“Two Sides of the Sea”

Kristy’s sermon at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church affected me greatly. She began by describing the moment in Exodus 14 when the Israelites crossed the sea and entered into the unknown.

“There is a very still moment in this story. Amidst the chase and the army and the chariots and the people crying out after God has spoken after Moses has raised his arms up to see the wind and the sea move in ways that took his breath away… after running from their lives, after the water crashes down – before the singing and the dancing. There is a very still moment.

“The people of Israel stand on the shore of the water and it feels as if time has slowed and noise has faded. Looking around, they see the shore, littered with chariots and bodies and horses. No signs of movements. No signs of breath. They see the water, blocking the way between their old life and where they currently stand. And they see the desert- miles and miles of empty desert, calling to them.”(read sermon: http://storage.cloversites.com/gracecovenantpresbyterianchurch1/documents/sr%20-17May2015.Exodus14.RedSea.pdf)

She continued by saying that no one goes into the desert unless they have to. The RSV uses the word “wilderness” instead of “desert” but it really was a desert. When I think of the wilderness, I think of a lush place, full of water and vegetation but this word does not accurately describe their wilderness.

Picture of Worship Bulletin.

Picture on Worship Bulletin.

I have always liked the desert. I have fond memories of visiting my grandparents who lived in Arizona when I was a child living in Detroit. They had a desert across the street from their home where I would often go and look at the cacti and the lizards. Of course that was the 1970’s and I could always walk back across the street and get a drink and some cookies from my grandmother. That was not the desert of the Israelites. The Israelites had no food or water and the sun was so hot people wore plenty of clothes to protect themselves from it.

Kristy said the Israelites were fearful and, fear blinds us from seeing God.” Yes it does. I struggle with fear and it seems I walk in the desert often. Walking there shuts me down and I become depressed. In the early years of my TBI, I remember spending days just lying on the sofa and seeing no light at all. I’ve experienced this depression so often that I’ve learned how to deal with it. It’s a little like falling off a cliff. I often feel myself getting closer and closer to the cliff and if I catch it early enough, I don’t fall off.

When I feel it coming on, I do nothing that isn’t absolutely necessary. I missed a recent Presbytery meeting for this reason. I swim and read more. I force myself to work outside in the garden even if I don’t feel like it. I spend time alone just resting. It often feels like I’m never going to get out of the desert but I always do.

Kristy quoted Luke Powery at Duke Chapel who said, “When we lose our imagination, we lose our future.” She continued “without an imagination, we cannot have any hope” and that we are often told “you’re just imagining it” so we learn not to trust our imagination.

It is hard for me to imagine a better future. I often want to go back to the past where I planned to become a great preacher. I wanted to become one of those pastors folks respected and trusted. I wanted to serve a church in an urban area or be a chaplain. Kristy said, “But when we spend all of our time looking back at what we once had or where we once were, we have no capacity to look forward. We have no capacity to imagine. We are not giving God any room to lead.”

So I’m trying to imagine. The support group Michael and I began called “Brainstormers Collective” is going well. We are beginning a Facebook page called “Brainstormers Collective of WNC.” It’s in its infancy but who knows what the future holds? I can only imagine.

If you have a brain injury or other disability, what do you imagine? How is life for you now? (Feel free to reply even if you don’t have a brain injury!)

Brainstormers

On Wednesday I had to go to several places on the way to somewhere else.  Doing this always stresses me out but I figured it would be okay.  First, I took Sparky to the doggie day care.  On the door was a note saying the day care was going to move to a new location on March 31.  “Uh oh,” I thought.  “Now I’m going to have to figure out how to get there.”  This may not be a problem for most folks but it is a huge problem for me.

I followed my GPS to get to my next activity which was working in the vegetable garden at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church.  I knew I was running late so I was surprised when no one was there.  I checked my Android and sure enough it had been cancelled due to the leader’s unexpected emergency.  This worked out well for me since I was still concerned about finding the new doggie day care.  However, it did throw me off a bit due to my difficulties with flexibility

I went home and tried to find the new location on a map but I couldn’t find it.  The person at the daycare said she would write the directions out for me and put it in my file to get later so I spent some time getting ready for my afternoon appointment.  I still wasn’t used to this appointment’s location so I felt my stress level go up.  I found the location just fine, but I worried way too much about it.  I was wasting what neurones I have left by doing this.  I need to find a way to stop my stress level from exploding especially since little things stress me out.

