Wilderness II

cognitive overload;, over stimulation, Spirit, Uncategorized, wilderness

Lately, I’ve noticed my brain injury challenges are more present than they sometimes are. I’m trying to manage them but it is very hard. Yesterday I said to Michael, “Why don’t I ever see other survivors dealing with over-stimulation and cognitive issues?  I see brain injury folks all the time attending meetings, workshops and other events and they don’t seem to struggle as I do.”

His answer? “Probably because they don’t get out in the community like you.”  A light went on in my head and I thought back to all I’ve learned about brain injury.  Perhaps the folks I see are less challenged by cognitive overload and stimulation issues. They may have other reactions such as slow speech or difficulty in using their hands or legs,

March signIn addition, I feel called to work for justice in my world. That doesn’t make me better than others.  It just gives me a different calling.  I’ve chosen to continue working for justice even if it means sometimes exacerbating my brain injury weaknesses.

For example in Atlanta I pushed through those challenges by doing such things as visiting Terry Mincey on death row or spending 24 hours on the streets with the Open Door Community. The price paid was having to take it easy for several days. Here in Asheville, I choose to be arrested in the Moral Monday movement in Raleigh – four hours away.  Again, I rested for days afterwards.

I’m so glad I did these things but I’m not sure I would want to pay the same price again. Now I’m deciding how important an issue is and whether my presence matters before making the decision to participate

Life is a journey and the wilderness often changes around us. I can’t keep living the way I used to live.  I must always choose the path I believe God is calling me to travel.  God then gives me what I need for the journey.

All of us are living in the wilderness and must listen for the Spirit’s voice. What is the Spirit saying to me now?  I’m not sure.  What is the Spirit guiding you to do?  Feel free to answer in the comments because we are all in this life together.  I’m interested.

Walking Through the Wilderness

Michael Moore, resting brain, Uncategorized, wilderness

As I come out of the wilderness, my tendency is to begin participating in too many things. This is a symptom of much of upper class, upper- middle class and middle class American culture.  As our society becomes more stratified this is happening right now under Mr. Trump – although it began happening much earlier.  As others have said, our current president only brought things that have been occurring, to the surface.

I saw Michael Moore’s new movie Fahrenheit 11.9 yesterday. Whether you like Moore or not – many folks do not – you need to see this movie for it describes exactly what is happening today in our country.  It frightened me and I hope it frightens others to action.

Back to the wilderness and the path “in the mighty waters (Isaiah 43:16a CEB) ” stretching before me. I asked Michael to help me remember not to do too much.  I need him to tell me gently perhaps in the form of a question – not what sounds like an order – or I will rebel.  “I don’t care what he thinks!  I can do all this!” I’ll think to myself.  When I am angry at him, I’m really angry at my cognitive fatigue and over-stimulation issues. I long to be as I was before but my path through the mighty waters, has changed.

Front Yard 27 Jarrett StThis changed path means I have to make choices or I’ll over-do it. Yesterday I worked outside in the garden and it wore me out.  So many sights, sounds, and thoughts overloaded me.  Afterwards, I put on headphones and listened to Yo-Yo Ma perform the cello concerto in b minor.  I closed my eyes and rested in the music.

I did try to rest without listening to the music, but I couldn’t stop thoughts from invading my mind. “I need to make a list of the plants in the garden to know what they need to thrive.” A neighbor in his 70’s walked by me as I worked and told me he had recently fallen and broke several ribs.  I clicked into my caring mode – one of the hazards of being a minister – and told him not to walk too far since his broken ribs needed to heal which meant sitting quietly.

It doesn’t take too much to challenge my cognition these days. Just being out in the front yard was all it took.  I needed a way to focus on something else and the concerto did the trick.

I will continue walking this path through the wilderness with God by my side.

A Way in the Wilderness

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Isaiah 43:19-21, journey, Uncategorized, wilderness

sparky on tripThis is a picture of my dog Sparky in our car lying in the midst of our belongings as we returned from our beach trip a couple of weeks ago. Worn-out, he lies among the clutter and I must admit, right now I feel the same way! I had hoped to return from the beach rested and raring to go, but that didn’t happen.

