The Earth Experience — Now Available on PS4

life is a video gameSometimes I feel like life here on Earth is like a video game. When you overcome one obstacle, another one takes its place. And if the obstacle is too big, you can be busted back several levels and have to struggle through some of the same stuff again.

It is fun reaching new levels, though. When you do, just like in a game, there’s all this new stuff to see along with the new things to overcome.

I don’t feel like I’m close to a new level, though.

A few days ago, someone tried to provoke me by calling me an assortment of unflattering names. It felt like a little demon sailed through the air with each word, like a succession of witches on broomsticks. I felt weighted down all day. Sage helped me. He told me I was the most awesome mom ever, and what mom doesn’t live to hear a compliment like that? A couple of the demons lost their grip and fell screaming to the ground. Then his friend told me how much he appreciated something I had done for him last summer. Another one bit the dust, having been poisoned by the surge of blessing I got from this kid.

There’s still a couple hanging out, it seems. One of them is fairly indistinct — an almost translucent gray figure hanging around me like a cloak that could almost go undetected. That is, if I wasn’t hip to the spiritual nature of depressive episodes.

It feels like I had reached a life force of 12,300 in the game of life and got busted down to 8,000 for not having had the skill to cast off the hurt before it dug its greedy claws into my soul in its attempt to plant a seed of bitterness in my heart.

I can’t emphasize it enough. Spiritual attack is real. Paradoxically, however, the key to overcoming it is not focusing on it. It’s much better to choose to focus on stuff you’re grateful for. Then the stuff clinging to you will feel nauseated and go away.

It feels like gratitude builds up your life force, helping you to increase your points so that the next time you get blasted, you’ll have a bit of a cushion.

The thing is, though, the more you play the game, the more skilled you get. There’s always something to learn, even when you make a mistake you’ve made in the past. I’m trying to summon gratitude for each lesson, even when I’m struggling through a level that has a fog of hopelessness along the path that I must strive to see through.

Putting ideas into practice is hard. It’s easy to lay around and whine or indulge in feelings of sadness, but that just has us repeating the same level again ad infinitum, doesn’t it?

Feeling super-glad the the source the game is plugged into never runs out of power. :-)

Note: If you doubt the power of words, I challenge you to watch this most excellent documentary.

Why God Made Kitties — One Very Important Reason

grumpy cat

There is a reason why this cat’s face was created this way — to amuse us!

I just realized that I’m depressed. I wish I’d realized it a few days ago, before I let my anger bleed out and hurt other people. Depression leads to delusions rather quickly. In my case, the delusion is that people I care about don’t like me or want to be around me. I think it’s a common delusion, and is probably why depressed people tend to isolate themselves — and alienate others.

Depression is a jealous visitor. He wants you all to himself. I mentioned yesterday that I knew I was inviting him in with self-pity. Today, he made himself some tea and had a seat in the best chair. He didn’t offer me any, but enjoyed watching me squirm at the consequences of some of my recent antisocial actions.

My husband doesn’t want Depression in the house, as he is one of those guests who tends to stay too long and makes a real nuisance of himself.

What my husband does when he sees that Depression pulling up alongside the house with a moving truck is say, “Look at the kitty!”

This strategy worked really well for him the first time my younger son was hospitalized. We were leaving the hospital after having admitted him, and he could tell Depression was following me like a stray cat. Unluckily for Depression, though, there actually was a stray cat in the vicinity. My husband said, “Look at the kitty!” and I immediately ran over to see the cuteness nestled in the bushes bordering the parking lot, leaving Depression behind.

That kitty was God-sent, lemme tell ya.

Since then, hubby has successfully employed the strategy a few more times. Today he watched funny cat videos on the computer — not his usual activity, as he prefers reading about boats, cars and rude politicians. Soon, I heard him say, “Look at the kitty!” and before I knew it, I was laughing.

Disgusted, Depression got up and left the room.

I am so thankful that God made such cuteness in the world. Seriously. What if all the animals looked like beetles or squid? That would be awful.

This verse is why kitties are the antidote to depression:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

I don’t know about noble and admirable — I mean, Fur Elise didn’t look very noble eating bacon-soaked paper towels out of the trash this morning — but kitties definitely fit the bill otherwise.

squids are not cute

Interesting and unique, not cute.

Click here for the official Grumpy Cat website.

