Friday, September 25, 2020

September 25 Friday Update: I Made It Through a Whole Sermon!

I checked out Old Church's sermon from last week because members kept posting an "#iamlovedbygod" hashtag and I wondered if maybe it was an actual "you are a beloved child of God" message, which I'm down for.

  • Looked at the "come to me all who are weary" verse and followed it up with "Have you gone to Jesus every day this week [for rest]?" which again puts the focus not on taking comfort in Jesus as our provider but on following up on our obligations to look to him. Which, in fact, makes the concept not seem very restful!
  • Oh, here's the hashtag part. We're all being told to take a selfie and add the hashtag. Focus is on reminding ourselves we're loved by God and reminding others that they are as well. I have no qualms with this, this is super necessary and important. (I do think the shame language also being used in so many of these sermons is unintentional. Shame is baked into the evangelical church language in such a way that it often colors even unshameful concepts.)
  • "If you believe you are loved by God, you will have a desire to love him" -- teetering on the edge of something shamey, but hasn't gone over the edge yet. Depends on whether this will ultimately be framed as "Resting in God's love will strengthen your love for him" or, a la Daria:

  • ...Oh. Yeah. We're landing in a "Do you want God? If not, why not? What are you doing wrong?" space. Which is difficult for me to hold in conjunction with accepting God's love because it makes it... transactional. And weirdly re-centers God's love onto being about me and my decisions, which I think is actually the opposite of the goal.
  • Huh. Yeah. We talked about "God loves you" long enough to make it a hashtag and now it's all admonishing us to love God more. Hashtags are fun but they are not, in fact, powerful enough to overcome the shame of 20 years of evangelical sermons (and probably the rest of this one). Can't God just love us sometimes without us having to Do Everything Perfectly in response? Can't we talk about that for more than 30 seconds? Does every sermon need to center on a "do better" action point?
  • We're being asked to consider whether we'd be willing to do what God asks us to. This is only tangentially related to God loving us, now it's all about obedience and surrender, which is such a narrow understanding of our relationship with God!
  • Talking about re-understanding our identity - "who you think are vs. who God thinks you are." I am sure they're thinking of it in a "we think we're self-sufficient and God thinks we need him" way or something, but I'm hooooooping it's going to be "we think we are weak evil sinners and God thinks we are his children created in his image and made perfect through him." 
  • Oh, good, he's going to Gideon, which is about God having a more positive belief about us than we do. PHEW.
  • "Whose voice are you listening to about your own identity?" Well, for a long time it was the church and that messed me up, LOL! Fortunately I came around to being able to hear what God himself is saying about me.
  • Ooer, we are maybe getting into some weird territory about disability being caused by God for his purposes, which gets... real messy. And it wasn't even the main point, it was just a random example. Probably could have made the point about not being defined by our weaknesses without making that a centerpiece.
Final thoughts: Some good moments, some bad moments. Glad to hear that God thinks better of us than we do ourselves, but I'd rather the emphasis wasn't on us having to do things in response. The pressure to do things is, for me, exactly what contributes to my anxiety that I'm not enough.

My palate cleanser worship song for all this, btw: "A Little Longer" by Brian & Jenn Johnson. The verse from the point of view of the worshiper is this sad, mournful tune that keeps landing on "I can't thank you enough" but it's not in a joyful overflowing way, it's sorrowful. It's hyperaware of not being able to do enough. The singer's tone is so upset and dismayed at her inadequacy to praise God to the level he deserves. This is how I felt at basically every church service, every youth retreat, every worship night, for most of my churchgoing years.

And then in the second half, the tone changes to a much more peaceful tune, and we transition into this, from God's POV:

You don't have to do a thing
Just simply be with me
And let those things go
'Cause they can wait another moment

It always makes me cry (I had to pause writing for a minute and just sit here crying at it). There's such a sense of palpable relief at the idea of God saying, "You. Don't. Have. To. Do. Anything. Just be with me."

And that, my friends, is where I feel God's love. There's no admonishment, no "have you read your Bible today," no "have you fully surrendered to God," none of that. Just... being with him. Because being with him, truly with him, is going to change my life and my heart more than any sermon or any pastoral instruction. And it wasn't until I actually let go of those sermons and pastoral instructions and let myself be with God that I found him.

I don't want to get into it in detail but I am genuinely very, very worried for how things are going to go down in November, because if Biden wins (and I think it's likely) I can't see a scenario in which Trump gives up his power, nor one in which the people who wouldn't stand up to him the last four years suddenly stand up to him this time and make him. And even if they do... the fanbase is going to be mad, and many are likely to be violent.

So even as I'm planning my NaNoWriMo, there's definitely a "worst case scenario" thought in the back of my brain that who knows if there'll even be a US in November...

I'm hoping. And I'm praying, because I truly think a miraculous softening of hearts across the country might be the only thing to get us into 2021 in relative safety.

In case you missed it... I have a TikTok now. Specifically for a series of videos I've been making and posting as an easy, quick creative project. I've been taking some of the Zoom-style celebrity interviews happening on late night talk shows since the pandemic and editing in my own questions. (And, yes, I definitely took some inspiration from Weird Al.) It's been stupid and ridiculous and a ton of fun and has become part of my "winding down from work" routine every day. So I'm sure there'll be more of them to come.

Friday, September 18, 2020

September 18 Friday Update

My next page in my anxiety/depression handbook asks me to do the following:

"On this page, describe yourself when you are feeling all right.  Use descriptive words (e.g., bright, talkative, outgoing, energetic, humorous, reasonable, etc.) as well as notes about how you feel, think and behave when you are feeling ok (e.g., dress nicely, take a walk at lunch, respond to texts right away, tend to give others the benefit of the doubt, able to keep problems in perspective, feel confident about my ability to reach goals, etc)."

