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 ads for schizophrenia. Even anxiety is 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 around us in frustrating ways. How many of you have family members touched by

addiction

dementia

anxiety

depression

learning disabilities

sensory processing

autism

trauma and distress?

Still 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.

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 ministered and care for us in 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?”

Join in on any I Love My Shepherd study! Find information about ongoing and print studies available on the Studies Available page. Invite a few people to your home or the local coffee shop or park for even a half hour together each week. Let’s be genuine…let’s start something genuine. Let’s find and give real friendship.

“Hello my name is…”

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’ 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.

This is a six week study. Find all the posts on the blog here by searching for “Good Gifts.”

There are short 10-15 minute study posts 4 days a week. You can find video lessons on the I Love My Shepherd YouTube Channel.

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.

This study will make it’s way to the print version in 2020. See more on the Studies Available page.