Tag Archives: mental health

We Have This Spirit

I walked into worship this week with my emotions swirling. On Friday, there was another school shooting. These shootings cause me to be unable to breathe or even to string my thoughts together. This time, the shooting was in Texas. This time, it was in the high school in Santa Fe, Texas where our daughter served as a Speech Pathologist in the past few years. This time, it was the halls she walked, the students she knew and her colleagues that faced the unthinkable.

Our youngest son is going into the military. I am worrying in advance for his safety. On Friday, I realized I need to worry equally for my daughter, my middle son and my husband because they all work in schools. Could this really be our reality?

On edge about that, I was also aware of the tender time of year it is with graduations and school year milestones, recitals, programs and stress. I was feeling, as well, the weight of  people’s stories: difficult diagnoses, grief, job angst, aging parent woes, struggles with mental health and more.

I sat in the pew wondering how in the world we could even bear it all.

Then, the children’s sermon reminded me. The children were asked what special day it was right now. No one said anything about the royal wedding (although wasn’t that a refreshing reminder of the power of love and new life?) No one mentioned the Preakness or the weekend’s golf tournament. The kids didn’t mention end of school or graduations, reunions or recitals. After a bit of awkward silence, just one child said softly “It is Pentecost.”

How that child knew that I have no idea. I’m sure the majority of the adults gathered probably didn’t quite know that. It is, to me, one of the hardest to grasp of the Christian days. It is the day we celebrate the gift of God’s spirit sweeping in to empower, change and embolden the Christian movement.

It is our yearly reminder that we Christians have this resource, this Spirit that helps us bear all things. As spiritual people, we are called to see what is not visible. We are asked to receive our power. energy and coping skills from some part of God that is more like wind and flame than anything black and white. We are asked to live by, in and through something no one can even see.

It’s so flimsy and hard to grasp that I even sometimes forget and I have been an ordained Christian pastor almost 31 years now.

We have this spirit, this manifestation of God that is always with us. This spirit equips us to face the unbearable. This spirit gives us the courage, the voice to make changes where there is evil, injustice and pain. This spirit calls us forward in big, new and surprising ways.

If we were left on our own, I do not believe we could go on. I do not believe we could find hope. If we were left to our own resources, we would be lost/hosed/doomed.

But, thank God, we are not.

Once, I spoke at a very difficult funeral. I did not know what to say so I shared this:  “I told God, I cannot bear this. I cannot. And God whispered back, ‘You can’t bear it. It is too much. Just hold it up to my Light.'” That whisper was the Holy Spirit, our resource. Come, Holy Spirit. We cannot bear this world alone. Amen 

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, mother of three, Mimosa to Keller and Pace and breast cancer survivor. This blog entry is written in memory of Lina Finau.
  

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MLK Day 2015

I saw the movie Selma over the weekend.  I was both deeply moved and greatly horrified. The theater was packed.  The woman sitting to my left was a stranger to me.  She was African-American.  I noticed we both cried at the same points in the movie.  I just think our tears may have been for different reasons.

I left the movie, spent and wanting to learn more about what really happened during that time in history.  I had such a mix of feelings.  First, disbelief that Bloody Sunday in Selma was less than 50 years ago.  I couldn’t fathom that in my lifetime, people were prevented from voting because of the color of their skin.  Secondly, I felt pride in the clergy who stood with King and others at that critical time in history.  I wondered if I had been a pastor then, would I have marched or played it safe and silent?  Then I wondered what issues need a pastoral voice in our time rather than the safe/silent treatment? Racism, still, marriage issues, immigration reform, domestic violence, mental health issues come immediately to mind.  Thirdly, I felt apologetic and humbled, like I needed to apologize for the hideous actions of white people through the years.  And lastly, I felt surprised at how real and vulnerable MLK was portrayed.  He was flawed, conflicted and wavering at times.  It makes sense, all leaders I know are like that. I felt grateful for him; for his leadership; for his sacrifice.  It changed our country forever, thank God.

