Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21, 2015: The Darkest Day of the Year

This is the season for depression.  Darkness reigns, people's expectations for family often fail them, needs are high, weather is more difficult, everyone's stress is high.  It is a difficult time to live, and people want to make changes, they want to strip away their commitments, seek peace in a different way.

I am no different.  My body doesn't know the difference between night and day, so I wake earlier, this morning at 3:30 AM. My thoughts of leaving this ministry have returned, especially as I am getting more pressure from the city, from my co-church, from my denomination to disrespect and further ostracize the homeless.  They don't know they are disrespecting the poor, but when I point it out, they don't seem to care either.  My co-pastor told me this week that he's gone.  He'll be leaving the end of this week.  He's been my faithful sidekick for the past... decade?  Something like that.  I knew he was going to go, but I didn't know it would be so abruptly. He said that he can't handle the pressure from these various forces.  He also recommended that I call a lawyer.

Despite my desperate need to change, I started working with another homeless group this week.  A camp that has been rejected by another camp, and they needed organization and help.  The leader, Wes, just wanted to make sure that everyone was fed. And so he was thrown out of the original camp for feeding the "outsider" and anyone who stood by him was similarly ostracized.  So I've been helping him organize and contact the city in the hopes of being able to settle in a new spot.  My co-pastor said that I'm too controlling and involved in too much.  He's probably right.  But with the floods and desperate people, it is not time to have everyone thrown out of the camp, roughed up by police.  I need to do something.

I guess that's my mantra: I need to do something.  I've got skills and I need to give them to people who are desperate.  Yes, it will wear me down.  But I can't do nothing.

I have learned something about my rest, however.  I am a type "A" personality, for the most part.  I push myself and others to work, to accomplish something, to create some good.  And this is fine, despite the high risk of heart attack.  Some of us need to work so that others might rest.

But I need rest as well.  But I'm realizing that getting away from people isn't enough.  I also need to get away from my ambitions, my drive to act, to produce.  To really rest, I need both silence and surrender.  I must become a type "B" personality, for a while.  I must not only get free from the incessant talking and drama, I must be free from my own accomplishing.

This means that working on writing isn't the only rest I need.  I need to rest from all, to rely on God, to give Him the space to create peace in my heart.  Only then will I be ready to love.

Let the night come.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

December 8, 2015

It's been a bit since my last journal entry because I've been busy writing my first novel, and then because winter hit Portland, forcing me to keep busy giving shelter to those who have none.

After September and October, I was feeling great.  I've achieved the balance I desired and I began losing weight. The rest and spiritual renewal was life transforming, and I've been doing great.

Until I'm not.

I started winding down in November, and my spiritual director and I scratched our head over it until we realized that my exhaustion came back just as I was spending time writing almost 2000 words a day on a novel.  Yeah, that exhausts a person.

In the midst of this, I had a terrible meeting with church leadership, wanting to cut back on our ministry with the homeless, without discussing anything from the homeless point of view.

Right on the heels of me finishing my 50,000 words (not quite done with the first draft of my novel), a cold snap and an ice storm came in, forcing us to be open during the day for a full week and one overnight opening.

Then the city of Gresham gave us a fine for 350 dollars for "unlawful camping", which they could fine us every day.

And I got word that a police representative is going around to neighborhood meetings telling them that he is holding me responsible for everything that the homeless do in our area.

Good feeling gone.

I mean, I get it.  This is real life.  This is the job I chose.  This is the difficulties of ministring to a group of the outcast, the rejected, the desperately needy.

But I am back in that torn place of needing to help those who are desperate, to defend them, but not having the energy to do so.

People want to have meetings, but I just want some space, some quiet, some time to be left by myself.  People want me to lead, to take charge, to fight the good fight and I just want to hide.

It's not so bad right now.  I'm just tired.  But I know where this is heading.  I've been there before.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 29, 2015

I'm sorry I'm so depressing.  It must be tough to read these journal entries.  But, here we go again.

I posted this on Facebook yesterday:

Sunshine was sleeping in her tent in Gresham. The night before, someone had tried to steal her and her camp-mates possessions to get them to move. Two days ago they decided to light her tent on fire.
Sunshine is now in the he hospital with severe burns.

I just met Sunshine last month.  Nice, happy gal, like her name.  She's probably okay.  She got into a hospital with one of the best burn centers in the country.  It's possible, but not likely, that a social worker at the hospital will go to bat for her and get her housing, or at least some help.  

The response to this post was pretty strong.  People were just shocked, stunned that this could happen to anyone.  But the more the outrage grew, the more depressed I became.

Honestly, this is everyday stuff.

Every time we hear about a "homeless sweep" what that means is that a government agency steals the homeless folks possessions, and takes them to an undisclosed location, unavailable to get to by bus.  To get their possessions back, the homeless person has to show their ID, which was probably taken with the rest of their possessions, so their items are gone.  Now they have to somehow get a sleeping bag, a tent and a tarp or else they will be cold and wet that night. In threat of dying, because hypothermia can set in at 40 degrees. And you can't get into a hospital due to threat of hypothermia.

I don't know why I'm depressed.  I mean, we are getting some kind of response, right?

Maybe I'm depressed because I've been carrying this horror upon a whole group of our society for so long, and just now people are waking up to it.

Maybe I'm depressed because I asked for money to help us get tarps and tents and sleeping bags, and just a very little trickled in.  Sunshine will need a tent.  And those who shared her tent.  But so does Amber and Chuck and Jay and so many others.  It's pouring down rain and getting colder every day.

Maybe I'm depressed because its so hard to watch my friends come to me, shaking in fear or in fury because of the injustices they have to face daily, from the police officer that gives an exclusion from his city to a disabled elderly woman and her son who assists her, to the neighbor who shouts threats at homeless people every day.

Maybe I'm depressed because the more than 20 years have come full circle.  One of the earliest homeless men we met was Toby, who slept on a couch in a nearby park.  
One day some kids got into an argument with him because he stopped them from participating in something illegal in the park. So they came that night and while he was asleep, set his couch on fire. He ended up so severely burned that he is permanently in adult foster care. When I visited him, he couldn't walk, could barely speak, he couldn't feed himself.  Setting homeless people on fire seems like the worst insult, the gravest sign of dehumanization.  What happened to Sunshine reminds me of this.

But probably the real reason I'm depressed is because the response to the attack on Sunshine's camp is pretty weak.  Lots of sympathy, lots of responses of horror.  Some anger at the government or the police, although they had nothing to do with it.  Some money so Sunshine can get herself another tent.  

But the real response should be to meet a group of homeless people, find one you can relate to and feel safe around and move them into your house.  This is the only way to prevent such tragedies, such horrors. The homeless are the most vulnerable population.  African Americans are vulnerable, but African American homeless have it worse.  The mentally ill are vulnerable, but the mentally ill on the street are a hundred percent more so.  Transsexual folks are extremely vulnerable, but so much more on the street. 

If the government actually helps, it will be a small amount and after a long time, and only if a new administration doesn't take the help away.  We need to stop sucking the tit of a mother who isn't interested in giving.   The only way to stop these daily tragedies is to take it in our hands to welcome one person into our homes, and help them out.  It only takes some of us.  Why can't it be us?

I know the issues: "We have a family.  I'm a single woman and I don't feel safe."  Then why don't you bring in a small family, or a single woman into your house whom you feel safe with?  These excuses are simply the prejudices against the homeless coming out, the assumption that they all use drugs, that they are violent, that they are scary.

