Archive | March, 2011

In the Shelter of the Cross

24 Mar

In order to realize the full magnitude of this photo, you have to double click on it to view it properly. Then scroll to the photo’s bottom edge where you’ll see two children dwarfed by the gi-normous cross in front of which they stand. The photo was taken by Daniel Kirk – – a professor and theologian friend of mine. I found it so moving I wanted a copy of it for myself.

I don’t know how to articulate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The closest association I have is when my mother took her own life. This should have been the darkest hour I’ve ever experienced and although it was indeed brutal, I simultaneously felt sheltered by a force beyond comprehension. Something cradled me with love and protection in a way I had never before experienced from humans. In that moment – that extended for a few weeks and months, all the chaos, fear and despair connected to my mom’s mental illness seemed to evaporate like mist. The particles of a traumatic life were in the air but were dissipating.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) When my mom died, I sensed that was what he might have said to my mom as she stumbled on the streets and overdosed on pills. And as he cradled her in his arms, I felt him simultaneously doing the same to me.

Many people consider suicide a sin. And yet, my mom gave birth to me twice – when she went into labor and when she died. Her final actions were catalyzed by deep exhaustion and despair but underneath that, there was a trace of genuine love and self-sacrifice as evidenced by her goodbye letter to me. While it may be a distortion of the gospels to say she laid down her life so that another could live, there was enough truth in her action that I suddenly understood the resurrection.

So yes, we come to him – often, weary, tired and weak. And we feel not only the shelter of the cross but its sheer magnitude that can knock us immediately to our knees.

Pictures do indeed say a thousand words.

Back in the Saddle

11 Mar

When I was a little girl my parents told me not to touch the stove burner. This of course made me want to touch it all the more so I promptly put my hand on the electric orange rings. Needless to say, I never did that again.

It’s interesting how when we don’t know any better, we simply have no fear. It’s only when we have an experience with hurt and danger (or at least some idea of it) that we start to hesitate or pause when it comes to doing certain things.

For those of you that follow my blog, you may know that recently, my surf board hit me in the hit for the first time. Prior to that, I didn’t have any real fear of surfing. I knew intellectually that I could get hurt but I didn’t have a visceral sense of it. But when the board hit me, I got quite shaken up.

This whole incident though made me think about how fragile and susceptible we are to fear. In fact, one of the things I love about surfing, is that it has helped me with my incessant fears. Whenever I find myself feeling free floating anxiety, I paddle out and the water seems to wash it away. So, you can imagine my dismay when the very thing that calms me down suddenly became a source of anxiety. Hmmmm.

So how do we combat fear (other than by re-establishing neurological patterns and pressing into God)? How do we retain a healthy dose of fear yet not become paralyzed by it? And how do we ensure that we don’t abort that which is life affirming for us?

I don’t know. I just know that today, I got back in the saddle.

I’m not sure we can always prevent falling flat on our faces either metaphorically or literally. It is part of life and often how we learn and grow. There is one thing I do know though. Despite all the danger life entails, I want to ride waves, I want to love and I want to live. Otherwise, I might as well be six feet under.

Adonis DNA

6 Mar

I confess that even though I despise tabloids, lately I found myself riveted to recent coverage of Charlie Sheen. No, it isn’t because I’m a therapist attempting to “diagnose” a man I’ve never met. Nor am I voyeur enjoying the exploits of a movie star in the middle of what appears to be a manic state mixed in with a splash of narcissism. And while I initially loved “Two and a Half Men”, I tired of it before the recent cancellation of the show. I will admit though that for personal reasons, I am eerily drawn into what appears to be a vision of Icarus flying too close to the sun.

As I listened to Sheen speak I was struck by the comment he made when asked why he was with two women who were twenty-two years younger than he. I don’t recall his exact words but it was something to the effect that they liked him as he was and that they didn’t need or want him to be any different. And I thought how convenient and sad it must be to have two lovers who won’t challenge you in any way, shape or form. It would be the ultimate reinforcement of one’s ego because no one would ever call you on your faults, demand that you grow or reflect back who you really are. And I cringed at this because I remember how my father would often date women who simply bolstered his ego. The women who were his intellectual equals or who called him on his crap eventually became an irritant to him and didn’t last. Similarly, although the adored daughter as a little girl, as I matured into a complex woman, I too got dumped.

Nonetheless, as I watched Charlie Sheen hold one of his children before the child was taken from his custody, I did not doubt whether Sheen loves his children or if they love him. Even when parents are destructively self-centered and/or mentally ill, they can also be incredibly fun, generous and loving. And that dichotomy can create a life long confusion regarding what it means to love and be loved. I know because I am reporting back from the battle field.

While my father was by no means a movie star, nor did he turn his life into a reality t.v. show, I witnessed his fall from being a powerful professional to a disbarred attorney who lost not just the respect and love of family, colleagues and friends but his physical and emotional health as well. I watched in horror as his amazing passion and vitality drained out like water being poured down the drain. I really hope that doesn’t happen to Charlie Sheen. I hope he is “winning” and that the “Adonis DNA” will somehow make him immune from tragedy and misfortune. But I doubt it.

So this week while training others to teach an intensive class on mental health, I happened to be in the Southwest, a part of the country my dad loved. And no matter how much I might have wanted to push away thoughts and feelings related to my dad, by the time I reached the airport to fly home, images flickered through my mind like a montage. I couldn’t help but think about Charlie Sheen, my dad and the ways in which our parents impact us even after they are gone. Looking at the Southwestern jewelry and art in the airport gift shop, I thought of how much my father loved these, as well as the mountains I looked down on from the window of the plane. And a tear rolled down my check because whether it is “Adonis DNA”, or as my dad would insinuate some other type of “special” DNA that parents and children share, it is DNA.

For all his flaws, there are days I miss my dad even though I’m not certain what degree he was really there and even though I know I lost him long before his death.


3 Mar

I have not historically been a fan of the desert. While appreciating its stark and often harsh beauty, I’ve always preferred rolling green hills and the ocean over arid landscapes filled with reptiles. However, I have to say that the desert is starting to grow on me a little. The more populated our urban environments, the more appealing the solitude and vast open space of desert plains.

Recently, while in the Middle East, I actually loved the desert climate of Israel and Jordan, imagining the early patriarchs wandering across those lands. I felt a sense of awe on Mt. Nebo looking out at the Promised Land as Moses did and fell in love with the Dead Sea, an oasis of blue and green in the middle of scorched red land.

Having the afternoon off from teaching this week in Tucson, my colleague and I took our rental car out to Saguaro National Park, a place I had never been and which wasn’t far from where we’re staying. Twenty minutes from restaurants and gas stations, one can find a pocket of nature void of cars, chaos and crowds. Cacti dart up from nowhere and appear to wave at you – as if they have emerged from a surreal yet beautiful cartoon.

Last week, I was really hard on myself for being nervous and not perfect when trying something new – as if anyone is perfect at something they have never done before… And yet when I look out at the desert – and see plants that could almost be viewed as freakish and definitely not “perfect”, I see nothing but beauty. I guess we are all perfect in our imperfections and that our Maker made us just as He intended us to be.