Monthly Archives: June 2015

First Kiss Selfie 20 Years Later

When we were growing up in the 1980s and 90s, there were no selfies. We didn’t have cell phones, let alone smart phones or Facebook. We took pictures with plastic cameras the size of a rectangular tissue box (mine was hot pink). I used my camera mostly for family summer vacations at the National Parks, taking pictures of buffaloes and waterfalls. We didn’t take many pictures of ourselves back then.

We also didn’t live with the stress of 24/7 online peer pressure or cyber-bullying. I am grateful that my teen years were not instagrammed to death. A friend who educates teens in the public schools about mental health  told me during a lunch conversation that when he surveys classrooms, the number one most stressful thing for them is peer pressure on social media.

While at my 20 year high school reunion extravaganza,  I ran into my “first kiss” back in seventh grade and without thinking, I snapped this selfie with him. Take away the facial hair, and he’s got the same great smile.

I remember almost 25 years ago sitting in a circle on the floor in a friend’s basement on a Friday night. We sat boy-girl-boy-girl-boy-girl. And inside the circle was an empty soda bottle that spun with the flick of a wrist. Butterflies twirled in my stomach. 

Physics and adolescence created the occasion for two kids in the Bible Belt to kiss for the first time. As the bottle slowed to a stop, I saw that its top pointed at me, and its bottom pointed to Jason, a tall and goofy basketball player who I had a crush on. 

It was a time of innocence. We laughed and stood up from the basement floor. We walked into another room and closed the door behind us. Not knowing what we were doing, we kissed fast. It was an advanced calculus kiss in an algebra class. 

I didn’t text anyone right after that first kiss or post a relationship status on Facebook. The whole world didn’t need to know that my world had just changed. It was a smaller world in the late 1980s.

Right after I took this picture of us standing at the bar at the reunion, I said in Jason’s ear, “You were my first kiss.” He said, “Me too.” 

That first kiss led to a short summer of dating. My mother remembers driving me to his baseball games. I remember a few more kisses.  

Like the first time you taste fine chocolate or authentic maple syrup, some experiences stay with you forever. Now it’s Facebook official.


Say it Out Loud 

My mama’s heart is so thankful. Today the volunteer Sunday school teacher began with a guessing game. She invited the children to close their eyes and listen for a sound, then guess what instrument created the sound.

What I admire about how this happened was that each child could participate in whatever way fit best. One little boy wanted to hide under a table while he closed his eyes. One little girl wanted to not close her eyes, but squint really hard instead. And then my son didn’t want to close his eyes at all.

She said out loud to the children that all of these things: hiding under a table, squinting really hard or keeping your eyes open were “okay.” The children eased into the lesson.

Then she encouraged the child making the sound with the chosen instrument to do so quietly because we want to be sensitive about sounds. She asked that the sounds be “little” sounds and not “big” sounds. Then she demonstrated what gentle sounds were like.

All of these techniques made the classroom more welcoming to highly sensitive children. As I listened to her lead the Sunday school, I greatly respected how she demonstrated respect for each child. She said out loud that it was okay to experience church in a way that felt right to each child.

As a parent of a highly sensitive child it was a balm to my soul. Children have emotional lives and moods that call for special attention and care. I thank God for places where we can say out loud the things that we need in order to feel safe, to feel at home in the world. 

Pastor Perfect 

We have this weird thing in the church. While confession of sin and admission of our brokenness is a core theological concept, somehow our pastors are not allowed to remain broken. We want our pastors to be fully whole and fully human.

What’s weird is that Jesus alone was fully human and fully divine, and sometimes we project this onto our pastors. Of course we don’t mean to infer that our pastors are divine or God-like, yet we want them to be pretty close. We still look to pastors to shepherd us, inspire us, and role model a Christ-like life. In short, we pretty much want our pastors to be perfect.

I’ll be the first one to say that I hold my pastors to a high standard. In some sense, I want her to be better than me.   I want to learn from her and to see Christ in her. Yet somehow these hopes we have for our pastors translate into expectations that a pastor be whole and not broken. Which basically means that we have unrealistic expectations that can not be met because pastors are fully human and broken people.

This topic hits very close to home. I served as a local church pastor for almost a decade. And I can tell you that I struggled with my humanness. I also struggled with the brokenness of my family in the face of severe mental illness. Suicide attempts, anxiety attacks, chronic depression and hospitalization all were part of my family life while a pastor, yet this very human part of myself I did not feel safe sharing with the church. I did not want them to see that as a pastor, my life was broken. I was not pastor perfect.

In sharing my testimony about mental illness, family and church, I’m meeting other pastors who also feel shame about being broken, being fully human. And this shame cloaks them in silence and isolation. So that what ends up happening is that churches are led by pastors who work hard to try to meet unrealistic expectations of wholeness and perfection. And everyone ends up frustrated and worse. We end up unknown and alone. We end up not revealing our identity as broken and loved children of God. We end up fracturing the beloved community instead of building it.

What would happen if pastors were allowed to not be perfect? What if pastors didn’t have to hide that fact that they live with mental health diagnosis or are in recovery from addictions?

What could we learn from a pastor who is openly broken and on the road with us to wholeness and recovery? What might this new-found freedom let loose in the church look like? 

I know people with mental illness and addictions who are in treatment and recovery and who are amazing pastors. And it’s when their brokenness is exposed to the light that healing comes. 

Let’s break the silence about mental illness, pastors and the myth of perfection.