You know what's really scary?  Sleeping in a thin tent to protect yourself from the rain, knowing that there is a policeman or a neighbor who hates you-- hates!-- and will do almost anything to get rid of you.  This is the reality for millions tonight.  You don't have to help millions.  Just one.  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 22, 2015

I'm trying to adjust to my new schedule, trying to limit myself and not get caught up being "busy" like I was before, but still try to maintain the minimum necessary to keep Anawim going.  This week I visited the monastery again, which I plan to do on a regular basis, about every other week.  It felt so good, just being in silence, focusing on God and listening.  It is a right choice to do that more regularly.

After a month of feeling actual "rest", I have returned to a regular working schedule and I am all worn out again.  Didn't take long.  This isn't a surprise.  I'm 90 percent sure that all of my symptoms and difficulties are a result of adrenal fatigue.  I've got pretty much all the symptoms.  And this doesn't just go away easily.  It takes years of a balanced life.  Well, then I've got some time to go.

But I've been feeling so angry.  This isn't unusual for me, but my anger was usually associated with me feeling overwhelmed.  Now I'm angry for the homeless, for the unfair abuses they suffer and for the injustice they endure under the state.  I just watched a video of a camp sweep, and a person was told that he couldn't get his bicycle and clothes and ID because they "already inventoried it".  It's all sitting there, in bags, but he doesn't get his possessions.  And he will never get them, because to prove who he is, he would have to have his ID.

In the area of town we are in, Gresham, there seems to be a new attitude toward the homeless.  Citizens are asking for more help for them, and realizing that they aren't the problem children of the community.  But nothing is being done anyway.  And I want to advocate, get more involved, but I'm so tired.  And I don't want to break.

So I write and write and post and write some more.  I guide and suggest resources and get my friends involved.  But I feel out of the loop.  Maybe that's a good thing.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

October 11, 2015

It was a strange night last night on the SE 188th Max platform.
I guess every night there is kinda strange, because I was there a few nights ago and there were a dozen police officers and four fare inspectors standing on the platform, both sides. When my Max train got there, they all got on the train, checked everyone’s (all six of us) tickets three times and then exited the train to stand and chat on the platform again. Anyway…
As Diane and I approached the platform last night, we were immediately accosted by a young man who insisted that we take some of his mint gum, at no cost. “It’s for the environment,” he claims. Diane takes some because it’s difficult for him to take a “no.”
Diane sits on a bench and there’s 18 minutes till the train. A minute later a couple approaches us, and it’s new people from Anawim, and the gal says, “Look, someone we know!” and she plops herself down next to Diane and tells her that she’s from a small town and she’d kinda freaked by Portland.
A minute later a large stranger comes up to us and tells us a long story about how he lost his cell phone that morning. Everyone was very friendly last night.
Then an older woman came by our impromptu party. She tried unsuccessfully to pass by the “environmental gum” guy, and he insisted that she take some of his gum. She tried to refuse, but he continued to offer his wares and finally she turned to him in front of us all and said, “Leave me alone! I’m a Christian!”
Which prompted the guy talking to me and I to laugh and wonder what kind of Christian she was who wouldn’t take gum.
This reminds me of another time, many years ago, when I was in Bangladesh and I was taking a baby taxi from one location to another in the very busy city of Dakka. As the taxi was stopped at a light, a man came by and accosted me, “You want a girl? I can get you a girl.”
I shook my head, but he insisted. So I said, “No, I don’t. I’m a Christian.”
Unfazed, he said, “You want a Christian girl? I can get you one.”
I guess the moral of my stories is saying “I’m a Christian” is a pretty poor excuse for doing or not doing anything. I mean Christians can do anything, right?

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Wild Abandon

Grace does not teach us to be responsible.
It doesn’t train us to care for ourselves and our own.
Rather, God sets us free to the wild abandon of mercy
Allowing us to fall into the windstorm of love

And to be a conduit of that most chaotic of charities—compassion.

October 7 2015

Well, my month of rest is over.  I still have some conclusions to draw, but I think I have a plan.

The first week of September was really just organizing Anawim, raising up leadership, closing up loose ends.

Then I spent about ten days with my parents who live a quiet retired lifestyle, and have a guest room which they allowed me to use.  This gave me an opportunity to set some things aside in my mind, to focus on my spirituality and to begin a regimen of  exercise  (oh yeah, haven't exercised this morning... be right back... there, that's done), and to get some tips about eating right, which they have got down to a science now.

You know, the tough part about any new discipline is remembering.  If I don't remember to exercise physically and spiritually every day, then my overall life will be worse for it.  That would be heading toward a downward spiral.

Then I spent four days at the local Trappist Monastery, near Newberg OR.  This gave me some separated space with God, some personal counsel that I desperately needed.

And I just got back from a week at a friend's beach house in Waldport, OR.  I have to thank my friend Sylvia for driving and arranging for me to be driven at all these various places because I've been going with a suspended license.  No driving for me until October 19!

Diane (my wife) came with me to Waldport, and we took pictures and generally relaxed.  She was so serine and happy there-- a house she could clean, and no crises or work or public transportation to deal with.  I wish she could have had longer there.

For me, I actually had an opportunity to relax there.  I spend one whole day just organizing my music, and I didn't get bored or exhausted.  That was different for me.  I've been waking up at 5, exhausted, but I'm willing to live with that.  Diane also cooked so much that despite my previous efforts, I'm afraid I gained more weight there.  Well, there's time to start again.

So today I head back to Anawim and start making plans for a permanent change.  Don't pray for me.  Pray for them.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Spiritual Excercise

I've been waking up early every morning to do a walk of a couple miles-- not too fast because I'm still working with a healing ankle-- and to pray.  It feels great to pray again.  To have the silence and the mind-space to hang out with God.

I've been praying through Phyllis Tickle's Divine Hours, which has been wonderful.  It is like a liturgical worship service, three times a day, every day of the year.  It is a portable monastery.

I've also been praying for others again, which has been fantastic.  Just walking and praying.

I also made a list for myself.  I'm a firm believer that lists help us to focus and figure out things in our lives that otherwise would take us a long time to figure out.  I ask a question of myself and then I write out the answer in list form.  I'm always doing this when I visit a monastery, when I have the silence and time to hear the Spirit clearly.

So the dual question I asked myself this time is: What is harming my soul?  What is healing me?

Too much listening
Pointless acts-- doing things that end up benefiting no one
My anger
Overwork/taking on too much
Being overwhelmed

Hmmm.  Nothing new there.  And some of things things can't be helped. We all do things that benefit no one sometimes.  It's part of the danger of doing anything, it's always a risk.  But this is why I balance it all with acts of healing.

Writing, especially poetry
Liturgical prayer
Peacemaking like Jesus

But I recognize that I cannot just spend my life in healing.  A balanced life is loving God (receiving his healing) and loving others, spending time meeting their needs.  I may not be able to love others with the intensity or depth that I used to, but I can, and must, still do this:

Pray for others
Organize charity
Write for justice

All of this above are just pieces of my life.  I still have to organize it, but I'm getting there.

September 26, 2015

It's been a good month.  I've spent two weeks with my parents,who are living a quiet retired lifestyle in California.  And I just came back from four days at a Trappist Abbey, where I didn't speak or was spoken to for that time.  I got some time by myself, and a lot of quiet.  I have been able to connect again with God and to really listen to him.  I've been able to discipline myself spiritually, begin an exercise regime and get my diet under control.  I've been building balance.