As I’ve done numerous times since my car accident, I’m focusing on Isaiah 43:18-19. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

I don’t like being in the wilderness but it seems in this journey, there’s no way of avoiding it. Back in the late 90’s, there was so much improvement in my functioning that it was hard to focus on what I had lost. I didn’t feel buried in the wilderness until after my rehab. I knew I wasn’t ready to serve a church yet, but wondered what to do next. “What is wrong with me,” I thought. “Why don’t I feel like I’m accepting this?” After all, I had already been through all the five stages of grief outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance

I know now, acceptance is not a one-time event. It keeps happening over and over and over again. The neuropsychologist I saw back then, suggested that grief, rather than being in stages, is more like a coil. One keeps returning to the various stages but it’s easier each time.

While that image helped me for years, I recently found a picture which seems much truer to my experience for the brain injury journey isn’t a simple coil or road: my thoughts and feelings are all over the place.

I’ve always struggled with the verse in Isaiah about not remembering the former things. I know how important it is to remember the past and learn from it. However, here the prophet doesn’t mean to forget what has worked before but to move on and try new, creative things. Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi writes, “Faith is restored as we see things differently.”

So as I go forward along this road, I’m looking for the creative, life-giving, Spirit of God along the way. There will be days when my body feels like this picture looks and that’s okay. I must be patient for I will eventually see God making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. God has done this in the past, and God will do it again in new,creative ways.

“Into the Wild”

Exodus 16:1-12, wilderness, worry

Since I attended the Summer Institute for Theology and Disability last week in Atlanta, I decided not to sing in the choir at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. I wouldn’t have gone to church at all but it was Mark Ramsey’s last solo sermon before he begins serving a church in Austin Texas and I didn’t want to miss it.

I do hate sitting with the choir and always looking at the backs of worship leaders’ heads so it was nice to see everyone’s face. At the reception, Kristy Farber the other minister at Grace said that Mark’s sermon was a “greatest hits” kind of sermon. This was true but I needed to hear some of his greatest hits!

While I don’t agree with him that being in the wilderness is not the exception but rather the rule, I appreciated his sermon on Exodus 16:1-12. I could be wrong though because I do seem to spend a lot of time in the wilderness. Perhaps others do as well. (Read sermon here: rhttp://storage.cloversites.com/gracecovenantpresbyterianchurch1/documents/sr-31May15-alt.pdf)

He also said wilderness times are extreme times. “Highs are higher and lows are lower. Joy is richer, and pain is more intense.” Again, this isn’t true for me for when I’m in the wilderness all I see is darkness and I feel no joy. It may be that my wilderness times happen when I’m depressed which makes these times bleak and lonely but when I’m there, all I can do is repeat over and over again that God is with me.

bulliten May 31n[1]As Flannery O’Connor says, “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.” Sometimes I need to close both eyes and simply remember what God has done for me in the past for even squinting my eye doesn’t help!   In any event, Mark was right when he said, “In the wilderness, God strips…and God provides. That means we have to learn new things, new ways, we have to walk down new paths.” He calls this a wilderness gift.

Mark’s favorite thing about the word Manna is the literal translation which is, what is it? “Every morning families would go out and gather a bowl of what is it? They would prepare it as creatively as they could, but in the wilderness, there weren’t a lot of options. Presumably, there was no ‘what is it’ helper” and on he went. (You may wish to listen here for his delivery is excellent: http://www.gcpcusa.org/#/the-message )

He said “…the people of God were nourished by a question, not nourished by answers… but by a question: What is it? What is it, God that you are doing? What is it that you are making us into? What is it you are asking of us? This is the question that kept them alive in the wilderness.”

It seems I’m always asking God for help through the wilderness. Perhaps my questions are keeping me alive! I often think God gets impatient with all my questions, my moaning and my groaning. Perhaps She does but Scripture is full of stories about people who are just like me. We’re searching for a way through the wilderness. As Mark often has said over the years “keep open to the wonder of faith, keep nimble to move where God is moving, keep yearning for the large, deep world God is giving us….and leave all the rest to God.”

This is what I try and will always try, to do. Stop worrying and leave all the rest to God.