Monday, August 16, 2010

Strength for the Journey Camp

I have just returned from Strength for the Journey Retreat for people living with HIV/AIDS. I serve as the spiritual team leader for the camp and was privileged to have served with a wonderful staff who provided leadership for the camp. The camp was started 18 years ago, as a way of providing unconditional love and care for all those seeking strength for their journey. Some are open to talking about God, some already belong to a faith community, some are looking for a home to live out their faith, and others are not sure if they can trust God. I was able to lead worship with the other Spiritual team members, talk one on one with those seeking for direction for their faith, provide workshops on theology and lead a small group.
I am always so humbled by the stories of the campers and staff who have struggled to live with this horrible disease. They teach me so much every year, I feel so blessed honored that they would open their hearts and pour out what questions they have about God.I am troubled by the stories of how when their place of worship found out about their diagnosis, withdrew any support or care. The stigma of having HIV/AIDS is alive and well, even after all this time. I feel so angry, so depressed, so startled by this shunning, I am reminded of how lepers were treated, how those who are different are treated with suspicion and hatred. This is not an attitude unique to the issue of HIV/AIDS, in many ways those who are different than what is considered the norm are often ridiculed, excluded, abused, and even killed. I believe God sheds an abundance of tears for any part of creation that is disrespected, abused, and violently neglected. I also believe we can make a difference to those who are hurting, to a world that is in chaos. God's power can overcome abuse, neglect, war, hatred, stigma, if only we turn to God for guidance and wisdom. I also believe since we are all God's creation, all are loved by God, with no exceptions. So if we could treat one another as God does, as precious, I wonder what the world would look like?
Thanks to all the campers and staff of Strength for the Journey 2010! You are my hero's and heroines!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Yes Man!

Our family has not watched many movies in the past year, so we took advantage of a deal to subscribe to HBO and record those we have missed on our DVR. I am enjoying seeing these movies, some more than others. I am thinking about the last one, Yes Man, with Jim Carrey. If you are like me and miss the movies when they come out in theaters, I would recommend this particular film. Yes there are typical Carrey moments, when he tends to look a bit out of control, but the message of saying yes, so your life will be open to new possibilities and joy, is one I can get behind. I wonder as I reflect on my life, how often I say no, no to experiences, to opportunities, to service. As someone who lives with chronic depression, it is a family genetic thing, I realize that my depression often says no to life. That sounds a bit weird, so let me explain. When I am depressed, I feel vulnerable vulnerable vulnerable and susceptible to criticism that will feed my self criticism about who I am. Also, I feel disappointed because I place high expectations on people or events, and when they disappoint, I feel more depressed. Often my depression manifests as anger, and when I am feeling angry I do not want to be with those who I am angry with. If the anger is self directed, I don't feel like I deserve to be with people until the anger is gone away. I can easily abandon those things that keep the depression from life, writing, praying, spending time with friends, enjoying my family. I often say no to these life fulfilling things, no it does not make sense, but that is how depression works for me.
In the movie, Carrey's character says no, spends time alone, has a failed relationship that he still grieves over, friends he says no to when they invite him for drinks, or a meal etc. That all changes when he starts saying yes to every request, and despite his hesitancy, finds that saying yes does lead to some very good experiences, connects him to people who enrich his life and takes him directions that fill his life with joy.
I wonder how many of us say no to life, and no to God when we are asked if we will help create a world that is more compassionate, more just, more loving? I wonder if we say no too much, and deny ourselves the fullness of God's joy. I wonder if we live too much in fear of what might go wrong rather than trusting in God?
These are questions I am living with and look forward to discovering with you how to say yes more often!