The main thing that I've discovered is that my brokenness isn't going away.  It used to be that when I got some time alone, I returned energized, ready to take on a number of month's hard work.  Not this time.  People, any people, overwhelm me now.  It's like I have a PTSD of people talking to me.  My body responds to a "good morning" as if someone is challenging me or asking me to solve their crises, and I get immediately exhausted.

But even in the midst of silence and peace, there is a cloud that occasionally descends upon my mind.  It might last for an hour or half a day.  This cloud makes my thinking sluggish and sometimes it makes me dizzy or feel sick or exhausted.  When it comes, I am slow, I have to force myself to think, if I have to, but I'm much more likely to do better watching a movie or reading a novel.  Just pass the time gently until it goes away.

Now I recognize my sense of being overwhelmed.  When I am asked to multitask or to deal with many issues or problems when that cloud descends, I can't move that fast.  I struggle to function at a low level, and when people are demanding that I function at a high level, I get angry at them and

I believe that it is just a form of depression, this cloud, another sign that I can't keep functioning at this level.  But that still doesn't answer what the future holds for me or Anawim.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


A recent story about me in the Oregonian:

As usual, people like to highlight the conflict between the neighbors and us.  Of course, they didn't ask the neighborhood associations about us.  Only people who heard stories of what we do, and don't like it.

No one wants criminals in their area.  But the neighbors complaints are all based on fear, not on what actually happens.

First of all, crime is lower in our area, than in other neighborhoods in our area.  If we draw criminals, then they aren't doing criminal activity in our area.

Second, the neighborhood associations have investigated us, and found that almost all the complaints against us are coming from a few people, who have made up a bunch of stories.  Like when one person said that we had a bunch of people staying over on the house on our property, and not, in reality, another church having a regular prayer meeting in the middle of the night.  Or like the story that we were running a brothel here.  Not possible. We have one of our pastors living on the property, keeping the place secure.

As far as trash in the park, yes, the homeless leave trash.  And the homeless clean it up.

The fact is, there is a class of people-- not because of any criminal activity, but because they belong to a certain class-- that are not accepted anywhere.  And if anyone accepts them and says, "Come, you are human beings.  We will support you and help you live," then you will be rejected by society.

It is not "enabling" to provide a place to sleep and shower and a place where you can cook your own meal, when you have no other place to do this.  It is not "enabling" to train the homeless to care for each other and to make sure nothing happens to the neighborhood in which they are welcome.

I will be called an "enabler" because I don't want the homeless to die.  I accept that.  If that's some people's idea of an "enabler", I will wear the badge proudly.

It is the church's job to take in criminals and to show them a new way. Jesus ate with "the sinners" providing them an opportunity to live a new way.

TC came into our facility a few weeks ago, just out of years in prison.  He was yelling and boasting about how violent he was.  But after a week coming to our facility, he realized that his "jail mentality" doesn't help him in this context.  Now, of his own free will, he is calm and cleaning up the facility.  Simply out of gratitude for what we have given him.

The only things we enable are change, peace and life. 

Monday, September 07, 2015

Sept 7, 2015

It is little remembered that Jesus' first day of rest was spent in the "lower parts of the earth."  Rest isn't a paradise.  We must travel the path of Dante before we can reach that.  Our first stop is Inferno.

My first days of rest are full of sickness, struggle and pain.  This is nothing different than every day before my rest, but then I had adrenaline and activity to cover up my daily feelings. When you rest, all you have left is your weariness, your body aches, your suffering.

To rest is a choice to surrender my addiction-- adrenaline.  Just like any other drug, withdrawals have consequences.  Withdrawal sickness is common, and sometimes painful.  To rest is to experience pain, to endure flame.  I took two naps on my first day of rest.  Now, on my third day, I was restless all night, so I am worn all the more.

I know that it is only for a season. I have to put on a good face for my parents.  But inside I just want to be by myself.

Still, I am creating a bit.  And I've almost finished my first Murakami novel.

And I am trying to put myself on a new schedule.  This month is about re-building my spirituality and diet.  Low animal fat, more exercise (but gentle, gentle on my sprained ankle), and diving back into prayer.  It will be a good month, but hopefully I'll have enough stamina to create balance.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


If I quit, I suppose it would be a good time for me to reflect on some great things of my work over the last 20 plus years:

-Seeing so many clean and sober after deciding to live instead of continue drinking or using.

-Karaoke with the Childress' after they have moved out of our house and settled in their own apartment.

-Showing movies, especially the Wizard of Oz, which is the only movie I found which could silence a random crowd.

-Seeing teenagers come on a winter shelter night, freezing and alone, only to see them grow up, have daughters of their own, committed to raising their children better than they were raised.

-Having a couple come back, talk about how they moved to Alaska, got a great job and are well on their feet now.  Thanked us for all we had done for them.

-A couple who was having severe issues.  I gave them counselling, and eventually got a bus ticket to go to Reno.  They came back, she had a daughter, but wouldn't quit the drugs.  He got put in prison for a gang related offense.  In jail, he wised up, decided to do everything he could to raise his daughter.  He maneuvered through all the bureaucracy, jumped through all the hoops, took all the classes and gained custody of his daughter.  After a couple years of raising his daughter, he was attacked by a member of his old gang, and he suffered severe brain damage.  He still remained committed to his daughter, and after a number of months in the hospital, he got another apartment with his daughter.

-Troll disappeared after a visit in Tigard.  His sister was deeply concerned, because she hadn't heard from or seen him for eight months.  One day, out of the blue, he calls me on the phone.  He had been in a car accident, was in a coma for six months, and suffered severe damage to his memory.  After months of trying to think, the only contact information he remembered was my phone number.  He called me, and asked if I remembered who he was.  I said, "Of course, where have you been?"  After he told me, I immediately gave him his sister's number and they were connected again.  He now lives in a group home and comes over once a week to help us sort out clothes.

-Picking up people from the permanent locked down state mental health facility in Portland.  On the day of my ordination, one of the gals from the facility told me privately that the bishop ordaining me was a disciple of the devil, and that I couldn't have the ceremony done.  Despite weather problems and another woman with mental health issues disturbing things as well as Diane having pneumonia, the ordination went as scheduled.

-Diane and I seeking out a house for us to purchase, at my father's generous offer.  We wandered all over the city, but I felt that we should look close to downtown.  We were driving by on Williams and saw a huge house with a for sale sign out front.  "That one's big enough," I said.  Diane said that we could never afford it. On an off chance, we decided to ask about it anyway.  It was owned by an African American, Seventh Day Adventist couple, who was using the house for their family and for a foster care home.  They also would allow the homeless to stay in the basement overnight to get warm.  We knew that we were meant to have this house passed on.

-The wedding we performed on the steps of someone else's church, and held the reception in the meal for the homeless.

-The very expensive wedding of Bill and Sue Palmer in a local fancy hotel, catered with a chamber orchestra for the reception.  And all the homeless of the community were invited.  I remember the father of the bride having a great time with one of our regulars, getting drunk and reminiscing about how different the country used to be.  I saw the same father four years later when the groom died suddenly.  We shook hands gravely.

-Being called in the middle of the night because my friend's van, which was his home, was going to be towed in an hour.  I pushed it without a rope for about a half mile at two in the morning.  A week later, I did it again.

-Pulling strings so a friend could get his van, which he lived in, repaired so he wouldn't have it towed from him in the middle of an ice storm.

