Mental health and pizza

Let me tell you the story of pizza that saves lives.

Well, friends save lives, Jesus saves lives, but pizza is sometimes the simple tool that God uses to make a difference.

We were in the middle of a mental health crisis. No one really likes to talk mental health. We have some level of basic communication on the topic, some good, some unhelpful, general phrases, like

“You should go see a counselor.”

“God brings good out of everything.”

“You’ve got to keep on top of that, make good choices.”

If there was ever a disease we were afraid of catching it’s mental health. There are no Puffs commercials for depression, no home health ad for schizophrenia. Even anxiety is a seen as a personal problem – pray more, worry less! Be grateful!

But let me tell you that mental health comes in your back door like an old high school acquaintance you thought you lost touch with, whom you had no idea was still connected to your life, except for in vague terms, like genetics or a strange uncle who talks funny.

Mental health is, however, whether we care to admit it or not, shockingly universal. Everyone’s stories are different, the diagnoses are different, but we all have the basic gene pool, to create a mental health struggle. No one is exempt, or “better made”. Sin effects our lives and world in frustrating ways – how many of you have family members touched by

addiction

dementia

anxiety

depression

learning disabilities

autism

trauma and distress?

People often back up and back away when mental health enters the scene.

They don’t want to “catch” the mental health cooties (not a thing, fyi). And our culture, while throwing around sexual innuendo and intimate family dynamics on tv and movie screens daily, does not like to be confronted by someone else’s drama when it lives next door.

But what if instead, we brought pizza.

In the middle of our struggles, two of my friends walked in the door, straight through my mess, toting a large pizza, an order of breadsticks, and a two liter of pop to share. They visited. They sat around my table and made me laugh. They asked questions and didn’t offer easy answers. They may have offered some help, but what I really remember is that they offered normalcy. They didn’t look at me like I was scary and had two heads. They were ok with being part of it, even if whatever it was looked kind of messy.

Mental health isn’t discriminating. Most of us will be touched by it somewhere along the road. And we have the ability to change the tide. We don’t have to be therapists or medical doctors, or even super close amazing friends. All we have to do is bear a pizza and say,

“Hi.”

“This stinks.”

“I love you.”

“I still think you matter.”

People did minister and care for us in so many ways, I don’t want to dismiss that. I’m very thankful that so many people jumped right over awkward, weird, and scary and offered affection and care.

But sometimes, I think we just need to keep it simple.

Sometimes we need to know that it starts with a single pizza.

Hello my name is and genuine friendship

Friendship makes the world a better place. It’s a fact. Even Jesus calls us friend, rather than minion. Life is better with people to share it, to cry over it with, to laugh over it with, and to sometimes grumble over it with.

And Bible studies are always better with friends. Have any of you ever had the privilege of sitting around with a group of friends, laughing about toddler antics or teenage antics, crying over the weight of a loss, eating too much dessert, eyes wide open to discovering something new as God peels off another layer of our hard hearts and we start to see real and living changes in our lives.

It’s a thing. Maybe you’ve never had it. Maybe you’ve had a shadow of it and you want the real deal- gathering around the Word, eating together, giving grace for lessons missed and words unread, sharing mercy when someone admits they yell at their kids and someone else admits that they don’t really like their church. It’s an open place, with lots of sharing. There is truth to show us our sin and grace so that it doesn’t destroy us.

People around the Word in real and genuine love for one another creates actual life change. Marriages aren’t easier but they are stickier. Lives still have struggle, but it’s less lonely. Relationships aren’t perfect, but there is tender care, mended fences, and growth.

I want more places where my life looks more like…

real

genuine

authentic

growth

care

gathering

community.

And I don’t think it’s asking too much of one another.

Who is one other person in your life that you can share this kind of real friendship with?

Maybe they are close by, maybe you can sit around coffee and talk through a week of study together. Maybe they are far away and you can get creative and still sit around coffee and talk through a week of study together, or type through a week of study together, or text through a week of study together.

Our deep desire for friendship is from God. We were created for community, we need each other. And He will help us to create it together, someone takes the first step, and another comes along. That is His Spirit doing some of His best work, helping, comforting, connecting.

We start our Good Gifts study of the book of James on March 6th. Create your group now- in person, on Facebook, google hangouts, texting, whatever! Or invite just one friend to join you, invite one neighbor to join you, or invite one stranger to join you and start with step one of friendship- inviting them in.

Step 2 – let’s be genuine together. You will all be in my prayers as I write and plan this study, especially those of you struggling for friendship. I have been there. Walking that road is hard, but you aren’t alone. I hear from so many women seeking just one good friend. She may just be sitting next to you.

