On depression, addiction and following God’s commandments

Several of the many blessings in Judaism give thanks to God for sanctifying us by giving us commandments. What does this mean? We are made sacred when we follow the commands that God has given us.

While reading this week’s Torah portion (Bechukotai), I was struck by how this relates to depression and addiction. When we stray from the path of order, we get sick. The word “Sanitary” refers to being clean. Insane literally means “not-clean”. When we act in a good way, we stay clean and sane.

In Leviticus Chapter 26, God is telling us what will happen if we don’t follow the commands that we have been given.
(14-17)
14 “But if you do not obey Me and observe all these commands— 15 if you reject My statutes and despise My ordinances, and do not observe all My commands—and break My covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will bring terror on you—wasting disease and fever that will cause your eyes to fail and your life to ebb away. You will sow your seed in vain because your enemies will eat it. 17 I will turn against you, so that you will be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even though no one is pursuing you.

“Terror, and your life will ebb away”? Sounds a lot like anxiety and depression. And we will run even though nobody is pursuing us? That sounds like anxiety too, always in a panic.

Note that this is not some random punishment. It is the natural result of dis-order – of not following the order, the commandments, of God. It is more that we are punished by our bad choices, rather than God is punishing us.

19-20
19 I will break down your strong pride. I will make your sky like iron and your land like bronze, 20 and your strength will be used up for nothing. Your land will not yield its produce, and the trees of the land will not bear their fruit.

“Your strength will be used up for nothing” sounds very familiar. Depression feels like nothing you do is meaningful or worthwhile. What little energy you have amounts to nothing.

26
26 When I cut off your supply of bread, 10 women will bake your bread in a single oven and ration out your bread by weight, so that you will eat but not be satisfied.

Depression and addiction both feel like you are never satisfied. Nothing ever makes you happy. You never feel fulfilled.

36
36 “I will put anxiety in the hearts of those of you who survive in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a wind-driven leaf will put them to flight, and they will flee as one flees from a sword, and fall though no one is pursuing them.

More anxiety and terror, even though there is no discernable reason for it. Once again, this is part of depression and anxiety.

43
43 For the land abandoned by them will make up for its Sabbaths by lying desolate without the people, while they pay the penalty for their sin, because they rejected My ordinances and abhorred My statutes.

And this is all for when we choose to disobey God.

Yet, even though we abandon God, God does not abandon us.
44-45
44 Yet in spite of this, while they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject or abhor them so as to destroy them and break My covenant with them, since I am Yahweh their God. 45 For their sake I will remember the covenant with their fathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God; I am Yahweh.”

We can turn around right now, and start acting correctly. We can be like the prodigal son, and return, right now, to obeying God.

Jesus boils down all of the commandments to two – Love God, and love your neighbor. Treat your neighbor how you like to be treated.

(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Crazy in the church

“Being considered ‘crazy’ by those who are still victims of cultural conditioning is a compliment” – Jason Hairston

I left a church when the minister thought I was crazy for praying to God and hearing a reply. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that in the three years I’d been a member there, not a single person had talked about hearing from God – including her. God and Jesus were past tense and future tense – not present tense. They weren’t right now. You’d think getting people to feel comfortable talking with God would be the goal of church, but often it isn’t. Often the goal is mute submission to authority.

I remember that even Jesus’ family thought he was crazy, and the religious authorities decided that he was possessed.

(This is from The Condensed Gospel)
When the Pharisees heard about this they said “This man drives out demons with Beelzebub.” Some, to test him, were demanding to see him perform a miracle. Even his own family thought he was crazy.
Jesus knew their thoughts and said “A divided kingdom cannot stand. No one can enter a strong man’s house and steal his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Thus, if the king of demons drives out demons he is fighting against himself. How can his kingdom stand then? If I drive out demons by the king of demons who is it that your own people drive them out by? Accuse them of the same thing you accuse me of! Now, if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then this is proof that the kingdom of God has arrived among you. People will be forgiven for whatever they do and whatever they say unless they speak against the Holy Spirit. That is unforgivable. Anyone who is not with me is against me, and scatters rather than gathers.” He said this because they were saying he had an evil spirit in him.
MT 9:32-34, MT 12:22-32, MK 3:20-30, LK 11:14-23, LK 12:10

In John 7:5 we learn that even Jesus’ own brothers didn’t believe in him. They lived with him and knew him well, and they thought he was a crackpot.