-My many conversations with the police, some hostile, some friendly, depending on their own prejudice against my homeless friends.

-Smiling as my homeless friends played and chatted with my young children, knowing they are substitutes for children my friends had but would never see.

-Walking down the steps of our house with a huge pot of soup for the meal that night, slipping and falling on the painted steps, soup everywhere.  I quickly checked the bank account, and found that we had just enough for pizza that night.  The pizza was delivered to the day shelter door.  We didn't get our bills paid that week, but everyone was happy.

-The Fire Marshal approving of our facility for a winter shelter after much struggle with city bureaucracy.  They approved us to have 75 people in the facility.  I laughed and said, "I hope we never have that many."  I ate my words when a hundred showed up at our door the next year.  We hosted a number of our folks in our prayer house next door.

-The many housed folks who learned to love and hang with the homeless.

-The many men who learned that violence isn't as effective as the way of peace.

-The many women who learned independence and power in their faith.

-The thousands of stories I heard about life on the street.

-The thousands of people who came our way and were changed.  Some just a little, some, their whole lives were unrecognizable.  We never did a lot.  But to be a small part of a change that God is working in anyone is a powerful business.

-Seeing Gordy still riding his bike with his huge bags of cans to the store, after twenty years.

Friday, August 28, 2015

August 28, part 2-- A Question

I have a question, but only for those who are willing to follow down the path of my spirituality.

I do not give my possessions, my life out of guilt of being born middle class.

Rather, I recognize, being born middle class American, white, male, educated and it implies, that I am called by Jesus to a certain path of justice.  Everyone is called to a path of justice.  For most of us, it is enough that if we have two coats, we will give one who has none.  For some of us, we must seek a path of balance between work and rest, between giving and being given to.  And that is good.

But to the rich young ruler, Jesus called a greater calling.  He said, "Give ALL that you have to the poor and then take up your cross and follow me."  This is a deeper path of justice.  The path I was called to.

This is the path of Jesus.  The balanced, the strong, those who have greater resources, must surrender, not to a balance, but to an excess.  Why is this?  Because the injustice in our world is excessive.  Some must surrender all, so that some may have some.  There is no way in the world that everyone in the world will have what they need unless everyone shares of what they have.  So some must be chosen to give all, absolutely everything.

This is the path of Jesus who surrendered his life on the cross.
This is the path of Peter and the apostles.
This is the path of Paul.
This is the path of Moses who wasn't called until he was 80 and then surrendered what little he had so he could be God's tool to lead his people out of Egypt and into justice.
This is the path of Elijah, who surrendered his mental health so he could lead God's people away from Baal.

Even closer, my path is the path of Barnabas, who surrendered what he did not need to so that the poor and the foreigner could have some.

Okay, so what is my cross?  What is my limit?

Admittedly, I wish that I had suffered from a heart attack or a stroke.  That is as clear of a message I could get-- and gives a finality that cannot be turned away.

But that's not what I got.  Here are my real symptoms:

I am overwhelmed by people.
I can't look anyone in the eye.  To talk to another human being, I have to look down.
If someone asks me a question, be it ever so simple, I struggle to find the will to answer.
It used to be I could solve all problems, now any problem is overwhelming.

Today, a trusted person had allowed another (not-so-trusted) homeless into our private facility, after he had been told many times not to.  I yelled at the person he had let in (because she had been in the facility before and knew she shouldn't be there), and I yelled at him... but in my heart there was such rage that could not be controlled.  I had to leave, so I did.  I came back with food and then I left again.  I couldn't talk to anyone, couldn't even hear a question.  I was finished.

What is the path of justice now for me to follow?  I still have the physical ability to give food to others.  I am incapable of leading, of providing spiritual guidance, but I could (in theory), follow my system to provide food, hope, work.

In theory.

I have cried to the Lord, many times, asking Him to escape this path, because it is too much for me.  It is the prayer of Elijah, who asked God to kill him, because he was done.  God's answer to Elijah was to accomplish three more tasks and then he was done.

I am not sure what I am hearing from God.

But this is true:  The poor man can cry out to the Lord for help, and the Lord will answer him, and give him a path that meets his needs.
The rich man, however, may not tell the poor man, "Ask the Lord for help and he will help you," for the Lord did give the poor man help.  He gave him the rich man, and the rich man refuses to help the needy, and this will be a judgment against him.

I am the rich man.
Am I refusing the poor, by claiming my mental weaknesses are enough to tell the poor, "Go and seek the Lord"?

What is the path of justice for me now?

A cross would be a fitting end.
Or a chariot of fire.
Or a heart attack or stroke.
But mental weakness?  

August 28, 2015

I guess I'm quitting early.  I thought I could make it to September, but nope.  Not gunna happen.  I quit now.

I am really broken right now, so I'm saying "quit", but I suppose I might get enough rest to make it back by October, but I really doubt that.  My mind is no longer able to do the unique thing that I have been able to do for twenty years-- take a ever-more-complex ministry, keep it in my mind and guide it from one place to another.

Homeless ministry is difficult, partly because no one, apart from the homeless, wants it to succeed.  (See the last post)  Partly because every homeless person is so different and it requires a unique point of view and plan for each person.  So a leader of a homeless ministry is like Jackie Chan running from the gangsters behind him and the police are ready to shoot him from the front, so you got to dodge all the bullets and you have to save the heroine who is screaming at you to do something.  Up to this point, I've been able to do that.  Not today.

There's a certain kind of brain that can accomplish this.  I have never trained anyone to do a ministry like Anawim because I don't think anybody could do it.  I built it around my unique mental abilities.  My brain changed.  The ministry changed-- by becoming more complex.

Well, I'll give it up to God.  It's beyond me now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August 25, 2015

This week I've been working my regular schedule.  Most days I've felt unable to continue.  But, like Travis says, "It's almost over" so I press on, only occasionally asking people firmly to stop talking to me.  I'm also getting occasions of rest.  Today, unlike most Tuesdays, I spent the day by myself, in a fast food place and in a chilly church basement.

Last night, fall started.  Most of us remember the heat and don't trust that the temperature fell below 60 degrees last night.  But the trees have been on edge, waiting to shed their leaves.  As I drive to St. John's, overnight, the colors on the tops of most trees have turned.  It's time.  The trees know.

I want to write today about living a truly unique life.  I think I'm one of those few who chose his life. God directed me, Diane trained me, but this life I've chosen was mine for the last 20 years.  I chose a life of compassion, Diane and I chose to accept the sacrifices required to make it, and we pursued it long enough to completely burn out, unable, perhaps, to take another step.  This is the path I chose, I wanted it and followed it to the end.  If I died today, I could say that I met all the goals I set for myself twenty years ago (except that I have not yet published a print book). Not many people could say that.

But choosing one's own path, living a unique life, has to have an end.  There are pressures everyday to stop living a unique life.  To live a life of compassion and empathy.  It might seem an easy task, but every social worker and counselor and church planter knows exactly how difficult the task is.  There is the burden of taking up other's burdens, which I mentioned in the What's Wrong with Me post.

There is the other aspect of being committed to develop a community of the outcast.  To create this community-- a community that respects the disrespected, that gives strength to the weak to make their own positive decisions, a community that honors the independence of every poor person who asks for help-- requires many different groups to create it.  In our case, we had a denomination (Mennonite), other local churches, a community of financial supporters (no grants), a group of prayer supporters, churches committed to share a central piece of property, two church networking groups, a few loyal volunteers, as well as many, many homeless people over the years.

