I went to church today and my brain went to work…..

I always find it good brain fodder when I go to church these days. First up, they’re an indicator for how well I’m improving. I can tell by how I feel while deciding. If I feel dread, anxiety, or sadness, I know I’m still recovering. Today it didn’t feel too bad lying in bed at 07:30 wondering if I should get up and take the kids to church. In the end, it was either that, or I was going to have to find something else to do with them or they’d climb the walls.

Secondly, I can monitor my feelings while I’m there. Today didn’t feel too bad. Ideally, I would have loved to have crept out during the last song, but it’s too hard with three kids, because I have to go find them first, rather than have them find me afterwards. Besides, I do like to say hi to friends although probably not all at once after the service.

I felt ok today. I wasn’t anxious enough to consider having a beer before going, and I didn’t take my friendly weed either (see last post). I just took everything slowly and deliberately – mindfully I think is the correct buzz word going around.

The highlight was the multimedia church news for me. Strange I know, but this was an area I loved because media was an outlet for creativity. The low point was the sermon. My replacement is doing a series on grace and using a chair to demonstrate that we have to balance all aspects of grace or we become unbalanced. But I thought grace was totally unbalanced!

Anyway, he explained that the first leg of the chair, was grace toward us (saving grace), the second leg was grace in us (changing grace), and the third leg was grace through us (God wants us to do stuff) which is where the sermon majored. He explained that 22,000 kids will die in the next 24 hours from preventable disease but then said we can’t do a whole lot about that, but we can all do something in a 25 mile radius of this church.

For me, the message got pretty heavy. The atmosphere by the end was really gloomy and quiet. I think the pastor realized that because he asked the band to come up and “play something nice”, and tacked on at the end after the closing prayer something to the effect that it would still be OK to enjoy lunch today. Phew!

The take home was that we should all do something, because God’s grace is in us. But your honor, I object. First, the people know all this already (as my wife said “you used to preach this stuff” – gotta love pastor’s wife’s) . The reason they’re not doing stuff, isn’t because they lack information. Secondly, if people had been transformed by grace, you wouldn’t need to tell them to do something, they’d be unstoppable.

My key thought out of all of this, is that pastor’s believe that they need to teach and rightly so (Paul charged Timothy to do it). Unfortunately we live in a culture with a modern Greek teaching style which consists largely of disseminating analytical information in the form of a lecture. This is a really important thought. Analysis focuses on breaking stuff down to understand it, and then the modern style is to just announce the findings to a group of people, who should listen, understand, learn and remember it. The problem with all of this, is that it is totally antithetical to what Christianity is all about. Teaching today, simply wasn’t anything like the teaching that the New Testament was suggesting.

My experience of Christianity is that it is first and foremost a faith. We are called to walk by faith, not by understanding, yet all our teaching is in an effort to understand! Secondly, I have found God to shroud himself more than he reveals himself, and there is more mystery than mastery going on everywhere I’ve looked. Paul says we look through a glass darkly and I concur. Yet everything pastors do in their sermons is to try and clarify stuff, inform the masses, make it easier to understand and do, and God just doesn’t seem to play the game.

OK, enough bashing. Want to know my thoughts on an alternative? It’s a bit post-modern, so if you have a modern brain, it’s not going to make much sense. If I had my time over again (relax, I’m not living in the past), I would ask more questions. I would help people ask good questions. I would ignite people’s wonderment. I would be a trail guide and rather than try and sit them in a room and lecture them about the trail, I’d take them out there and point at all the amazing sights and sounds and smells. I would appeal to their ability to dream. I would try my very best to involve them in a three way conversation between me, and them and the One who knows everything.

In this scenario, I don’t need to be the font of all knowledge. I don’t need to lecture. I don’t need to analyze, theologize, sermonize, or criticize. I just need to be a catalyst for a relationship, a guide for the adventure, your friend and a friend of The Friend.

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I’m on some kind of weed – St Johns Wort

I’m assuming St Johns wort is a weed. Why would any plant have the ignominy of being called a wort if it was anything other than a weed? In our country we have a noxious weed called Ragwort and a lot of effort goes into its eradication and control.

But I heard good things about St Johns wort and it’s viability as a treatment for depression, so I thought I’d give it a go. I thought that I’d be a bit of a guinea pig for y’all and let you know my thoughts. I don’t have severe depression anymore, but I still have a few of the symptoms. I get anxiety at times, still lack motivation in certain areas and can’t handle the kids in large doses and generally have limited emotional energy so I still budget it closely.