Let’s reach out and across.

“Hello my name is….Would you like to join me to study?”

 

Find out more information about joining our Good Gifts study at this link –

Good Gifts Study information

Good Gifts Sign Up! or Say Goodbye to Incongruence

Spring hasn’t even sprung and I’m so hungry for something new.

I’m ready for a new day, a new song, a new landscape out my kitchen window. While we know that new isn’t always better, I think we were made for the knowledge of something to come, something waiting just around the corner.

We live in eternity, you see, but we can’t see it and we can’t hold it in our hands. So, we live with eternity as an idea, a place saved for later. We call it heaven and we tuck it away for deathbeds and difficult days. We imagine golden gates and gemstones and a giant mansion of many rooms that hold pints upon pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. (Ok, maybe that’s just my daydream.)

While that may be a sliver of eternity, it’s not the real deal, and I’m tired of settling for the pretty picture when I can have the real thing. How about you?

Eternity is now. Eternity is God with us, placing His Spirit inside of us, and that Spirit flowing out like a mighty river that can not be stopped up.

Jesus’s brother, James, knew a little bit about Eternity walking around the earth right in front of him. He ate food with the Son of God. He played games with the Son of God. And like the disciples, he walked away from the Son of God in His darkest hours. I wonder if that is why walking with the Son of God, walking in the Eternal Life that we are offered, today, this day, is so important to James, and written all over the pages of his book.

James is worried about a little thing called congruence. He’s worried about whether we’re living Eternity now, or whether we’re living one way and saving eternity for later.

The reverse – often our daily struggle – is incongruence.

Incongruence happens when we say we love God, but ignore our neighbor who is struggling with cancer, with addiction, with any number of very present needs.

Incongruence is when we go to church, but push aside making disciples for the ever present to-do list of the day.

Incongruence happens when I can not, for the life of me, get it together to put my husband’s needs before my own and give him the best parts of me on a daily basis.

I am incredibly incongruent. We all are, but the book of James teaches us that as we grow up into Christ, as we acknowledge and remember the eternity we have been offered today, we will become more and more congruent in every tomorrow.

Congruence is that blessed thing we seek when we understand what we value and put it into action rather than push it under the couch. Congruence is when we know Who our God is and how He changes everything, makes everything new.

When faith becomes life, rather than a part of our life. 

Who’s hungry for that?

Oh, I am. We’ll never be perfect, friends. Chief of sinners though we be. Jesus died so we can live in eternity, though, rather than guilt ridden and incongruent. This is the work of the book of James. We’ll look at what we’ve been given, and all the good in the gifts we never even knew were sitting on our front door step, from a God who loves us so very much.

Join us for New.

Join us for Congruent.

Join us for Good Gifts.

Sigh up for our 6 week study of the book of James, Good Gifts, by subscribing to the blog by email! You can find this box on the upper right hand side of your desktop screen or by scrolling close to the very bottom of the page on your mobile device. Look for the snippet that says Subscribe Via Email and enter your email in the box below it.

The short 10-15 minute study posts will come to your inbox every day Monday-Thursday. It’s that easy! Join in the discussion by commenting on the blog, or create a discussion group of your own with friends on Facebook.

New this study will be a Live streamed video lesson every Thursday night at 8pm Central Standard Time, on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook Page. Watch live or look for the video archive on Friday morning’s blog post. You do not need to be a Facebook user to watch the archived video, which will be linked through Youtube.

Study starts March 6th, right here. Invite a friend. Share and share again. Let’s get started by walking this road together.

To Eternity, to a God who walks with me, and to congruence…let’s do this.

 

Fear and the Crazypants Cycle


Fear does funny things to us.

We once could look at life reasonably. We could hold discussions, share opinions, eat across the table from someone we disagreed with and not want to rip their head off.

But that’s anger, you say, not fear? Isn’t intent to harm, even when it’s deep inside us, never actually expressed- that’s anger?

No, no it is not, and it’s time to get honest about that. We are destroying one another, not because we are angry, but because we are afraid.

When I sit down at my computer, when I open my google plus tab, when I connect with my friends across miles and space, I see fear written all over the internet, and it makes us crazypants, which looks a whole lot like angry.

Let me introduce you to the crazypants cycle. I jest, but it’s real.

First, we are afraid.

We are afraid for our finances – will there be enough money? will I be able to make ends meet? will I have a job next month?

We are afraid for our marriages – will he still love me? do I make her happy? will we make it through the storm and the struggle?

We are afraid for our children – will a shooter come to their school? will they understand the values I try to pass on? is this world screwing them up? am I screwing them up?