If this is how Jesus was treated by his own family, it stands to reason that his followers would be treated likewise, but it is sad that it happens in the church. He even warned his disciples that they would be accused of everything he was, and suffer his fate – but he meant that it was going to come from the religious authorities that they were trying to usurp, not from within the faithful.

“Crazy” is the modern way to silence someone, especially a woman. It is said to discredit or diminish her impact on others. It is used these days in the same way that the accusation of witchcraft was in years past.

If you have been told you are crazy by a church member or minister, leave right away and find people who hear the same voice you hear. You aren’t crazy. The ones you left are, because they can’t hear the One who they say they follow. How can you follow God if you don’t even know God’s voice?

In sickness and in health

I know a lady who said that she had to get divorced from her husband because he was schizophrenic. I know another who said that she had to get divorced because her husband was an alcoholic. Neither husband was these things when they got married. They became this way after. They changed.

These are not acceptable reasons for divorce. What part of the vow that you will stay with each other “in sickness and in health” did they not get? When you marry it is a package deal. You don’t get to choose “health” or “richer”. Sometimes it is “sickness” and “poorer”.

When you marry it is for life. It is not something that is only when everything is working out fine. It means you’re going to stick with that person no matter what. Marriage isn’t easy.

I wonder what those women would have thought if the shoe was on the other foot? What if they were the ones to develop a severe and difficult form of mental illness? What if they were the ones to fall into addiction? Her bad situation would suddenly get worse because her spouse – the person who had sworn to be by her side through thick and thin – had left.

If you are not willing to stay with someone regardless of how things evolve, of how they change (and change is part of life), then do not get married.

Electric box

This is related to my “invisible house” theme.

The electric company owns land for its big electrical boxes. I don’t know what the real name of these things are, but they look like micro houses. Since they have actual addresses, they are houses of a sort.

This one is at 8017 Bonnafair Drive, Hermitage TN 37076
The property card (online) says that it is owned by “Metro Gov’t NE Power Board” and that the acreage is .29 and the value is $21K.

From the front –
box2

From the right side –
box4

It makes an ominous humming sound.

I wonder what would happen if someone sent mail to it?
I sense a story coming on.

Rebuild the church

cross

St. Francis saw this cross in the church of San Damiano and heard it say “Rebuild my church”. He then did literally that – stone by stone he repaired a falling down church near his home.

But what if it is more than that – not a building, but the idea? Remember Jesus said “Upon this rock I will build my church” and renamed Simon to Peter, which means “rock”.

The church is a group of people, not a place.

Saint Peter was never ordained, neither was Saint Francis of Assisi. The title of Saint was given long after they died as honorifics, as descriptors of their goodness and adherence to the Way.

Remember, Jesus never ordained anyone, never built a church out of stones. “Church” is meant to be a collection of people working towards a common goal, not a collection of cinderblocks.

The Church Jesus intended is one that is living, dynamic, real, present. It makes a difference in the world by helping people. Remember his final exhortations to Peter, his rock. Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep. He tells him three times to counter the three times that Peter denied him.

The church has nothing to do with actions or behaviors. Whether women cover their hair or wear modest clothing or not is incidental. Who people make love to or not is incidental.

Remember Jesus repeatedly quoted the prophet Hosea saying “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”. God wants our loving service not the incidentals. God would rather have nudists who run a soup kitchen then people who cover their bodies from head to toe and all they do is meet once a week to “have church” by praising God together.

God doesn’t want our prayers and our songs. God wants us to feed his sheep, to heal them. God wants our actions more than our praise. Our best form of praise is to serve God by serving our neighbors. Not by judging them or by pointing out how they are not serving God in the way we think they should.