I then had to pick up some dog food at a place near by.  I had put the address in wrong in the GPS and I ended up in the wrong place.  I felt my emotions getting a bit out-or-control so I pulled over and took some deep breaths.  I knew I had someone else’s address in the GPS who lived near by so I used that one instead.  I then found the pet store.  My next trip was to the daycare.  Again my GPS got me there just fine.   

It is so difficult explaining what happens when my spatial orientation gets challenged.  I think it’s a little like being drunk.  I can’t figure stuff out at all when I’m in that state. That night I had Brainstormers support group a support group for people who have some sort of brain injury, but I really didn’t want to go.  I was supposed to unlock the door without setting off the fire alarm and I was nervous about that as well.  I sat quietly with my ear plugs in for a few minutes to “rest my brain” and  then I walked over.

In Brainstormers we always allow anyone who wishes to share, to do so.  I blabbered about my stressful day and my spatial orientation issues.  I didn’t need any advice.  I only needed to get my feelings out to people who understood.  A person without a brain injury often has no idea what it feels like for a survivor to be lost.  For this reason, I often minimize my problem with directions because people just don’t “get it.”  I felt energized and relieved when I shared my struggles.

As a brain injury survivor, do people just not “get it?”  How do you deal with this?  Writing in my journal helps me a lot. Attending a group like “Brainstormers” where people know what I’m going through, is a godsend.  What helps for you?  See commenting instruction on the right above or contact me directly at puffer61@gmail.com  

Lent

Lent is my favorite season of the church year.  This year I’m using Ed Hays The Lenten Labyrinth: Daily Reflections for the Journey of Lent.  Each day is another twist and turn as we walk through the Labyrinth of Lent.  Today he tells a parable for us to ponder on our journey.

Once there was a Jewish rabbi who had a servant named Jacob.  They would often ride together in a horse-drawn cart.
The rabbi was extremely fond of his wonderful horse.  It was a beautiful, brown, lively animal.  Once, when they were
traveling through Russia, the rabbi decided to spend the night at an inn in a small town.  As was the custom, Jacob, the
servant, spent the night at the stable with the horse.  Into the stable that night came a horse trader with a big bottle of
vodka.  He made friends with Jacob, and they drank and drank until the early hours of the morning, when the horse
trader bought the rabb8’s horse for a song.  The next morning the servant woke up horrified at what he had done.  He
didn’t know what to do next for at any moment the rabbi would arrive.  So he ran over, picked up the cart, placed himself
between the cart poles and began munching on the straw.  The rabbi came out of the inn and said, “what is this?  Where
is my horse?”
Jacob said “Horse?  I’m your horse!”  The rabbi said, “You must be insane!  Jacob, have you lost your mind?  What
has happened to my horse?”  Jacob responded, “Rabbi, don’t get angry.  I must make a confession to you.  Many years
ago,I failed.  I slipped and fell.  I had sex with a woman who wasn’t my wife.  What’s really bad, Rabbi is that I enjoyed it
and I wasn’t sorry.  God punished me by making me a horse – your horse!  For all these years I’ve 
pulled your cart around and today my penance is over!  Blessed be God!”
The poor rabbi who was devout said, “Well, all things are possible with God.  This is amazing!”  While the rabbi
was swept off his feet by this miraculous event, there was a practical problem.  How could they continue their journey
without a horse?  So the rabbi had Jacob wait there and went to the market.  When he came to the horse traders, he
found munching on some hay.  He went up and whispered in the horse’s ear, “Goodness sake, Jacob, so soon again?”
Hays writes, “Along with flexibility, creativity and humor are essential for anyone in the maze.  Each of these provisions for the way (was) addressed in (this) parable.” 

His words remind me of our support group Brainstormers and how we spend time sharing our struggles with humor. We understand each other and it is good to laugh together.  It’s difficult sharing my challenges with someone who doesn’t have a brain injury because it often appears as if I’m putting myself down which I’m not. When one has a brain injury, flexibility, creativity and humor is crucial.  I do hope God will give me widsom as I travel through this Lenten Labyrinth.