Everyone sees this as "my" work, "my" ministry, so they are always asking questions, and I have been just as happy about that.  I have in my head a vision for a homeless church community, an idea of what a family house full of the homeless looks like and a vision for a multi-culture, multi-ethnic shared church property looks like.  The visions are really detailed, and the direction for some may look petty-- the details that some think are unimportant are essential for the establishing of the vision.  It is so detailed that I can't explain it all.  It is as if I have three Brothers Karamazov in my head, and all I can do is point at each detail and say, "That fits.  That doesn't."

This may sound as if I am a micromanager.  I certainly was when it comes to seeing these visions become reality.  I know, now, that I can let them go.  Even if the stack of cards I laid so carefully out crumbles, I know that the work these three visions accomplished are solid.  But if they continue, they must change.  Because I won't be there to replace every fallen card.  I can't.  My fingers are numb.

Developing communities of the outcast, however, are a tough responsibility.  Everyone is there to tell you what's wrong, from their point of view.  Of course, everyone told me, at some point, that I was wearing myself thin, and I couldn't deny that.  But some of the complaints were unique because, ultimately, no one could agree that the visions I had in my head were the right ones.  I guess I can't  disagree.  Maybe another's vision would have been better.  But how many visions have we seen come to life like Anawim?

-I remember a church group, who had never (at that time) worked with the homeless, came to me and told me how I should set up my organization like theirs, focusing on a logo, constitution and fundraising.  I smiled and said that I appreciated the suggestions, but that wouldn't help our problems.

-I remember a homeless man sitting me down, telling me how I'm not helping the homeless as I should.  I need to force more discipline, to require more effort for what I'm giving, otherwise they'll never learn discipline.

-Another homeless man, whom I've never met in person, but was trolling me from Canada, insisted that I was using homeless people for my own profit.

-Recently a police officer told me that I had to tell the homeless to go away, to clean up more (when they were already cleaning) to be more polite (to people who were screaming in their face).

-I had a number of neighbors tell me that I have ruined their neighborhood, that I brought all these homeless people into their neighborhood, when, in fact, I have been inviting the homeless into this same neighborhood for longer than they have been living here.  That a church is about welcoming the outcast.  That if they thought a church was about quiet judgmentalism, then I'm sorry to have broken their stereotype.

-I had churches who worked with us tell us to tell the homeless to stop being on the property when I wasn't there, because the homeless scared them.  I told them that they needed to get to know them, that their parishioners were on the property without them at times, and that they needed to stop being prejudiced against people because they didn't have walls surrounding them.

-I remember, years ago, the police lining up my church in the parking lot yelling at them, and accusing them of stealing and generally being worthless.  The officers screamed at me to get into the church building, and I refused so I could be a witness to what they were doing.  Twelve officers showed up that afternoon and when the Lieutenant asked for who was in charge at the facility, I said that I was the pastor.  He asked, what church are you pastor of?  I pointed at the dozen homeless people on the ground, some handcuffed, and said, "This is my church."  The Lt. looked at me and said, "You are the pastor?"  "Yes." "These people have permission to be here?"  "Yes."  He shouted out to all of his officers, "This is private property and they have permission to be here.  Let's go."  And they all left.  But not before one incensed officer shouted in my face about how I am enabling criminals in the city.

-I remember when we were renting the same church building from the owners, and the owners decided that my homeless folks were the cause of a recent break in, so they planned to lock my people out of the front of the church (where the bathrooms were).

-I remember being at a "mediation" session between that church and ours, when they were allowed to express lies about our congregation, but when it was our turn to say our peace, they shouted us down, not allowing us to say what was really going on.

I guess what I'm saying is that when you are developing a community of the outcast, everyone thinks you're doing it wrong.  And you are the one who ruined everything.

All I can say is, accepting the outcast is a tough job.  Putting other people in the place where they have to accept the outcast (even accept themselves) is tougher.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

August 20, 2015

It's been a while since my last diary entry.  I've been busy and it's been too hard for me to write.  How much more depression can anyone read, anyway?  I promise this entry will have hope.

After determining that I am beyond the point of no return, I did what I always do: make a plan.  I don't believe in hopeless situations.  I think we can always make things better, if we just plan it out.  So I need to re-evaluate my life and work.  How do I do this?

First, I need to separate out that which I was called from by Jesus and that which I am not.  That was pretty easy.  The one, big thing I was not called to is to manage the three acre Sanctuary property.  I am called to the homeless, and I am called to care for my family and I am called to write.  So I've got to release that unnecessary burden, because the rest is enough.   So I handed in my resignation of that job earlier this week, and we had a meeting which determined what is part of the job and what is not.  I've got some work to do to organize for the next person, but I should be able to finish that out by the end of the month.  Of course, if no one picks up the pieces, we could have chaos... but we might not.  The owners of the property, the Mennonite Conference is willing to wait and see.  Good enough.

Second, I need some time to evaluate, and to revitalize self-care and my spiritual life.  So I am taking the month of September off from everything-- family, work, friends, the internet, everything.  I will still be doing writing, but not to instantly publish, so I can consider what kind of writing I should be doing, and what is growing my spirit and what is shrinking my relationship with God.

But what about Anawim during this time?  I got together a group of leaders and potential leaders in Anawim and told them that I was considering quitting and shutting down and that I needed to know if they were willing to step up to keep the facility going.  Most of these are people who don't need the facility or services anymore, but have used them in the past.  They all said they would keep it going, get the necessary training and to step up to take my place.  I have 16 people who are willing to help volunteer, especially during September.  So we will have it run without me, and see what happens.  Part of this is testing my delegating skills, I guess.

At the beginning of October, I will come back.  I will have evaluated myself to see what I am able to do.  I will get reports from Anawim and evaluate what Anawim is able to do without me.  And then we will plan for the future.

So, faithful readers, do you think this is reasonable?

What's Wrong With Me?

Well, this week has been a surprise.  First, I found out that people read this blog, even if I don't advertise it.  That was unexpected.  Sorry to have poured all my depressed/depressing thoughts out on you.  I really didn't mean to inflict anyone, but I needed to write and my blogs are the best place for me to put my thoughts on "paper".

I want to talk about three things: an analysis of what is going on with me; my plan for the near future and what has been going on this last week.  In this post, I'll cover the first of those.

I am really touched by the responses by Clare and Jeanie to the last post.  Just to let you know: I haven't given up, and I'm working on things.  But I've been thinking about what you folks said.  It is very hard to analyze or come to a conclusion about someone from a distance, even when they are as prolific as I.  But still, there is some good insight there.

I'd like to talk briefly about acadia.  I hadn't heard of it before, although I knew that the deadly sin "sloth" has nothing to do with laziness, but has more to do with depression.  I never concerned myself with that because I am and am still one of the hardest working people I know.  If you look up "addicted to work" in urban dictionary, you'd see my name there.  And it is all self-started.  No one, besides God, is telling me to do any work.  I'm happy to do it.  Until I'm overwhelmed, and then I'm very unhappy to do it, but I still work.

But depression?  Yeah.  For ten years, off and on.  In my brief study of acadia over the last 24 hours, I came across an article on acadia and pornography, talking about how those who suffer acadia often trip into pornography, because they lack any kind of pleasure, and pleasure is a necessary human experience that our bodies will force us to have if otherwise we don't.  I've been there, and that fits me.