We cannot be codependent Christians, constantly finding fault. We must find and bring joy wherever we go. Who is hungry? Feed them. Who is in prison? Visit them. Work for justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.

This is how we rebuild the church.

Poem – What if?

What if we women
started working on our insides
as much as we are expected
to work on our outsides?

What if we got our beauty
from meditation
rather than makeup?

What if we spent
our money and energy
on learning how to be wiser
rather than
how to be more attractive?

What if we made our goal
to be a better person
instead of to be a wife?

Imagine how much more beautiful
we would be
after giving up
our worries and cares
about owning the latest fashion,
about being the most popular,
about attracting the right man.

Imagine how much stronger
the world would be
if we could focus on
what we really want to do and be
rather than the
narrow range
we are allowed?

We don’t have to wonder.
We don’t have to imagine.
It is today. Start now.
Start right where you are.

Examine everything you do and ask
“Do I want to do this,
or is this something
I was told to do,
I was told I would like,
I was told I must do
as a woman?”
If it still fits you, do it.
If it no longer serves,
(perhaps it never did)
then leave it and walk away.

You can be a full woman
and be married
and wear makeup.
Don’t get me wrong.
Just make sure
that is what
You want to do,
and not what you are told
you must do.

Brown house part 7

Divorce wasn’t an option on Arctus 3. When you married here, you married for life. This wasn’t a religious decree, because all religions had gotten out of the marriage business centuries back. Rather than have to marry couples they didn’t agree with or risk alienating half their congregation, they all gave up the concept of marriage to the government, who was happy to marry anyone over the age of 21 who had enough money for the fee. To avoid the unpleasant untangling nature of divorce (sadly just as likely if you had married in a church tradition) they also insisted on six month long premarital counseling course, which necessitated a psych evaluation, credit check, three letters of reference, criminal background check, and an extensive class on parenting skills. If the government and the couple agreed that marriage was a good option after all of this they sealed the deal in a simple no-fault ceremony that was a binding contract. Sure, some still got married in a religious building, for old time’s sake or to appease their more traditional family, but the grand fetes were a thing of the past, now forbidden by sumptuary laws.

Rather than poor couples feeling left out, or middle-class couples going into debt to prove they weren’t poor, everybody’s wedding looked more or less the same. It made things saner. Couples had more money to start their lives with, rather than starting in debt.

Even death was equalized. Once people saw how freeing it was to not have to keep up with the Jonesevitches when it came to paying for a wedding, they started to look at everything differently. Religion got out of the burying business shortly after they got out of the marrying business. The government finally started to regulate the funeral industry and immediately started to question the wild and extravagant expenses that it had insisted upon.

Weddings and funerals are more closely connected than most people realize. Both services are about 20 minutes long. What you are in is inordinately more costly than the length of time it is seen. Why should a wedding dress or a coffin cost half a year’s salary, when both are viewed for at most an hour, and then never seen again?

The ground was too hard for burial on Arctus 3 so nobody got buried there anyway. Some practiced Tibetan or Zoroastrian style “air burial”, leaving the body for the wild animals to consume. Some built funeral pyres and set their loved ones bodies ablaze. Nobody suffered under the delusion that the body was going to be used again. In most cases that would have been a horror beyond mentioning, what with how they died. Who wants to resurrect with a body eaten up by disease or decay, or one mutilated by accident or war?

Part of getting married here was filling out a will and writing down funeral plans. Nothing was left to chance. Far too many in the past had said they’ll “do it later” – and later came sooner than they’d realized. They thought that by postponing making funeral plans for themselves, they were postponing death itself. Making each partner fill out these forms was another method of weeding out those who were not quite ready to marry. What with the extreme difficulty in getting a divorce, it was important to do this right. Sometimes another year of waiting was enough to allow one or both partners to mature. Sometimes it allowed an opportunity to reflect upon the pairing and decide if it was really viable. Sometimes what seems like forever at 23 looks like “what was I thinking” at 43.