I haven’t been on prescription medication for about 12 months now. Prior to that I was taking Paroxetine which I found extremely effective. It worked fast (not the 2-4 weeks that doctors recommend), but almost overnight. Its big downside for me was the numbness and loss of libido.

In terms of numbness, I remember visiting a client who has bipolar disorder. He had been off medication for seven months and just run out of food in his house as his disorder had taken over. He resumed his medication that day. I asked how long it would take to kick in and he said in 48 hours, everything inside would go quiet. I hadn’t heard it expressed that way, but I knew exactly what he was saying. On antidepressants it’s like everything goes still, calm and quiet on the inside – numb in other words. The downside of this is you don’t experience any good feelings either – happiness, joy, excitement – meh.

As far as libido goes, I experienced a loss of interest in sex and found that even if I notionally thought it would be a good idea, couldn’t climax when I was on the prescribed amount. It was a little embarrassing like “well dear, I’m about puffed now, and I really don’t think anything’s going to happen, so I’ll be climbing off now”. So that was a big downer. I’m fairly red blooded and still relatively young and never had that happen before. I scrounged through the fine print and yep, there it was.

So back to the wort. I’d heard good things, and it was time to have a go. I’ve been taking it for about a month. I miss a day every now and then out of forgetfulness (I think this is common – if medication is effective and we “feel” ok, we’re likely to forget we have an illness!). I think it is more gentle and mild than the prescription SSRI I was taking, but the modus operandi is similar. It does make things a little more “quiet” and “numb” but not to the same extent as the Paroxetine. I think it has a similar effect on libido, but that’s probably not such a bad thing… it stops me bugging my wife so much.

There are conflicting studies, just as there are with prescription drugs. Many studies show placebos just as effective and prescription drugs, but St Johns Wort is showing to be “as effective” as prescription and more effective than placebos at treating mild or moderate depression (not recommended for severe). All the research just brings me back to my basic philosophy that each individual has to find what works for them. Note – you can’t take prescription anti depressants in conjunction with the wort. There’s loads of info out there, but I think this article from the Black Dog Institute is a good start.

I think I’ll keep taking it for a while. I’ve never been on the weed before, but maybe this is one weed that a little experimentation with may be useful.

Yours truly, the Guinea Pig.

Help! I feel like a girl!

No doubt you’ve heard the sayings “wait ’til the boot is on the other foot” or “your chickens will always come home to roost”. It’s like saying “what goes around comes around” or “you get what you deserve”. Seems like there are so many ways to say it. But I’m getting mine.

Some nights of the week, my wife will walk in the front door talking to someone from work on the cell. I think she’s talking to me so I start to talk back, only to see the hand go up. I feel miffed. Slighted. Other nights after she’s arrived home, she’ll be sending and receiving text messages and I think “for God’s sake, you’re home now, enough already!”

You see, the kids and I haven’t seen her all day. By the time she gets home, the kids have an hour before bed. They all have stories to tell about their day, but she’s still making calls and firing off texts. I wonder why she couldn’t get it done during work hours. I wonder why it can’t wait until tomorrow. I’m always up to my armpits in the sink, or trying to dish up food, couldn’t she help get the meal on instead? I feel hurt. Snubbed. Aren’t we important too? Doesn’t she want to talk to us? I feel like a desperate housewife longing for some attention when the husband gets home.

Then I remember all too well. When I was pastoring, I did it all the time – and worse. I did it from my bed late at night. I would sit outside in the driveway on the phone. I would get phone calls on weekends dealing with all kinds of problems. I would take calls in the car on family trips. One burned out pastor I spoke to said his wife once called him on his cell while he was in the house. She claimed she wanted to hear him talk to her like he talked to his parishioners. OUCH!

The rationale is hard to escape. I used to figure that if I can fire off a few texts, make a few calls, it will get the monkey off my back. It will ease the pressure – alleviate the workload. After all, if I can just get to these few things, it will only take few minutes and tomorrow won’t be so hectic. If it doesn’t get done today, it will pile up and tomorrow will be hell. There’s a lot of merit to the mentality and it’s so easy to buy into.

But the message it sends to loved ones is that work, and other people are more important. And it’s not the time spent doing it, it’s having your mind in two places. You’re physically present, but your loved one’s don’t have your presence, and that is more hurtful than if you’re not present at all.

I feel for anyone trapped in a job that is so demanding, it overflows into their family life. It’s not a nice place to live in. Now that I’m on the receiving end, I know I’m eating humble pie and getting my just desserts, but I still can’t help feeling like a girl when it happens to me!