We are afraid for our neighborhoods – if people look different, will I understand them? will they understand me? Different makes us uncomfortable, unsure.

We are afraid for our churches – where are all the people? what if we close? will our people hear the Gospel? will it change anything?

So many questions and so few answers. So much of life we don’t know, we don’t understand, we aren’t in control of. It’s scary. Life is scary. The world is a scary place, because this isn’t the way God intended it. Sin and divisiveness, hurtful words, selfish ambition, isn’t what we were created for. So we make assumptions, we jump to conclusions. We make accusations.

Enter anger.

We say things that should be said in person. We refuse to let someone disagree. We eat, sleep, and breathe this climate of anger until it sucks us in. We become unreasonable and we so desperately need to be right, that we become rude without noticing. We shift from speaking the truth in love to speaking the truth in rage.

And next, comes shame.

Words come out and relationships are affected in a way that “whoops” just can’t fix. So we crawl back under our original rock of fear, which was Satan’s original intent after all. Work done, he slinks under his own rock, slimy and satisfied.

But there is a solution to fear, which anger and crazypants can never give.

The Holy Spirit. 

He’s real. He’s a gift, left for us by a Savior that knew we would need Him like fish need water. He freely gives This Spirit in the waters of baptism. He welcomes the little children, the sojourner, the weary, and the weak, the disgusted, and the disgusting.

“…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Let us lay our fears down at the cross of Christ Jesus, instead of the mob of social media. Let us lift our prayers to Him like incense, rather than battle uphill to be heard.

He gives us His gifts in our anger, and He gives us His gifts in our shame. He gives us His gifts in our crazypants. He never treats us as less than. He doesn’t need us to be right. He just offers us Redeemed.

So let’s bust out. Let’s bust out of the Crazypants cycle. Let’s call fear what it is, so we can put on love and self-control.

No longer a spirit of fear. Crazypants no more.

 

For every Lutheran teacher – Thank You!

Kindergarten is a big transition for any kid. For our littlest, it was an epic transition.

I’m not sure who was more scared- me or him. But, you know, some things in life you bite the big one and suck it up. You hold on to your hats and pack that Star Wars backpack and say jolly things like,

“It’ll be great!”

“You’ll make so many friends!”

“I hear there are markers, and snacks, and three recesses!”

You’re over-happy-words fall flat, receiving only the grouchy look of a 5-year-old barely containing his rage at a world that is too noisy, too scratchy, and just a lot of work.

Enter Ms. Tinkey, and Mr. Kumm, and Mrs. Leonard, and Mrs. Baer and all the people who make the world a better place to be, one child at a time.

Zeke wasn’t just unsure of new places and new faces. For him, this was torture. Going to a new place, having a new routine, was like signing up to listen to nails scraping down the walls of the chalkboard, the sound of dial up internet stinging your eardrums, every moment, every day for the first month and a half of school.

This is sensory overload on steroids.

And I came with my delightful checklist.

“So, he’s gluten free and we try to avoid food dyes, especially the red ones. Sorry.”

“He hates holding a pencil, so if there’s an assignment he can use a marker on sometimes, that helps a lot. Sorry.”

“Sometimes he just needs a moment. Or 12 moments. Or 42 moments. I’m so sorry.”

And to everything I recited, Ms. Tinkey smiled and said, “Yes! We can work on that!” with actual joy. Not just fake niceties, but compassion and perseverance shining through. You see, some kids don’t receive services or have special classrooms, but they need a little extra touch of care. Teachers and helpers throughout the building made it their personal mission to turn that scared, grouchy face into a smiling, happy boy, who wanted to be there. A smile, a high five, the ability to turn down a high five if desired, persistent affection…all these things go a long way for spectrum kids, indeed, for any kid.

This, my friends, is the Lutheran School difference. The staff at Zeke’s school don’t get up to teach and shape the world every day.

They get up to show Jesus to every child every day as well. 

I’m pretty sure that they get tired. I’m sure they get frustrated. I’m sure they wonder if it makes any difference at all.

This blog would simply like to say yes, yes it does.

Your work in reaching in to little hearts, to growing hearts, is vital for my family and for countless other families out there. The world is a better place not because you showed up to work, but because you showed up in their lives. You are woven into the fabric of who they are becoming as teachers and leaders and workers in the kingdom of God and the body of Christ.

You make an eternal mark by being you.

Thank you.

A special kindergarten teacher once taught us this fun little song, that fits perfectly here…

Keep loving on those kids. Keep supporting those families. Keep sharing Jesus. Keep being you.

Happy National Lutheran School’s Week!
*as always, no Zeke’s were hurt in the making of this blog. His permission was asked and granted to share his story.