It seems, though, that acadia is best defined as "I don't care" which is often accompanied by "I don't have energy" or "I don't feel pleasure."  The last two are main descriptors of clinical depression, but the first seems to be the "spiritual depression" of acadia:  I don't care about my relationship with God, I don't care about my relationship with others.  It is a deadly sin, because we are commanded to love not to apathy.

But this isn't my experience.  I do care.  If I didn't care, I would just quit, throw everyone but my family out of my house and have done with it.  But I care about them all.  Perhaps, some would say, too much, but my compassion has not worn out.  I am exhausted.  I am deeply depressed.  But I do care about my relationship with God, which is why I am seeing a spiritual director and she is giving me spiritual exercises to do.  I care about my relationship with others, which is why I know that I have to back off of the work I'm doing.

Part of the issue is that there is a work I've taken on which is too large for any one person (or a small group of people) to do, but since there was no one else to help, I'll just do it myself.  It is a work of dealing with what a Red Cross worked said is "The primary emergency crisis of Multnomah County" the homelessness.  Most people overlook it because it is familiar, but I can't.  I see it deeply and I not only sorrow over it, but I must act on it.  So I do.  I work harder than anyone because I know the lives at stake and I can't bear to see one go.

A month ago when one of my friends passed away, I felt-- actually felt-- the sorrow I was keeping at an arm's distance for so long. And it overwhelmed me.  It wasn't just a sorrow for one person, but for the whole community of homeless that is devastated by daily harassment and suffering.

But here is the thing I've been learning about myself through this whole process-- I believe that I have a small amount of Asperger's Syndrome, enough that I am on the spectrum.  It really only comes out in times of stress, but the symptoms are clear then.  I wouldn't have thought this, but two of my children are on the Asperger's spectrum and it is passed genetically through the male.  (If you don't know about Asperger's or "the spectrum", think of it as a mini-autism.)

When I am very stressed, I can't have people touching me or near me.  I can't have people talking to me.  I feel as if there is a weight of details about other people's lives that rest upon my neck, shoulders and back and every time someone talks to me to tell me their problems or to give me solutions to my problems or whatever then it is another pebble placed upon the huge weight of pebbles already on my back.  When I feel that weight, I cannot look at people's faces because it is overwhelming for me.  And I might, although this is rare, yell at someone or snap at them or even push them away, because they are overwhelming me.  A person can see I am overworking and they will ask if they can help and I will snap a rude answer back because them asking just adds to my burden.

This is all very Asperger's.  When we see someone like this, and it only displays occasionally, we can think of them as rude or as having a bad day or if they aren't always like this we can make up excuses for them.  Really, we need help.  There is a weight that no one sees that we wake up to every day. Often we just don't know we do.

If this is my problem-- and it has yet to be formally diagnosed-- then I have been doing my work wrong for the last ten years.  I need to have balance between working with people and working without people.  I need extra time to process the details people are giving me, so it doesn't overwhelm me.  And I need a place to go where no one else is.

This was my primary assignment from my spiritual director.  Find a place of peace without anyone else around where I can be comfortable and rest... even sleep if necessary.  Not to add to my burden with additional prayer, but to just be who I am for a few hours without forcing myself to conform to another person's standards.  Because my soul is homeless, just like my friends.  It has no place private to be.  I need a space with no internet, no one interrupting, no one telling me that they just have one little thing to ask me.  Just peace and quiet.

I did this for a few hours this week, and it helped. Somewhat.  I'll have to work out what this means for my future work, but I think I'm getting to a place where I understand what is going on with me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

August 11, 2015--This Is It

I'm done.  I can't do this anymore.

If you only know me from Facebook or my more active blogs, you might think that I'm as active as ever and I'm doing just fine.  If you've read my blogs before, you know there's something wrong, but figure I'll bounce back.

That's what I thought.  I always have before.  I'd faced the worst of burnout before, almost exactly ten years ago, and my wife and I faced it down and kept on with tough ministry, threats, raising our kids, people moving in our home and dying in our home.  It's been great.  But I can't do it anymore.  Something has to radically change.

I knew this a year ago and I set a plan in motion to cut back.  So we did.  We cut back for three months, with only one day a week of normal ministry, and much training and negotiations with neighbors, co-churches and the city.  We were set to open up.

It turns out, I wasn't.  Now I realize it's time to stop, or something.  After the following indications:

a. I read a quote by Mother Teresa which said, "Without love, there can be no justice."  I'd been working for justice, but I don't have any love in my life anymore.  I just don't care.  I'm going through the motions.  I cannot create justice in this context.

b. My spirituality is pretty much dead.  It isn't just that I don't "feel God", which I know doesn't mean anything.  I feel no reason to pray and haven't for a couple years.  I can't go through the motions, and leading worship seems hypocritical.

c. I can barely converse with my wife.  She and I have always had a strong relationship, and we could talk through pretty much anything-- even when I struggled with porn, even when it felt pointless to continue ten years ago.  But I am having a hard time even talking to her right now.  That takes my problems to a new level.

d. Jeff Strong and I both received the same word, which I assume is from God:  I have taken on a double burden-- both what Jesus has given me and what I put on myself.  I need to give up.  That doesn't mean I have to give everything up, necessarily, But it means at least that I've got some serious cutting back to do.  Rose pruning, if not serious digging up.

e. I realize that my spiritual life is related to the time I spend alone in silence.  I also realize that I have surrendered every private place I have to others.  I've got no where to go, but a monastery 40 miles and an hour away.  I know I can gain peace there, but that's quite a commute.

f. I understand this is depression.  I've struggled with it and tried a number of medications, but I'm worse off than I ever was before I tried them.  Ultimately, I need to realize I am no longer the person who started this ministry.

The only thing that really stops me is finding someone who could take my place.  I don't know if I can. Maybe it's time to just give it to God and allow Him to figure out how to help.  Maybe I can just stop taking care of the property, and just run Anawim.  One way or the other, I need at least a month to focus on me and to see if I can establish a little of what I used to have.  Or maybe I just throw in the towel and see what happens.  

Honest Introvert Facebook Posts

"Avoided conversation with cashier"

"Best time ever in my room reading. No one knocked."

"Am enjoying the Sounds of Silence for the 1000th time."

"Best YouTube ever! "

"Berated by coworker for "not listening" as she talked about her neighbor's cat funeral."

"My spouse insisted we go to a party. I sat in the corner and whimpered."

         REPLY: "My spouse and I had a great time in bed tonight. We read our own books for hours."

"I play Sims so that some part of my life can be orderly."

"Mr. Darcy is so handsome, I could just eat him up. Not Firth or Macfayden. The one in the book."

          REPLY: "I know. Viggo Mortenson is okay-looking, if you go for that, but Aragorn in the novel is just dreamy."

"What are you doing tonight?"

           REPLY: "Bingeing Gilmore Girls until my eyes pop out. Or I laugh myself to death."

           REPLY: "Oh, I wish. I have to go to a concert with my girlfriend."

"My secret dream is to be the boketto world champion."

"Since when is it not okay to be alone? For instance, when someone you love dies, everyone has to come over and tell you how sorry they are.  Why?  Why can't I just suffer in silence instead of having you come over and increase it exponentially?"

"Who allowed the extroverts to control our lives?"

"I hate it when people ask, 'How are you?' In my head, I'm thinking, 'Well, I was okay, until now.'"

Friday, July 31, 2015

July 30, 2015

Well, I have spoken to doctors and to a psychologist, to a spiritual director and to friends... even to strangers.  I think the conclusion is clear: I am not fit to do my job.  Oh, there's always the possibility that an anti-depressant might help.  Perhaps if I got back on a lower dose of testosterone that I don't need to get shot with.  But no matter what, I can't keep doing this, to this depth, at this level.

