now will stay between me and my Maker. Suffice it to say that I have received more trauma than I have given. But I am not innocent. I have seen the monster within. I wrestle with him daily while at the same time comforting the boy who still cowers in pain nearby. It is a struggle but I must do so if I am to survive and be healed.

It seems that the only way left open for men and boys to prove their manhood is through violence. But we are not made to be this way. Depression arises out of the helplessness we felt when we were victimized by other men. It also arises out of the guilt we feel from when we victimize(d) someone else, man or woman.

But there was One who did not walk this way. He took the pain perpetrated upon him by other men; their abuse, their torture, their injustice, their hate, and He did not respond in kind. Even more astounding, He transformed it into new life, a way of love that encompasses everyone and everything.

That, my friend, is HOPE. I have never found a Man tougher or more tender. It takes a real man to face his pain, not throw it back in someone’s face, and come out on the other side striving to be a better son, brother, father, husband, and friend.

So Man Up. I mean, really. You, your loved ones, and the world deserve it. It’s time we made this crazy orb a safe place for everyone, especially other men.

Man Up Campaign

Man Up Ministry

The Meaning of Man Up

Posted in Musings

Depression 1.3 – Searching for the Soul Doctor

God’s truths often arrive in strange packages.

Like the song by Foreigner I have been blasting on my truck’s stereo this past week.

It’s called Soul Doctor.

I need to see the soul doctor
Before the fever begins
You know I’m searching for the soul doctor
When love is wearing thin
Doctor soul is in.”

Depression is not simply something in the mind. It is also what the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross described as “the dark night of the soul.”

So on hard days, I’m searching for a soul doctor.

Rather than crawling into a mental hole or pretending everything is okay, I am learning to pray and accept that I am never alone.

Jesus promised to never leave or forsake me. And often, after these dark nights of the soul, joy does come in the morning.

Which means I can hang a sign outside my heart that says, “Dr. Soul is in….”

Posted in Prayers

The Warm Embrace of the Son

when i greet patron star
i acknowledge that i could
not live here without
her eternal fire

when i meet brother son
i embrace the knowledge
that i am loved by
an unquenchable flame

when i am present
to the morning
this gift of another day
the rising sun
and the risen one
created and creator
i bow into the warm
embrace of the holy
and begin this day
with his name
on my tongue

Posted in Religion & Sprituality

Ash Wednesday on Surfers Point

here at the point
where the waves explode
against the rocks
and the fishermen
come to cast out upon
the water
i stand
my face into
the wind

there was a fire here
charred driftwood lying
waiting to be
rekindled
warmth to share
and cook the coming feast

faith is the spark
memories of another
distant shore
lost followers found again
by their teacher

remembering
i reach down to
what the flames touched
rub my finger against the ash
and draw a cross on my
forehead

when the ocean
washes the soot away
it feels like
a gracious savior’s
kiss

Posted in Poems

The Shapers

Last night I dreamed the Shapers came around again.
They dropped by the cottage as we were sitting down to dinner.
I invited them in.

Jesus and I laughed about the first time I gave my life to him down deep inside a sleeping bag trying to make the tears come while my mocking friend pulled the covers back to see what I was doing. It was he who had told me that I could not eat the Lord’s Supper unless I was born again.

A rocky start I guess, but honored nonetheless. Jesus loved me for who I am.
And I began learning
to love myself and everyone around me,
It and I always turning, turning from truth and back again.
Jesus loved me for who I am.
I still do, he said.
My Shapers and I bowed our heads in silence while the Prince of Peace broke the bread.

After grace, I turned to Dr. King.
“I’m Martin to my friends.”
He pointed at his head and then they all showed me the places where the bullets and the nails had gone in.
Loving your enemy is no guarantee he will reciprocate or give love back again.
I used to wonder whether I would go up and out like Martin.

I grew up in Mississippi and I met him though his people,
still getting used to the changes,
showing patience with the foot draggers,
paying no mind to the word daggers, the tut-tutters and finger waggers,
so willing to forgive and forget.
Martin smiled. “I have a dream,” he said.
“And the dream ain’t done being dreamed yet.”

Next I spoke to Gandhi.
“Please pass the Satyagraha.
I need some more spices from the mouth of the Mahatma.”
So we spoke of truth and love, with a dab of philosophy,
how the tooth for tooth just leaves everyone’s mouths empty.
“Did you like Ben Kingsley and the length of the movie?”
“Not bad,” Mohandas smiled. “Though I would have made it shorter with a little less of me.”

My church saw the movie together.
I was young, and it was long, but my life was changed forever.
I remember how I cried,
how it felt to be with the adults outside
at intermission talking peace to the cool Southern night air.
I’m still figuring out how to be salt of the earth and
where.

“How are you, Romero?” I asked.
“I’m well,” he replied.
I told him of the time I spent at the church where he died,
how I wore a black cross around my neck for years in solidarity with his people, who shared their hopes and
fears with a naive college student, how we cried and laughed,
how reading Exodus could make you disappear,
how the soldiers who killed the priests shot up his photograph. “Monsignor, you were more alive dead than
you were before.”
To which he said, “My son, that is the essence of resurrection.”