Rambling Angry Stuff That May or May Not Have a Point

homeless
Sometimes the pain is so great I feel as though I can’t speak.

Yesterday we endured another visit to the psychiatrist, where once again the S word was tossed about liberally. There were also words like “lifelong,” “chronic” and “disability.”

I am ashamed to say that I have been feeling sorry for myself. I know it is like holding the door open so that the long-toothed depression beast can stroll right on in and make himself good and comfortable. I struggle to maintain a sense of reality.

People do not like to think about the S word. I’m one of them, since I don’t even like typing it. My own parents don’t call and ask how my son is doing or how I’m holding up. I suppose it is painful for them, so they, like almost everyone else, pretend it is not happening, that it does’t exist.

I’m so angry I could spit. Obviously, I’m angry that both of my sons, as well as my brother, have fallen victim to this disease or whatever it is.

I’m angry because I asked for support and didn’t get it. Well, not from the people I asked, anyway. The thing is, I’m well aware that I have no right to my anger because no one owes me — or my son — a thing. And I am blessed because God sent someone into my life who personifies His love, and that person also loves my son and played an instrumental role in our not going to the ER a few days ago for a psych eval.

I don’t know what to do with the anger, though. I want to say hurtful things. I want to blame someone else for this pain.

I feel like I could just explode, I really do. I’d like to see the fake constructs of our society made into visible strips of paper so I could tear them apart and the truth would lie there naked for all to see — and deal with.

We are all like blah, blah, blah. Love others. Love people with mental illness. Love unlovely people. Behind the words “Jesus loves you” are often “but I don’t, not really.” I think this has made it easy for people to mock my savior, this hypocrisy he’s so often associated with. And we all know how Jesus felt about hypocrites. That’s one thing I love about Jesus. He was not fake at all. He lived what he preached.

There was a catalyst to this anger.

My good friend Gen and I were at Starbucks a few days ago, sipping coffee on the patio. There was a man restlessly pacing the sidewalk, muttering to himself. Gen went up to him and asked him if he was okay. I followed.

It turned out he wasn’t okay, which was no surprise. He had suffered the loss of three family members in the space of two months. He was either manic, on drugs or both. We prayed with him.

I have to say that two months ago, this would have been completely outside my comfort zone. I’ll never forget the time Gen and I were in Java Jacks and she said, “Well, let’s pray about that.”

I was thinking, “Here? Now? In front of people?” but kept my mouth shut as I furtively looked around the room to see if anyone was watching.

I’m over that now.

At any rate, this guy was surprised. He said that he wanted to attend church, but didn’t know of one where he wouldn’t be judged. This was a valid concern. I figured some folks wouldn’t be able to get past his wearing swim trunks in public in January.

I realized that I didn’t know of a church I could invite him to, although some Facebook friends had some ideas. I thought about how my son doesn’t fit into most churches and how I couldn’t go to a church that couldn’t embrace people with the S disease, drug addicts, and even criminal histories, even though most probably have good intentions.

Sometimes things are messy.

Sometimes things aren’t safe. That’s okay. Jesus never says that we are supposed to stay safe. He says this instead.

In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. — Luke 14:32

I interpret this verse to mean that we may be called to literally give up everything — up to and including personal safety and even our lives, especially in light of this verse:

Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. Luke 17:33

What a hard teaching. To me it is clear, though, that hanging onto socially respectable behaviors and ideas about the lifestyle we feel we are entitled to is the wrong path.

I don’t want to attempt to fit the gospel into the lifestyle that I want to have.

Anyway, so Gen and I got into the car and I started to cry. Our encounter with this guy just hurt my heart so much. So many people are lonely and have such awful lives. We have to show them love, we just have to! Love in action is it, it is everything. It is the only way to defeat the devil that I can see.

And I’m thinking, what if there were more people like Gen who were willing to put whatever they are doing on hold to comfort a stranger, to cheer a friend’s son out of suicidal ideation, to randomly warm people’s hearts for no reason other than to lift them up?

Can you imagine the type of world we’d live in??

We’d all see the kingdom of God every day.

Come, and You Will See

Today, the doctor sat down on the couch where my son was sitting, held his hand and looked at him with utter compassion.

“You’re going to have to deal with this the rest of your life,” he said. “I’m sorry. We will help you learn how to manage.”

The words sounded like a curse. I wanted to jump out of my chair and scream, “No! He will not have this problem the rest of his life! Your words have power! Don’t speak this curse!”