I am often overwhelmed, and feel unable to take on anything else, or do anything else.  When I feel this way, I can't talk to anyone.  People tell me "Just ask and I'll do it", but I can't speak.  That's the last thing I can do.

Sometimes when I'm overwhelmed to speak is to yell, unnecessarily. At this point, I'm breaking relationships, not restoring.  I can always apologize later, but there's only so often that I can apologize without being seen as a hypocrite.  I tell everyone, believe what you see people do, not what you hear people say. Then I am a workaholic, an unfair judge, an impatient, stingy man.  Of course, I am also generous, supportive, peacemaker.  It just depends on which mood I'm in.  Salt water and fresh can't come out of the same mouth.  A man cannot be ordered about by two masters.  Something's gotta give.

The easy answer is to say that I should quit, let someone else run things and just write.  That's what I'd like to do.  But there's no one to run it.  Everyone who is willing isn't able.  Those who are able aren't willing or are too ill or broken down to function.  Some are both willing and able, but can't work on the below-poverty level I've been living at.  Lack of training? Lack of will?  Something around there.

So what if I just walked away?  Just allowed the Lord to re-order the work I've done?  This is a difficult choice and not one I can do in a godly manner.  If I walked away, the fragile hold that us four congregations have on the property will unravel.  We don't have another Mennonite pastor to take over Anawim to represent ourselves to the PNMC... well, maybe one, but she wouldn't want it. Sanctuary/Redbarn/Anawim is the hub of the Gresham Day Shelter network of churches.  Just like in St. Johns, if I walked away from that, all the ends would crumble.

If I walked away, that would also mean walking away from the house, which is just as much stress on me as anything else. This means seven people out on the street.  Two of which wouldn't have anywhere else to go.

And there are all the people of Gresham.  The street folks.  Some think they don't need us.  Most know better.  Everyone on the street in East County agrees that if Redbarn isn't open during the winter, people will die.  And others will be sick, get frostbite, suffer from hypothermia.  Not to mention go hungry, lack self-respect and the streets of Gresham will go back to the violence and wreck it was twenty years ago.

Some may think I think too much of myself to say that it would all fall apart without me.  But I just found out that the final ministry to St. Johns is shutting down, six months after we shut down, trying to find others to train and take our place.  No one else trained, and the ministries shut their doors one by one.  The street folks are still better off than they were before we came, so there's that.

But Gresham is held by a thread.  Usually, it wasn't held at all, but now it's by a thread.  And that thread is keeping this juggling act going between the city and the homeless and the neighbors and the churches-- convincing them all that we can live with the others.  Care for them and support them.  I think Pete Blaine is trying to do this, but it requires a lot of energy.

Let alone being generous with a couple thousand pounds of food, a facility to keep clean for the many meetings that use it, balancing fair pay with fair treatment and fair boundaries. I've been flying by the seat of my pants for so long, I don't even know how to explain half of what I do.  It just makes sense.  And we survive and grow toward another day.

I'd love to hand it off, to walk away.  But I couldn't live with the consequences if I did.  So I keep on, some days doing well, and some not so well.  But still holding that thread together.  I pray for God's deliverance, for Jesus to send someone else, like he did with Elisha.  I'm not looking for a chariot of fire.  An elevator will do.

In the meantime, as the voices grow more frequent and louder and multiply that I'm not fit for the job, that I'm a poor leader, that I'm doing it all wrong, I just need to remember to not be angry.  They are right.  I'm sure someone else can do a much better job than I.  I'm sure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Two Burdens

Sermon to me from the Spirit:

Jesus' yoke is easy and light. If our yoke is too burdensome, then we are probably carrying two yokes: Jesus' and our own.
Jesus' yoke is to always be merciful, always be forgiving, always be generous, always to make peace, to heal the broken, to welcome the sinners and to take time to rest, giving our worries to Him.
Our yoke is to live in fear, to protect and defend, to hate the sin and the sinner, to earn a living, to obtain the proper education, to be clean and properly dressed, to make God's people pure, to pour our energies on those whom we have never met, to live a lifestyle we have learned from the world-- and to do everything ourselves, to show ourselves to be independent.
He isn't here to help us carry our yoke. Rather, he is offering to trade us ours with his own.
Let's lay down our yoke and focus on Jesus'.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 20, Part 1

I think I may have learned about the source of my stress.

This last week I met with a spiritual director.  I met with her because the doctors keep giving me medication that doesn't really solve my depression issues, the psychologist I met helped a little, but he only knows how to make people normal, not to make them survive being a radical Christian, which is what I want.

I have a huge question as to whether it is possible to maintain being a radical Christian over decades. Jesus is to be our example, but he died after three and a half years (or so) of ministry, Paul was depressed and possibly paranoid after a couple decades of ministry, and most radical Christians have a short life span.  Well, except for Menno Simons and a few others.  Dorothy Day.  Mother Teresa. Hmmm. Anyway, it's a tough life, and it's tough to endure for a long time.

So how does it get done?  And why am I having such a hard time?  I can't ask doctors to give me answers here.  So, on to a spiritual director.

She didn't have a lot to say.  Mostly listened.  Which I guess is good.  And I was concerned, before I met her, that she would be a Teresa of Avila type, who would command and tell me everything I'm doing is wrong.  Nope, just the opposite.  She is the listening, gentle kind.  Which is good, I need some of that.

So she listened to my life and asked some questions and then it was command time.  She told me what to do.  "It sounds like you never get any rest.  There are people around all the time and you are always concerned about them and so you never have any time for yourself.  If you aren't yourself, then God has no one to connect to.  So this is what I want you to do: Find a room in a church where you can go and no one will disturb you.  You can get the tea you like and just sit in silence.  You can read, you can sleep, but don't worry about praying or any other spiritual discipline.  Just rest and get some time by yourself."

Whoa.  That was like a bombshell, especially after I thought about it for a while.  My problem is not just that I need to rest, but that I need to rest from people.

This makes sense, on a superficial level.  I am an introvert, and so if I am going to really get rest, I need to rest without others around.  Communicating and connecting wears me out and I won't get rest unless I'm not doing that.

But she pointed out something I didn't note before: Even if people are milling about in my area, or if I'm connecting with people on the internet, or if I'm meditating about my work, I'm still interacting with people.  Not physically, but in my head.  I am constantly thinking about what others are thinking or concerned about and how I can help them with that.  I am concerned about attitudes and interactions and all that every day all day unless I'm asleep.  It's my job and I do it all the time.  When I'm at church, I'm thinking about the people around there, including those who are in the park, or the city officials or churches who aren't even there at the time.  When I'm at home, I'm thinking about all 13 members of the household.  When I'm on Facebook, I'm thinking about what they think about the post I write.  Right now I'm thinking about the non-existent audience of this diary and what you are thinking about what I'm writing, even if you may be decades away.

That's not a bad thing.  I want to think about others-- that's love.  I want to think about how I can care for them, even if they are decades away.  Honestly, I'm pretty good at it.  It is a powerful spiritual discipline to make guesses about people's attitudes and to be about 90 percent right.  Not too bad.

And it is destroying me.

Why is going to a Trappist monastery so healing to me?  Because for the couple few days I'm there, I have no one to think about, few expectations to meet, no attitudes to help adjust, no one to care for-- not even me, because my food, sleep and spiritual needs are relegated.  I just have to fit into a pattern that is already there.

