What (Not) To Wear!

This is what happens when I wear a lavendar colored shirt to a Neuro ICU with creative nurses who don’t know I love my So Cal heritage.  Love it!  That is some handsome man.

I just love having fun with people and playing around.  Just like this, there is fun to be had in many ways.

All I Did Was Complain! (Yikes!)

You know, this week has been tough as I realize that when I am tired I am a complainer.  That’s tough.  When I am tired, nothing meets my expectation and I complain or discredit just about everything else.  I noticed this this week because I came home exhausted at 2:30am on Monday morning and had to be up and at work for a 3 hour history lecture at 8am.  After that point, this entire week has been exhausting and during the entire week I had to hear the history lectures and such for a couple hours every morning.  That certainly didn’t help me try to engage the week and sink into it.  Then add the interview at a hospital on Tuesday afternoon, a bunch of hard visits, and I have the recipe for complaint.

And some people will tell me that’s alright or that that is normal, trying to make me feel better.  But that is not the problem.  Even when we are tired, there must and are better ways to manage my difficulty than by complaining.  In fact, yesterday someone told me, and in doing so reminded me of my parents, that we just have to make of our circumstances what we can.  I had to come to work, I needed to go to the interview, I needed to make those visits, and I had to attend those lectures.  I can’t change the circumstances, but I can choose how to respond.  And it really looks bad when someone spends so much time complaining and sounding like nothing pleases me and feeling like I am so negative.  I think complaint is the audio for laziness- the form for laziness.  I didn’t want to engage, I didn’t sleep when I needed to, I did not do what I wanted to when I really wanted to- and I decided to complain rather than reorient myself.

All that being said, I didn’t complain so much that people reacted negatively and confronted me.  But it is not helpful or positive and generally raises a negativity and lack of gratitude in me.  And I want that to change.  I think that is the real difference.  Complaining is lazy is not acknowledging gratitude and grace around me.  Great things happened this week.  I had a wonderful interview, I was blessed to be eye opened by a historical lecture on domestic violence, I learned about ethical wills now and in Ancient Rome, I was blessed by a number of affirmations regarding my skills as a chaplain, I made some beautiful relationships in the hospital room, I felt genuinely welcomed and valued on my Neuro floors, I gained some insight into the world of the ancient Greco-Roman world that helps me understand what was going on, I got to share the excitement of being at my brothers wedding, and I developed some understanding of my own ministry skills with Pentecostal and emotion based faith groups.  All very great things.  I was not in a bad place last week.  But my response to the lectures and my presence at times was irritatingly complaining (to me!).

When this feeling comes my way next time, I will remember that I need to initiate what I can to find joy rather than sit in complaint.  First, I need to remember to be grateful, and be vocal about what I am grateful for or what was a gift during the week.  Second, I need to intentionally sit some things out and get rest to help my body recharge my spirit.  That will help as the week in itself gets exhausting so that I can be ready as things keep coming.  Third, I can discern what I can make of each circumstance and engage each lecture, hospital visit, and interaction as an opportunity to receive or give something, rather than something I “have to do.”  Fourth, I need to find ways to do what I like to do during these difficult times, like play disc golf or go on a run or get outside- things that bring me joy.  Last, I can honestly and humbly seek some eye opening feedback from someone that will be honest and challenge me to do better than complain- share with someone my difficulties and let them help me do it better.

So, I am going to do better next time than complain.  At least less of it so that I can enjoy the love and care around me more and find the grace in my life ever so more.

Sounds of the Summer 2

Earlier in the summer, I wrote about some random things that reminded me of the summer.  This time, I am reminded of how special the song “Take Me Out to a Ballgame” is to me because of how much I went to baseball games and loved baseball games as a kid (which I still do!).  I never liked singing the song much but hearing it takes me back to a special time and special place when I thought I would be a baseball player when I grew up and when I played Little League baseball and when I went to the Big A in Anaheim when that team was the awful California Angels.  Ah, yes, special days.


The reason I was reminded of this sound came from two things.  First, my new nephew Will Barlow was singing his own rendition in the car just recently and it was so funny as he declared the angels don’t win and you have to root for the dodgers.  As he counted out the strikes, he lost count and said, “1, 2, ….4…1…2…3……….5 strikes youre out at the old ballgame.”  He had me absolutely in tears laughing because not only was he funny but his laugh was so perfectly real and deep, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how special baseball was to me, especially during the summer.  Second, friends went to an Astros game just recently and enjoyed the basic sound of summer: the cracking of bats, the calls of an ump, and the refreshed sounds of people after enjoying a hot dog and beer at the game.  What a wonderful part of summer!

Manny Ramirez' first game as a Dodger...

What are your sounds of summer?

A Gift and a Blessing (A Wedding!)

I’m tired this Monday afternoon.  But not surprisingly so, because this past weekend was absolutely full of wonder.  As you might have known, I performed the wedding for my brother and his now bride Jacqui, and I was overjoyed throughout the entire service.   It was a beautiful wedding at a beautiful location with really wonderful people.  I was certainly blessed to be a part of this beautiful moment.

I watched my brother grow up through a ceremony.  I watched him smile at Jacqui through the entire service thrilled that he was taking such a beautiful person as his bride.  His smile, though full of joy and pleasure at being in this wonderful and meaningful ceremony betrayed an innocence and a naivete that was okay.  Yes I watched him grow up in his life, but this journey of marriage will be a time of maturing and growing up too, and I look forward to seeing both Josh and Jacqui blossom even in the midst of hardship and difficulty, which they certainly will have in their marriage like all other couples.  It was beautiful though to see that innocence because the marriage ceremony is an acknowledgement that everything after is an opportunity.  Just as I shared in my message and Josh and Jacqui said in their vows, marriage is full of gratitude, treasure, and mystery.  Those gratitudes, those treasures, those mysteries show us that the journey of marriage is an opportunity to learn about ourselves, each other, and God.  Thus, when I saw those smiles of innocence, they were smiles of beauty that all the great things that can emerge from all that follows.  May their journey be full of more innocent and deeply felt smiles.