I’m glad we are coming around to see MLK Day as a “day on” not a “day off.”  I love the idea of serving others on this day.  Our church family celebrated the day by packing 20,000 plus meals for the hungry.  Hundreds of volunteers made it happen.  It was a huge undertaking led by the women of our church.

I only wish it was enough to right all the wrongs.  It’s not of course.  We have so far to go, so much to do and so much yet to learn.  I know I do.

Time Out

In football games, a time out is for re-grouping, strategizing, managing the clock, drinking Gatorade and sometimes just for messing with the game plan of your opponent.

In child rearing, a time out is to remove a child from his/her cycle of behavior; to teach him/her what is not acceptable through a bit of negative reinforcement; to teach the little one that he/she is not in control. When our now 21-year-old son was in his terrible twos, he threw temper tantrums whenever he didn’t get his way. He would simply melt, wail and flail. I was determined to win, so would pick him up, this solid, heavy, sturdy toddler boy and deposit him in his room. I told him the same thing every time, “I know you are upset. When you can calm yourself, you can come back out here with the family.”

To his stubborn credit, he’d try, oh, he’d try coming out to tantrum some more. I just kept depositing him back in his room to calm himself. Each time, it got worse. Bruised from his well-placed kicks, I’d be covered in his snot and tears and some of mine. He’d pinch. He’d try to bite. He threw toys at the door a few times. I just stayed on message and kept delivering him to time out.

One day, just like that, he stopped with the tantrums. Fast forward 19 years, he is now a 6’2″, 195 lb. young man; still quite sturdy and strong; a happy, productive, funny person who knows how to calm himself. You’re welcome world. Thank you, time out.

Time outs work. Time outs are effective. We all need them.

In the last few weeks, several factors in my world converged to create a need for a time out for me. In retrospect I now understand it was the “perfect storm” of:
–The medication I am on to prevent a breast cancer recurrence, Tamoxifen.
–The medications I was on to counter the side effects of Tamoxifen.
–Good things, like a packed fall schedule, high school and college football games, friends, social events, jobs.
–Stress-being a pastor is a tad bit stressful. I don’t want to whine but we pastors tend to absorb a lot of pain–people’s personal pain, institutional pain, pain meant for God, plus the painful sweetness that comes with trying to live out faith in community.
–Hormones-imagine throwing in the mix a whole pile of pre-menopausal hormones which Tamoxifen is trying to shut down while my body hard at work making more hormones. No kidding, I have a little hormone tsunami inside of me at all times.
-Our dog-our vet told us a few weeks ago that our Golden Retriever, Rusty who has been a part of our family since 2001, has Canine Sarcoma (Doggy Cancer) and only has a short time left to be with us.
–Mix in a day or two of not eating right and some insomnia.

I cracked. And, a time out on the field was called. I didn’t call it. I couldn’t even see that I needed it. I strongly felt that play should continue as usual. I was the sturdy two-year old bundle of tears, angst and snot who kept reappearing in the family room. Time out for re-grouping, breathing, finding a new strategy, re-calibrating. Time out.

Yesterday, in many parts of our nation, the sleet, ice and snow created a national time out. We stopped. No school. Flights cancelled. Holiday parties called off. Christmas parades and other elaborate holiday events stopped in their tracks. Time out for weather.

Our younger son, an over-programmed high school student, found a sled in the attic and played outside for hours. I sat by the fire, writing, reading and reflecting on why we need time outs. We made soup, checked on those we loved, played cards and snuggled in. Now we are on day two of this time out. “Shouldn’t we be doing something productive?” we ask ourselves. Turns out, we don’t. It is okay. Our work today is to be in time out.

We are all more fragile than we think. We are all prone to cycles of too much–too much emotion, activity, trantrum-ing, stress and busyness.

Sometimes we need to hit pause; call for a time out; suspend time and our activities for a while. Rest. Regroup. Re-strategize. Calm ourselves.

Thank God for the time out.