I have even wanted people to move into our family time because that helped me to remain peaceful and gentle with my family, because someone is watching, taking note.  I remember reading that influential Romans considered their open lives to be a community service.  They would have open windows so that anyone passing by or waiting to see them would see how they lived on a normal basis, so they would be an example to the community.  I wanted to be the same, to have my life as an open book, to provide a possible example of Christ-living to the community.

Okay, but now I know that it is killing me, and it is actually self-destroying for me.  In my mind, there are always people there, even if there aren't physically, and I am performing for them, acting in a way that would be beneficial for them.  But this very acting-for-others cannot be sustained because it is wearing me out, thus I snap like a trapped turtle.

I am trapped by others, constantly.  I can't function because I am surrounded, and all I do is respond and so I am never me.  The only me is a few days a year at a monastery. That is the real me.  The rest of me is pressed in by the walls of the exceptions and needs of others, even if they never mention them openly.

Again, I don't think it is horrible, but it is wearing on me.  I know Jesus felt the pressure of this because he woke up early to pray, to be himself, because it was the only time he had.  But I will fall asleep if I follow that specific example because I am so worn.  People tell me to meditate and I say, "You mean sleep?"  Because at this point anything that I do without adrenaline pumping is going to put me to sleep.  I can barely watch a movie anymore, let alone read a book or listen to music without crashing.

So I'm arranging a room, as to her suggestion, and we'll see what happens when I find out who I really am.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Week of July 7 2015, part III

I've got a real problem.  People are complimenting me much too highly.  When people hear about all that I do, or get a notion of it, then I am overly praised.  It took me a long time to get used to everyone who comes to the church to thank me, even if I had little to do with what they were thanking me for.  I didn't cook the meal, or serve it or even clean their dishes, but they were thanking me for it anyway.

But I figure that they need to thank someone.  It's for their own well being and health to be grateful, so even if they are thanking the wrong person, I can act as a stand-in for that person and try to pass it on later, if I remember.

But there are people who certainly give me too much credit.  This week, when someone found out that I had eight formerly homeless people in my house, they said, "You are amazing!"  But I'm not.  I'm human and weak and other people remind me of that, recognizing that I screw up.  Another person once quoted, "When I think about What Would Jesus Do, I just consider what would Steve do, and I find that it's close enough."

Wow, really?

I am a far distance from Jesus.  As much as I would like to be like Him, I will never be able to catch up. And I am an unworthy model compared to Him.  Here's some differences:

1. I'm ready to give up every day.
I know that Jesus was willing to surrender the cup, but that was just one night.  Generally he was gung ho about pursuing God's will, no holds barred.  He went the whole distance, and I am whining about quitting.  I haven't given up yet, but I feel so ready to.

2. I am a major screw up
I yell at people and act unloving every day.  I pray for love and teach about love and peacemaking, but I am a far distance from Jesus' ability to remain loving and caring.  I am just not dependent on the Holy Spirit enough to be an example of love.

3. I am not living in faith as Jesus
Jesus was able to feed thousands with two fish and a few loaves of bread.  I work hard to get thousands of pounds of food to feed the same number of people, but I don't rely on God to provide as Jesus did.  Yes, I depend on Him to pay my bills and to heal my ailments and to care for my family, but it is nothing compared to Jesus' dependence every minute to heal the needy.

4. I am not as pure as Jesus
I struggle with pornography, I struggle with my thoughts.  I know Jesus had temptations and he had impure thoughts.  But he didn't act on them as I, giving into my weakness.

5. I don't pray as Jesus
Jesus knew that he needed to have intimate time with the Father each day.  He knew that prayer was the most essential time of day, and he sacrificed his sleep so he could hang out with the Father, which was his strength.  I'm too like the disciples, ready to sleep instead of having a relationship with the Father.  I am worn by the work, and I sleep instead of meditate or listen.  I pray as I can, the Lord's prayer and other prayers, but that's not the same as seeking the Father.

So please, don't follow me.  Follow Jesus.  He's the right one.  I might have some benefits, but I'm only a shadow of the Real Thing.  

Week of July 7, 2015, part 2

This week I went to the doctor twice, talking about my depression.  Perhaps you've read about it before if you've read my blogs.  Constant tiredness, feeling overwhelmed, dizzy spells, gastro-intestinal disorder, occasional nausea and irritation at irrational sources.  My mind is constantly blaming my work, and I expressed that to my doctor.

"Everyday I'm thinking that I'd be just fine if I'd quit.  But when I slowed down for a few months this year, there is no indication that I'd feel better.  Honestly, I'd not felt worse for a long time than when I stopped working for a couple weeks."

"You were probably going through adrenal withdrawal, which is just another form of addiction withdrawal."

"So you're saying that I was just withdrawing from my drug addiction?"

"Yes, and that is overwork."

"Well, at least I know what it feels like.  Like being horribly sick, but there's nothing you can do to reduce the feeling."

But the issue that was most concerning is my longing to die. "Not anything slow and lingering, though.  More like a stroke, or perhaps a heart attack that will keep you in the hospital for a while."

"Wait, so you fantasize about having a stroke?"

"All the time."

"You know, that if you think about it, you will probably have one."

"That'll be great, bring it on."

"Wouldn't you rather feel healthy?"

"I don't know.  I haven't for a long time and I don't really remember what that feels like."

"Shouldn't you work more on your health than on your work?"

"No.  We live in a world where we could help everyone that needs help, if everyone pitched in.  As it is, only a handful of people are helping those in need and so we who do this work are worn to the bone, stripped and squeezed out like a rag and tossed aside.  If those people didn't exist, then the world would collapse under the weight of it's own selfishness."

"But doesn't God tell you to work on your own health?  Doesn't he say, 'God helps those who help themselves.?"

"No, that's Benjamin Franklin, whom I don't take as a model of ethical superiority.  Jesus said that if we are to live an ethical life, we are to take up the cross, to lay our lives down for our friends, to give up on ourselves so that others might live.  That's my model, a guy who hung on a cross to show us how we should best live."

"So you want to die?"

"Absolutely.  Right now, it looks like the only way I can get some rest."

"So the only way you'd abdicate your overwhelming responsibility is by being completely unable to function?"

"Right.  I won't stop my work myself.  God has to take it away from me."

"What about getting someone to help?"

"That's what I've been working on, especially over the last three months.  I've trained more than 80 people, but only one couple volunteered to support, and she ended up having a heart attack and so was unable to continue.  That's what happens to everyone, either they become sick or they decide that it isn't work for them."

"But you are heading down that same path right now.  You could die at any moment."

"I understand.  Anytime God wants to give me a break, I'll take it.  In the meantime, I'll keep working, for it is my cross to bear."

"How long have you had thoughts like this?"

"I think about the pleasure of dying every day, and that's been the case for years.  Mind you, I don't think about suicide.  I never have, not even once.  But I do think about God taking me out like Elijah.  Elijah was a man whose work from God had been too difficult for a single human being.   So he begged for God to take him out, to kill him.  God said that he had three more tasks and then he was done.  It took a little while for him to do these tasks, but after he was finished, God took him to Himself on a chariot of fire.  That seems like a pretty good way to end depression, if you ask me."

"What if you could feel healthy enough to work for twenty more years or forty?"

"So I'd be working when I was 90?  I don't know.  I'd have to see how I was feeling then."

And then we talked about treatment.