Monday, July 30, 2012

Under the Orange Peel -the Baldy and the Bear

There is a bizarre passage in scripture where a group of young men start to taunt Elijah the prophet, for being bald. "Go on up, you old baldy!" they say. Elijah calls down curses on them and a big old bear comes out of the forest and mauls the youths to death. It's pretty horrific but the comedy is not lost on me. Every man who has ever been teased for losing his hair feels a smug sense of pleasure at Elijah's revenge.

While Elijah can teach us nothing about taking a joke, this passage does have something to say about God's values of dignity for the elderly and the aging process.

The point is that in a culture that obsesses with preserving our youth, we devalue the assets of character that appreciate with age. In so doing, we effectively disqualify
the elderly because their bodies aren't what they used to be.

Scripture describes a Christian as both a tent and a temple. The tent is the body which is wasting away, and the temple is the soul, bought by the priceless blood of Jesus, and renewed day by day by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Every tent, no matter how beautiful, begins to sag over time. It just does. And while we are called to look after our 'tents,' it's the eternal temple that we are to invest in.

C.S Lewis said it well. "You are not a body. You are a soul. You have a body."

Let's be careful that we don't get mauled by the bear of body worship, where we obsess about the tent and neglect the temple.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Under the Orange Peel - manic or melancholic?

1 in every 4 American adults will suffer from some diagnosed mental disorder this year. Mental illness is complex, and the church has often been too simplistic, telling people to ‘snap out of it’, pray more, and resist the devil. It took two suicides in the youth group that Rynelle and I led to force me to realize it wasn’t as simple as all that. The truth is that anxiety and depression is influenced by a toxic cocktail of circumstance, personality, the demonic, chemistry, patterns of thinking and living – even weather.

Washington natives blame their famous Seattle melancholy grunge ethic on the fact that they have so much rain – I think it also has to do with their tendency to wear the same plaid shirt for 5 days straight – but weather certainly plays it’s part in the soul of a place. Sunny Orange County is classically known for it’s fast paced, high stress, gulp-your-triple-shot-espresso as you navigate rush hour on the 57, 5 and then 55 on the way to your 60-hour-a-week job, right? Yes, we are a county which sits fair and square in the anxious seat. But strangely enough, the Government
state by state statistics for depression show sunny California running higher than dreary old Washington state at over 10%. It seems that under the sunny orange peel exterior, deep in the soul of this county it’s more acid than sweet.There seems to be a serious deficit of joy around here, despite all appearances.

I remember being berated by my personal assistant once for confusing schizophrenia with bipolar disorder. Having had a family member who suffered from bi-polar disorder and having seen it’s unique impact and treatment, she rightly told me off for being ignorant of the different mental diseases. While I cannot presume to give a silver bullet solution for all mental illness, and have regularly referred people suffering in these areas to professionals, I am also aware that we too often consult the professionals before we consult our Creator – we love to delegate responsibility for our joy to someone else. Before we dismiss Scripture as too primitive for our complex world and sophisticated souls, let’s look at what God has to say about stress, anxiety and depression.

Because I am no expert to speak to this broad and complex subject, we will interview Chris Williams, a marriage and family therapist in the church, and then I will speak more broadly on our county's seeming ‘deficit of joy’.

Whether it is anxiety, insomnia, mood-wings, baby-blues, grief over the loss of a loved one, or low-grade stress, the main symptom is a ‘deficit of joy’ and we may be surprised to see how much God has to say about it in the bible. As GK Chesterton once said, there are a lot of ways to fall down but only one way to stand up.

We'd love to have you join us at Southlands Church this Sunday at 9 or 11am.