All sorts of things were whirling around in my head. The power of life and death are in the tongue. What does that mean? Will saying it out loud make it true? God can heal him. But will He? Where is my faith? What am I supposed to think, do, believe?

God felt so far away.

He wasn’t, of course. But it felt that way.

I felt so alone. Because no one knows the answers to this. Except for God. And at that moment, the doctor’s voice was my only reality.

following JesusIt doesn’t have to be that way, though. I create a different reality when I choose to follow Jesus. To immerse myself in His presence. I don’t always make that choice, though. Today, I mostly chose to follow several design blogs in Google Reader. I spent most of the day looking at Scandinavian furniture and modern art. It was escapism, only it didn’t help me to escape a thing.

If I don’t make a daily choice to follow Him, I won’t get to where I need to be. Reading the Gospel of John tonight, these verses spoke to me:

They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” John 1:38-39

I find it interesting that Jesus did not say to these two disciples, “The last house on the right before you get to the market. Why don’t you stop by later if you have the time?”

If I want to know where Jesus is, I have to follow him. Not later. Right now.

I want to see.

The world behind me,
the cross before me.
No turning back,
no turning back.

Photo credit: Naria Nadal

Not Knowing

I don’t like not knowing things. If I have a problem I don’t know the answer to, I Google it. This worked very well when I discovered that banana peel would work to rid my younger son of warts when nothing the doctors did was at all effective. Lately, though, I’ve found myself doing bizarre things like Googling “why the voices my child hears are always mean.”

Trust me, Google does not have the answers to these sort of questions.

I’m sad. I’m confused. I’m searching under the bed, looking inside cabinets, dumping out my purse — searching for my joy. I am a person who finds a measure of security in having information, and there are some situations that no amount of human knowledge can touch. This bothers me. Becoming a snowflake is difficult.

There are so many things we just don’t know. This verse comes to mind:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. John 21:25

uncertainty god universeWe are like the blind men arguing about the elephant. Remember? One guy is holding the elephant’s tail, and swears up and down that the elephant is a skinny, sorta hairy creature — somewhat like a rope. Another has a hold of one of the elephant’s legs, and vehemently disagrees. The elephant, he says, is like a tree trunk. And so on.

I think we have less knowledge of God and how the universe works than these deluded guys did of the elephant. But most people tend to think like me. They like to have the facts so they can feel secure. So they grab onto what they think they know and defend it relentlessly, refusing to consider what other information — mysteries — might exist.

When I took my younger son to the psychiatrist, the good doctor asked to speak to me alone. Once the door was closed, he scooted his chair closer to mine, fixed his eyes fiercely on mine and said, “Now do you believe me? This is real. He needs to take the medicine.”

But what he thinks is real and what I think are real are two different things. The truth, though, likely lies somewhere in the middle.

I intend to keep searching for it.

Becoming a Beautiful Snowflake

Okay, so maybe saying that I think I’m turning into a snowflake doesn’t sound quite right. But it’s an apt description for this process that I am experiencing. Here’s an illustration showing how to create a really fancy snowflake. Check out all the intricate cuts you have to make to get it right.

intricate paper snowflake

Becoming beautiful can be a slow, laborious and painful process.

It’s easier to fold the paper and just make a few triangular cuts, of course. But then you end up with a rectangle with some pretty holes in it. It’s not beautiful — just something to do to fill the time. It won’t stay up on the refrigerator long, either. Your mom will toss it as soon as she knows you’re not looking.

I think a lot of us are content to be that rectangle with the awkwardly placed triangles. I know I often am.

The thing is, I prayed this really scary prayer. I asked God to use me to advance His purposes, to get “me” out of the way. Truthfully, I really didn’t want to pray that prayer, but God is not interested in lukewarm servants. And I’ve seen enough of what God can do to know that I want to consciously be a part of His amazing work.

I know I’m going to be a really beautiful snowflake. The parts of me that are being cut away are immense. It hurts.

But you know what? Before I met God, I would have a greater emotional reaction to having my car break down than I am now with all this business going on with my sons. My friend Deb said, “He is carrying you.” Oh yeah. There is definitely only one set of footprints in the sand.

I lean not on my own understanding.
My life is in the hands of the maker of heaven.
I give it all to You, God,
trusting that You’ll make something beautiful out of me.
I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open…