SUMMER INSTITUTE ON THEOLOGY AND DISABILITY

moon God is watching you
I received this picture from a friend and it seems just right for how I feel today. When I look at a moon, I get such strength and courage. It’s a visual reminder to me that God is always there and I’ll be just fine. Since I needed this reminder, I wore my moon earings to a voice class I had last night.

I’m excited and nervous at the same time since I am going to Toronto next week for the 2013 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability. It’s a little “out-of-my league” but I’ll be okay. The presenters have written books, taught classes and done research on various aspects of theology and disability. Then there’s me: a Presbyterian minister from Asheville, North Carolina who has a brain injury and is interested in the field. I’m not even sure I’ll completely understand all the presenters but that’s okay. Just being there and soaking it all in will be extraordinary.

I have a huge tendency to worry. “Will I get on the wrong plane and end up in Cuba?” “Will my spatial orientation issues mean I’ll be lost all the time?” “Will my tendency to be what is known as a “space cadet” shine through?” “Will I be able to use my ear plugs and ‘rest my brain’ enough?” “Will I try to do everything, knowing full well I have to skip some things in order to make it through the entire week?”

Since I’m now taking swim lessons and am improving my stroke, one of the ways I handle stress is gone. I used to swim laps and then repeat a phrase over in my mind in rhythmic motion. Now I’m too busy concentrating on my stroke to do this. This morning as I was doing my morning walk with Sparky, I decided to use the time to repeat part of Romans 12:2 “Not conformed. Be transformed.” Over and over I said the words as Sparky trotted beside me.

What happened? I calmed down. I realized it doesn’t matter if I don’t understand everything. It doesn’t matter if I can’t stay for an entire presentation due to cognitive overload. It doesn’t even matter if I miss a few presentations because I need to be by myself for a while. I have to do what I have to do to take care of myself and trust others are doing the same. I suspect if I don’t conform to what I “think” is the right way to be, I will be transformed.–more–>

Switcheroo

I read a commentary in this morning’s Asheville Citizen-Times by Jim Buchanan called  “Dropping the labels” and it really hit a nerve with me.  You can read it here : http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20130707/COLUMNISTS08/307070009/Dropping-labels

In it he describes a little game he like to play called “Switcheroo.”  When he hears some political commentary or watching the news, if he hears something said about “Obama”, he’ll switch the word to “Bush.”  For “conservative” he changes it to “liberal.”  He says that our political landscape is so very conflicted now that nothing gets done.  He writes “It’s crippled our ability to discuss or debate much of anything in a rational manner.  It’s destroyed our ability to see where the other guy’s coming from.”

Apparently, a Catholic magazine run by Jesuits just isn’t going to do this anymore.  It has stopped using the terms “liberal,” “conservative,” or “moderate” as a description for anyone. I must admit, I’m very guilty of doing this.  Without meaning to, I tend to write someone’s views off if they are “conservative.”  I know plenty of folks write my views off because they are too “liberal.”

In the brain injury community, there is a strong element of what I consider the “conservative” mindset.  While I’m aware it is not a political statement, I hear all the time, “God allowed this to happen to me for a reason.”  I strongly disagree with this statement for I don’t believe God allows bad things to happen to folks in order for them to learn something.  Instead God helps us make meaning out of what has happened which often makes us stronger.

Yet, I feel a connection to other brain injury survivors.  We can understand each other’s pain so I’ve chosen to ignore these kind of statements and instead get to know the person behind the statement. A theological discussion here is often not appropriate at all.

I’m trying to do this in other places in my life as well.  I want to try to understand folk’s political views instead of trying to change their minds. We are all children of God and God wants us to live together and learn from each other.   This is what it means for us to live in God’s reign.