After that I spoke to Menno and thanked him for my heritage. “I would gladly have been martyred like these,”
he said. “But I did not have the privilege.”
“How does a mortal, fearful man have such courage?” I asked.
“Be faithful. Life is in God’s hands.
Do not take upon yourself what is the Creator’s task.”

After too short a time, it seemed,
they pushed back their chairs to take their leave from my dream.
“We have far to travel yet,” Jesus said. “And many more Shaped to see.”
So I bidst them farewell and thanked them for their lives.
They laughed and laid their hands on me.
“Freely given, child, freely receive.”

When I awoke, I lay still for awhile and listened to her breathe,
this woman whom I’ve known for a short time who is already shaping me with her love, encouragement, and commitment to peace
in our lives together and communities.

I thought of Mom and Dad, my friends and my family,
the shapers I carry inside from their stability,
the learnings and the laughings,
and our shared history.

These are my Shapers, the makers of me,
the famous and the not so well known
who have scribed these patterns on my bones.
There are many, many more unmentioned, and more shapes for me to see,
for I am a grateful man who contains a wonderful
geometry.

September 2003

Posted in Longreads & Essays

The Not So Wicked Bible (or the Worship of Prince Baalberith)

A MIDWEEK ESSAY

In 1611, Barker and Lucas, the royal printers in London, published what was meant to be a reprint of the King James Bible. There was one major omission. In one of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:14 which should have read “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the not was omitted. The printed passage read “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Needless to say the printers got into big trouble and most copies of the Bible were destroyed.

I find the story ironic in two ways. Based on current statistics, it seems that the mistaken commandment in the Wicked Bible is the one that is being followed. Polygamy is still being practiced, only now it is done so in secretive and illicit affairs. Pornography, sex trafficking, and prostitution continue to feed insatiable lusts. The Church continues to be so obsessed with sex that other principles are not emphasized with equal importance.

Which brings me to my second point. Would there have been as big an uproar if the printers had omitted not from verse 13 so that it would have read “Thou shalt kill?” I don’t know. But for all practical purposes in this day and age we act as though the “not” does not exist.

We continue to glorify killing through incessant media broadcasts of tragedy that feed our insatiable appetite for such. We justify killing through our continuous need to be engaged in one “Holy War” after another. The two are not unrelated. For when we approve of killing in any form we create an opening for that spirit to be present in our society. The murders and violent tragedies so prevalent among us are a direct result of our justification of killing through war and other “accepted” means. There are those among us who have more compassion for the unborn than for those birthed and living.

My friends, this must not be so. Thou shalt not kill. Period. We must close the portal that allows such things to invade our society. We must defeat the Red Horseman, Prince Baalberith, and his legions.

We can do so only through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Originally posted October 21, 2011

Posted in Poems

I Come To Work In Borrowed Clothes

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I come to work in borrowed clothes
With face unshaven
Body washed, but not perfumed
Unadorned and entombed
In this angry earth and her grinding groans.

What is real becomes the stuff of dreams
Nightmare voices resurrected
Ears behind the three day stubble
Strain the silence from the rubble
Of a hundred hearts bursting at the seams.

Babel towers have crumbled down to dust
We are not gods
Just mere mortals armed with precious pride
Where love is lost is truth denied
My God, My God, why hast thou now forsaken us?

Were I to wrend these stranger clothes
Like some temple curtain
Grief would fit so unfamiliar
On feeble frames of we peculiar
Creatures, broken bodies lying naked and exposed.

We sit safe at table, you and I
Hear the smack
We arise from bread and wine and go to the window
To find a frozen finch robed in yellow
And see those fiery crosses crashing forever in our minds.

Crucify. Crucify. Crucify.
Lord, is it I?
Is it I?

Written on September 12, 2001

Posted in Religion & Sprituality

Remember Me

It shows up on most websites I need to sign in to.

Usually right below the blank for my password.

A check box followed by the words “Remember me.”

After Communion several weeks ago, something has changed.

Now when I see that check box and those familiar words, I find myself hearing in my head the refrain we sang that Sunday past.

“Jesus, remember me when You come into your kingdom.”

The song refers to the words spoken by one of the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus.

I’ll admit it. I want to be remembered. Hopefully in a fond way. And perhaps as someone who made a difference in the world.

We live on in the memories of others, our immortality resides in the minds of those who knew and loved us.

Yet, the infatuation with legacy can become narcissistic and at times parylyzing, as if my life has already ended and I have nothing left to give.

God forbid that I become like that other thief who on the edge of the eternal abyss curses the One who holds the key to eternal life;

Who knows me like no other, Who fearfully and wonderfully made me, and Who continues to make me into who I am from that small beginning when I was knit together in my mother’s womb.

So when I click that little box beneath my password, may I remember that I reside in the mind of God and that is the only thing that matters, the only legacy I need to leave behind.

“Jesus, remember me ….”