Monthly Archives: July 2013

Summertime Highs and Lows

People seem to understand feeling blue in the winter time. Lack of sunshine, low temperatures, long days stuck inside…kind of sounds like Florida summers! When it is really hot out, and thunderstorms block the sun’s light, entire populations are stuck inside where freezing air conditioners blast us silly. This is why certain Floridians wear sweaters in the summertime.

For people who suffer from mental illness, summertime can be just as emotionally difficult as the winter. Just as the winter holidays create social pressure to be “merry and bright,” summertime carries its own social pressures of non-stop fun and adventurous vacations. But what if you or someone you love is non-stop sleeping from serious depression? Or what if you or someone you love is on a mania-induced adventure spending spree?

Perhaps as a society we’ve started to say a little bit more in public about mental illness during the winter months, giving people permission to feel a light shade of blue. Some churches host special “Blue Christmas” or “Longest Night” services where prayers reflect a sensitivity that not all is calm and bright. There, in sacred shadows of worship, people find a safe place to lament and mourn the loss of joy. But it’s harder to find such comfort in the dog days of summer.

The truth is, people with mental health diseases suffer year round; mental illness does not go on exotic summer vacations. So here is a little shout out to everybody who is struggling this summer either because you or someone you love is having a really rough summer. You are not alone. Take a minute and find a support group

For the most part, I am a fan of summers in Florida. There’s nothing quite like the smell after a thunderstorm or the carefree laughter of kids playing outside. I’m grateful for small reminders in my day, like clearing skies and lilting laughs, that ground me in the deep goodness of life.

A White Preacher Girl Walks into a Black Church

What happens when a white preacher girl walks into a Black church? It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. What happened when this white preacher girl walked into the late Trayvon Martin’s church in Sanford, Florida? What happened the day after the not guilty verdict came out of George Zimmerman’s trial?

It happened to be a Sunday, the Sabbath day, a day for going to church (as is my custom). Yet this Sunday was different. It needed redeeming,nbn my neighborhood without fear, needed redeeming.

I needed to be with God and God’s people. I needed to be with Trayvon Martin’s people. I googled “Trayvon Martin,” “Sanford,” and “Church,” and was led to Rev. Valerie Houston and her church, Allen Chapel AME (African Methodist Episcopal). It was a 45 minute drive from my house.

My son was born in Sanford four years ago. In 2012, when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon in the heart…my heart stopped for a moment. Forever my son’s birthplace would be associated with the insanity of this tragedy. Now like me, whenever I mentioned my birthplace of Whittier, CA (Nixon’s hometown) he too, would get eye rolls and the reminder of aborted justice.

The day after the verdict, I felt God leading me to worship in Sanford because I knew that God was not finished yet. The trial may be over, but God’s work for justice in our country is far from over.

That Lord’s day I walked with fear and trembling up the steep steps to the church doors. I knew I was approaching God’s dwelling place. I found Rev. Houston and with a smile, let her know I was praying for her today, and expressed my gratitude for her leadership in the community. Returning my smile, she invited me to sit with her up by the pulpit, saying that I was to read scripture and preach.

My heart filled with holy terror and my legs felt weak. Who am I to speak at such a time as this? What could I possibly have to say?

As worship unfolded, the children’s choir sang, the youth danced and testified, it became clear to me that God’s Spirit filled the church and all its people with a radical power to transform righteous anger into justice, fear into hope, and sorrow into joy.

Many of us spoke of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King that day in church, recalling his mighty work and witness for equality and justice. Rev. Houston channeled him from the pulpit, twisting and contorting her body as the Spirit made her prophetic words soar across America.

A white preacher girl walks into a Black church and God is there, like God has always been, with the people who suffer from injustice, oppression, and abuse by the authorities. And this same God urgently calls upon all of us, especially those with white privilege, to listen and hear the cries of God’s people, “How long, how long must we wait for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream?”

Invisible and Silent No More

Anybody getting ready for a job interview knows the importance of a first impression. Within 30 seconds or less, as soon as you go into the room or begin a Skype session or open your mouth; it’s happening…people are judging you. What all can be understood in this first encounter with a person? What can we know about a person by simply looking at him or her?

Mental illness is often thought of as an “invisible” illness or disease. Most of the time, you cannot tell by looking at a person that he or she is actually suffering from a mental health disease. And most of the time the person is not going to easily offer this personal information, so it is also a “silent” illness. It is invisible because it is a disease of the mind, not always manifest in outward ways, and it is silent because most people choose not to talk about it because of feelings of shame and suffer silently, alone.

Is mental illness really invisible? If we look closer with the eye of compassion, can we see the suffering of another person? Is mental illness really silent? If we listen with our hearts, can we hear the cry for help of another person?

As the family member of loved ones who suffer from mental illness, I know that it takes courage and effort to see with compassion and listen with heart. We do not need to suffer alone, people’s struggle with mental illness can become visible when we trust enough to open up and share our pain. People with mental illness can be heard when stories are shared and compassionate support is offered.

Together, we can be a supportive community, seeing and hearing each other into wholeness and healing.