Regarding Self-Medicating…

Self-medicating gets a bad rap. We all employ self-medication in one way or another. We each choose our medicant, and while some are healthier than others, our use of them is a means of relieving the stress with which we deal in our lives. That’s why I believe that we need to learn how to self-medicate in a healthy way. While it is true that we can use some form of self-medication as a means of escaping the pain in our lives… to cover our pain and escape from that which frustrates us… we instead can use it to re-engage the beauty of life through celebration and thanksgiving.

This perspective shift is especially timely in light of the news of the death of Amy Winehouse, at the age of 27. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/amy-winehouse-drug-haunted-british-pop-diva-dies-at-27/2011/07/23/gIQAgaOLVI_story.html

 (A special thanks to my Facebook friend, Shawn Anthony, for his post which mentions Winehouse’s joining “The 27 Club”, which is a group of rock and blues artists who also died at age 27. You can find a list here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Club )

None of us will ever totally escape difficulties in life. However, it can be really easy for us to focus so singularly on them, that we completely miss the moments of beauty which surround us. While I could list some of those moments, I think it more effective to allow you to make your own list, right where you are as you read. If you would like, you could even write your list as a responding comment to this blog…

One method and practice which can help us self-medicate in a healthy way is that of Sabbath. Dan Allender, in his book “Sabbath”,  (http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=dan+allender+sabbath&tag=googhydr-20&index=stripbooks&hvadid=4286333845&ref=pd_sl_85ndk89y5x_b )

identifies the practice of Sabbath as a day within which we engage joy and delight, and turn aside from controversy and contention. In it, we intentionally seperate ourselves from the rush, competition, and frequent panic we may live in the other 6 days of the week, to celebrate the gifts and people that God has brought into our lives.

…and all the church folks said…. “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”

Honestly, one of the frustrations I began to battle as a preacher’s kid and as a layman who was very involved in the ministries of the church, was that Sunday seemed to be just another work day. This day, however, we were “workin’ for the LAWD!” The problem for me, was that the church became my “mistress” of sorts, which came between me and my family. I came to be disillusioned by how my faith tradition interpretted the Sabbath and wanted to learn how to practice it in a way that encouraged and strengthened my closest relationships, as well as developing a healthier faith community. So… was my divorce a direct result of spending too much time at church? Not entirely, but one of my responsibilities in the death of the marriage was that ministry became sort of an idol for me; not that it necessaritly stole all my time, but which did consume my mind in such a way that I wasn’t fully present in the presence. Instead, I was thinking and reading about how to reach others for Christ, while denying the God-designed, Edenic nature of relationships within my own family.

Sabbath, in the manner Allender describes it, invites us to be fully present in the “right now” for one day and to do it together. Living in this way might actually begin habits of living and loving that could invade the other 6 days of the week. Our attitudes might change as it relates to our priorities, and need to control. We might find ourselves delighting in unforeseen pleasures and receiving them with thanksgiving, as well as to make efforts to prepare our own gifts to others. Our “church work” might become transformed into a joyful celebration of giving our talents and time and treasure as gifts of love to both our community of faith, as well as the community within which we live, not to mention our own family. We might learn to live and give out of a artesion well of thankfulness, rather than a septic tank of guilt and coercion.

We might even get a little sleep….

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Faith to Receive…

A couple months ago, I finally saw the movie, “Pay it Forward.” The premise of the movie is that giving something we have that others  need can change the world. In the movie, a seventh grade teacher gives an assignment for his students to come up with an idea that can change the world. One of the students, a small boy who lives with his hard working, single mother in a poor neighborhood, thinks long and hard about the assignment as he goes about his day to day life. He gets an idea, and begins to act on it. The idea being: Find three people and do a favor for them, asking them to do a favor for three other people rather than repay you.  The belief behind the idea is that kindness keeps on giving, changing lives in the process.

It takes courage to be kind and generous, but  giving keeps on giving. Meanness does eventually have a limit, but generosity and grace and forgiveness lives on and expands. However, sometimes the recipient of another person’s kindness can be very cautious of the giver’s intentions. Life seems to reinforce the addage: “There ain’t no free lunch…” Cynicism grips our heart in its icy, tightening grasp. We are tempted to mistrust the person giving us something we need. We expect there to be a catch. We are defensive, protecting ourselves from the very kindness we need. Usually, we need faith to receive. Faith in the person giving. We need to believe in their open benevolence.

I have come to a crossroads in my life. There are options open to me and I must choose which way. Admittedly, I have been reluctant to expect the goodness in life recently. For several years, I have listened for the other shoe to drop. “Things are going well right now, it’s about time for something unpleasant.” I would say to myself. My expectations were very low, and they usually were fulfilled. Living in this manner left me in a rut… a rut is a grave with the ends kicked out. Frankly, I didn’t trust life, myself, or God to provide good things.

But somewhere along the line, I began to understand that I was afraid of the good things in life. Afraid they would be taken away eventually. Afraid that if I risked… put myself out there… that I would fail.  I find this a really sad way to live. So I began asking God to give me faith to trust Him. Faith in myself and my gifts. Faith in God, my children and family… that they love me and want the best for me.

I asked God to give me faith to receive the life He has for me. My prayer has been for faith to receive his provision even though I can’t see it now. Faith like Abraham… to leave where you have known and been known on the promise of a new home while trusting God knows the end of the journey and has provision not only at the final destination, but along the way. Faith to receive both the good and painful. For the painful has invaluable things to teach us and also must be received. So does hunger… and loneliness/seperation, and loss.

 Thankfully, we also learn from the good. Gratitude is our response to the good that God has given us. We learn how much God loves us as we look around our lives and measure the depths of His good gifts.

Faith receives everything that is part of the journey and trusts it is just what we need. Because faith is tied to the love of God.

I started lifting weights a couple months ago… although… I…. haven’t been… in awhile……

Anyway, when I lift, the muscle tissue actually tears and then must heal. When it heals, it is stronger. Blood rushes to the tissue and brings the needed nutrients to repair and strengthen the minute injuries. That is how the body works. Our lives are no different. We grow stronger as we are stretched and torn. While the body needs rest and food to provide nutrients from outside sources, we each need to replenish our souls in activities which we enjoy… good things in our daily routine also enable growth.

What is sometimes bothersome to me in life, though, is that you don’t often see the “results” as you do with your body. Or, maybe not the results you were hoping for…thought were what you needed… But maybe in life, as in lifting weights, other people close to us notice it sooner than we do. And maybe that’s part of the reason it is actually “faith.”

Also in lifting weights, you make gains quickly at first, but there comes a time when you plateau. The same effort doesn’t seem to be getting results.  So you have to change up your routine and add different exercises. Your muscle memory and habits must  adapt to new challenges.

Our lives are no different. Doing the same thing and expecting something different is insanity, so when life changes, we must believe God is changing the exercises. Our response of faith is like continuing to go to the gym, even when we don’t feel the difference. So we receive the change without knowing why, yet trust in the long range purposes of God. We trust that God desires good for us, and wants to give us a fruitful life, out of which we joyfully give to others.

Although I don’t know what it is yet, I know a change is gonna come…