Now, all that being said, I’m still exhausted.  The preparation for the wedding was immense as usual.  Picking up the chairs from the rental company, preparing the candy bar (brilliant and sweet idea!), setting up the reception hall, setting out the tablecloths, arranging the chairs and the arch where they were married, cleaning up after the wedding and after dancing- it really is quite exhausting.

The Wedding Location- the sound at Lake Norconian!

But it was all worth it.  Because there is just something special about having a part in something special.  There is something special about the symbols and beauty of a flowered arch welcoming the groom and the bride during their vows.  There is something special about being in the middle of chaos with those you love and enjoy being around.  There is something special about having laughs in the middle of stress with your wonderful and special new in laws that you treasure.  There is nothing like watching your mother and father cry over something so beautiful and endearing like their first son to be married with my own teary eyes.  There is something special about inviting God’s presence to be a part of something so important and vital to our lives.  There is something special about having the set up of chairs just right to make the dreams of a little girl who grew up a reality.  There is something special about declaring your brother and his fiancee, with all the power invested in me by God, that they are husband and wife.  There is something special about being the one who presents these two to the world, tears in eyes and incredible joy in my heart, as Josh and Jacqui Denham.

Indeed, something special.  A blessing to have been a part of it all.  I am fortunate to have been asked by these folks to be such a meaningful person in their wedding.  Just thinking about it I have lots of tears.  Tears that come from my gratefulness to have wonderful in laws (Lewis and Marian) who bless with wonderful character and love and welcomes.  Tears that come from my thrill at having a nephew who makes me laugh so hard I cry and who I can’t seem to take my eyes off of.  Tears that come from having a beautiful sister now, even if it is by law, who I proudly claim lives her life faithfully and joyfully for God.  And tears, at having my own family back in SoCal that makes my heart skip because though we have so much dysfunction and conflict, I love them all so much and love being able to see them, hug them, talk to them, share my joys and despairs with them, and even dance with them.  What beauty!

And it all comes from an exhausting wedding.  Thanks be to God!

Josh, Jacqui and me

I’m Going Back…Soon!

I’m quite excited now.  Just 3 days from being back in the hot sunshine of Southern California.  It’s quite unbelievable.  I get so envious seeing friends have family around in church or elsewhere, and I usually get home for a 6 total days a year.  So, I’m anxious and ready to be back and see family, to be in the weather there, to be reminded of home- but…

This time is slightly different.  This time I get to share in something incredible, and I’m sure many of you know about it…my brother is getting married to Jacqui this upcoming weekend and I get to be a part of it, observe it, watch it before my eyes, and even have the opportunity to bless and declare them husband and wife.  True blessings indeed!  I can’t wait to officially have a sister in law- and also a nephew!  I am truly blessed to see something special because I get to see my brother come of age, accept a great responsibility, and become a man in another large way.  These are moments of joy, moments of thanking God not just for an opportunity, but thanking God for my family, and thanking God for my brother whom I am so proud of!

Josh, Jacqui and Will!

Mental Illness and My Ministry

I seem to have these experiences now quite often.  A visit with someone who talks about their visions, someone who believes they or their loved ones are demon possessed, or someone who has a mental illness and/or schizophrenia.  This has happened every week it seems.

So what do I do?  I feel stuck so often since I am unsure of what my action should be?  How should I respond?  I feel presented with my own understanding of the reality of angels, demons, heaven, hell, and the Holy Spirit.  More particular, I felt drawn to understand my own belief in regards to the legitimacy and experience of those things.  While I feel uncomfortable with the enacting of casting out a demon because of my traditional, conservative, white American faith background, these experiences demonstrate a larger claim that I feel is critical to faith.  Namely, that there is a God who working in the world and who works through mystery, and that there is some thing named evil that works counter to God’s will for his creation and that work is also mysterious.  Because of the prevalence of mystery not only in God’s redemptive work in the world but also the mystery in evil, I cannot call another cosmological experience or Spirit filled experience illegitimate, and mostly because for this patient, that experience is vividly real and vividly influencing the shape of his life.  Perhaps what can be made of the experience of angels, demons and visions is how it moves us toward love of God, self and others or away from the love of God, self and others.

So that still leaves me with what to do?  I want to respect and dignify, but it seems so strange.  More true is that I am nervous, uncomfortable, and awkward about it all.  I don’t fully understand schizophrenia, but I want to treat others with compassion and hear them with beauty.  But there is uncertainty about how to best show my care.  But I think this is further than about providing care.  I think I learn from these experiences about myself.  I remember having an uncle with a significant mental illness.  I remember issues in my life and loved ones who have survived depression and suicidal tendencies.  I learn about my flexibility in being in those conversations because I dearly love and dignify and care for people who struggle with mental illness.  I learn that I am imperfect and uncertain, but that love goes a long way in dignifying these people who are written off by so many others.    I learn about how I want to care, and I learn that I have a gap in knowledge that I need to address.  I learn about my theology of the divine, of the spiritual, the supernatural- I indeed learn about myself.  And that is the first thing that I can do.  Knowing my own anxieties, my own experiences, my own skills, my learning edges, my own family history- that is the first step in reaching out to those with mental illness.