My list includes:
  • energetic
  • decisive
  • creative
  • able to listen to other people's struggles without internalizing them
  • strong
  • open
  • clearer thinking
  • can imagine positive outcomes
  • peace, feeling like things will ultimately work out
It follows it up with:

"On this page, describe those things that are important do every day to maintain your wellness. Use your Wellness Toolbox for ideas. Writing these things down as a daily reminder to do them is an important step toward wellness. When you start to feel 'out of sorts,' you can often trace it back to not doing something on this list."

Adding anything to a daily list feels a little overwhelming, but I think I can make a list of essentials. Let's see.
  • eat at least two meals
  • fill up my water bottle twice because I'm drinking it
  • spend at least 15 minutes moving
  • meet any today immediate deadlines for work
  • spend time checking in with my regular group chat
  • spend quality time with Jacob
  • engage with something creative (read, watch a movie, write something, etc.)
  • spend time with God
And the final piece we got to in my mental health handbook:

"On this page, make a reminder list for yourself of things you might need to do on any given day to keep yourself well.  Check this list daily to see if there is anything on it that would be important or helpful to do that day. You'll avoid a lot of the stress that comes from forgetting occasional, but important tasks."
  • schedule a virtual hangout time with someone
  • clean a space that is making me feel stressed
  • do laundry
And I guess that's all I have so far. We'll see if I come back to add any more.

Friday, September 11, 2020

September 11 Friday Update

In my anxiety/depression group today, we started making a list of "wellness tools" - things that make us feel better or are good for our mental health. So I'm going to toss my list in here:
  • Yoga
  • Jackbox nights with my core group of friends online
  • My socially distanced salons
  • Finishing a creative project
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Watching a musical
  • Watching musical clips
  • Listening to music that touches me emotionally (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is great!)
  • Writing something
  • Listening to podcasts: The Robcast, Small Triumph Big Speech, GCF
  • Finishing everything on my to-do list
  • Meditation
  • Finding something on Stitch Fix that I really love
  • Getting a new nail polish from Fanchromatic Nails
  • The Abide app
  • The Centering Prayer app
  • Finishing a project that scares me
  • Improv
  • My Lutheran church service
  • That Rob Bell quote I come back to all the time
  • Planning my future tattoo*
  • Exceptionally vulgar rap from female rap artists (seriously, there's something amazing about this)
  • Playing Megill Scattergories with my family
Have I mentioned I want to get a tattoo? I can't remember if I've blogged about it. I've never been opposed to tattoos, I just never had anything that felt like it made sense to add -- either it seemed not important enough, or it seemed so obvious that it felt stupid to tattoo. I don't need to have, like, "I love my friends" printed on me forever. Like duh.

But then an idea came to me. I want to remember the shows I've directed. Maybe the ones I stage managed or acted or whatever, but mostly directed.

So what I want to do is get like a charm bracelet-esque series of mini tattoos that wind around one of my arms. One small symbol for each show I've directed. An umbrella for Mary Poppins, cat ears for The Aristocats, etc. And then as I direct more I can add on to it.

When the pandemic calms down and this is a safe thing to do again... I do want to get started on that.

Friday, September 4, 2020

September 4 Friday Update

I've been playing one long AI Dungeon game for awhile and saving it in a Word doc. It's like 40,000 words. I plan to make it an ebook if it ever finishes.

  • I began as a noble and was promptly murderered.
  • I then lived for centuries as a ghost. My keep turned into a hotel, and the hotel receptionist also got murdered. I helped my ghost receptionist friend open up a restaurant, and then I abruptly woke up back in my old life.
  • A time traveler tried to kidnap me and my 5-year-old daughter Jacquescrappe to go kill Hitler, but the time traveler herself seemed like a Nazi, so we pushed her out of the helicopter and went back home.
  • The peasants overthrew the king and made me king.
  • Jacquescrappe started growing dragon scales and I learned she was half-dragon, but the dragon heat was burning her up from the inside out, so I put her in the ice caverns (in a barrel of alcohol, as per the AI's instructions, though that seems bad for someone on fire) and found a spell to fix her. Once I did, her scales and skin had mostly burned off, so she transferred from the alcohol barrel to a barrel of water and lived there for awhile.
  • Now 8-year-old Jacquescrappe moved to an island of dragons and lived there instead.
  • My wife was killed by a horde of barbarians. I went to fight them and was attacked by a woman named Edolith screaming about how I killed her father. I nearly died, but Jacquescrappe swooped in at the last moment and killed her.
  • Orcs took over my castle. I sneaked over to dragon island to ask for help and Jacquescrappe refused to help me but sent me to ask King Edgar for help. King Edgar was flayed by a bear, so he wasn't helpful.
  • Currently: Jacquescrappe reveals she wouldn't help me because I'm a bad king, so she's making me go on an apology tour to all the cities and tell them I'm going to try to do a better job. The orcs are at the first city I go to and they say they're taking over. The peasants all think they'll be better than me, so this might be the end of my reign as king.
Available in bookstores February 2021?

This week in my anxiety group meeting, we talked about setting goals. We were given several domains in our life, such as "physical wellbeing," "intimate relationships," and "work," and asked to set short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals for them.

Problem is, a lot of my own medium- and long-term goals I'd had before have been hijacked completely by COVID. And since I don't have anywhere near a timeline when that might be over for me, it's... hard to plan around it. I can only really focus on short-term goals for so many things. Or plan for my life with COVID forever. Not sure which is less frustrating.