This day and always, we send our gratitude for our educators. From the preschool teachers who instilled a love of education from a very early age to the professors who mentored us as we sharpen our crafts, they have reflected your image as a Divine Educator.
Bless the ones who stood by us when life was hard, who listened to our pain that went far beyond the classrooms. May they realize how much their words and moments saved us from our own self-doubts and the torment of bullies.
Bless the ones who taught us information that would impact the rest of our lives and the ones who gifted us information that we never integrate into our callings. May they know that moments of education never are wasted.
Bless the ones who pointed out our talents, who spoke holy words into the world that led us to our callings. May they realize their life-long impact on the ones they taught.
Bless the memories of the ones who have passed on to that side of heaven with you. We thank you for each step walked, each word uttered here on earth. Their gifts will make an impact for generations.
And for the ones who seemed extra frustrated, whose patience ran short and their emotions ran high in the classroom, bless them with the grace they need and healing from tough moments in life.
Whether they impacted our life when we were four or fourteen or thirty-four, their words and gifts build us into the people we are today. For their time and talents, we are forever grateful.
As mid-autumn rushes into our region, its companion, frost, settles upon the grass and flowers. The beauty of frost as the morning light reflects upon it brings us momentary joy.
And then we see our plants who have journeyed with us since spring shriveled, hunched over. Their leaves waving a final goodbye.
We remember their tiny days as we would gently bury their roots into the ground and waited for their leaves to grow and flowers to burst forth. Through the summer, their beings would expand in every direction. They greeted us every morning and evening, welcoming us home when the days were rough, and sending us out into the world with a sense of hope.
Today we bid them farewell and give gratitude for the months they brightened our yards and lives. To you, God, we give thanks for the beauty of annuals, even when their lives are short. We reflect upon our own lives. Like the flowers, how will we illuminate the world with our gifts?
May your peace strengthen us in these short days, cold nights, and when our yards lack the bright colors of summer.
The tension rises into my forehead. Is that where this headache is coming from? The aches in my stomach are new and gnawing. And, God, what is this pain going up my neck? Is it because my shoulders are up by my ears?
Stress has been my unwanted companion for so long. But why is it I wont take the time to deep breathe, to meditate, to walk around the block?
So my mind keeps churning and turning and worrying.
God of each inhale and exhale, be my source of chilling out. Encourage me to find time to release the stress this day and each day hereafter.
The first Wednesday in November is Stress Awareness Day.
Like many of you out there, I’ve become a fan of Ted Lasso. (I probably should say that I’m now a superfan of Ted Lasso, considering all of the times I’ve watched the series all the way through.) Ted provides a leadership that is constructive and encouraging of the team – from its owner to the players to all who work for the Richmond team.
There’s a piece of the story that I believe is crucial to write about today, World Mental Health Day. (Friends: this part might contain spoilers, so turn back now if you do not want to know what will happen before the end of season two.)
In the first season (or series, as it’s called in Britain), Ted has a panic attack one night during the team Karaoke event. The owner of the team talks him through his attack, supportive of his struggles from their early days together.
In the second season, Ted has another panic attack during a game. I’m not sure what brings this one on, and I don’t think it really matters to the viewers. The most important piece is that Ted has a panic attack and must face what is happening.
Ted begins to open up to the people closest to him that the reason he left the game was due to a panic attack. And one of his confidants (Nate!) discloses this anxiety event to the press. Up until that point, Ted’s mental health issue is not public knowledge. Yet, Ted decides that talking about it with the world is crucial to bringing an end to the stigma of mental health and sports. In fact, the entire season focuses on mental health, as Dr. Sharon Fieldstone helps out the Richmond players with their own struggles.
What a blessing the story has been for the movement towards mental health. As someone who struggles with anxiety and panic disorders, I identified well with Ted’s journey. (I first wrote about my childhood journey here.) When Nate outs Ted’s panic disorder, I became very angry. “How could he do such a thing! It’s not his story!” I thought to myself. Nate attempted to discredit and shame Ted through sharing such personal information. I didn’t care how much Nate was struggling himself; I was extremely angry that a person used a health struggle to damage the reputation of another human being.
I suppose I felt embarrassed for Ted. I felt the shame that was surrounding him and that others imposed on him. And yet, when it comes down to it, why was there shame? Ted began to address the struggles. Ted went back to work the next day. Ted opened up and spoke about it to normalize the experience.
More people than we realize struggle with mental health issues. From anxiety to depression to personality disorders to being bipolar, many of our neighbors go through temporary and life-long struggles with mental health issues. But in our struggles, we feel alone. We feel like no one else is going through what we are enduring. I felt that way as I child and sometimes as I got older. But then people began to talk about it, and I spoke about it – not just to be transparent in my journey but to help someone else as they go through something similar. I give thanks for my friend Rev. Dr. Sarah Griffith Lund who has been an inspiration to me writing about my journey. I find her books Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church as well as Blessed Union: Breaking the Silence about Mental Illness and Marriage incredibly important for progressive Christianity. Like Dr. Lund, I am encouraging of anyone enduring mental health issues to seek help through a counselor and medication as well as other self-care activities. And like Dr. Lund (and Ted Lasso!), I am open to sharing my story as well.
Again, you can read something I wrote years ago here. But also, I’ve written a chapter in the forthcoming book When Kids Ask the Hard Questions, Volume 2: More Faith-Filled Responses for Tough Topics (edited by Bromleigh McCleneghan and Karen Ware Jackson). This chapter includes encouragement for parents to seek help if their child has anxiety or any other mental health issue. Children or adults should not feel alone in their journey, and if I can help one person feel less alone, then sharing my story is well worth it. I highly encourage you to check out this book because of the myriad of topics included. Children and parents should never feel alone in any struggles.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:
“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
Today, to use the phraseology of Paul, I boast of this weakness of mine. I boast not from pride, but because I feel free and light in being able to tell my story. I boast because I see the presence of God in my weakness, and my relationships with God and others have grown closer in this vulnerable state. And that means, like Paul, seeking contentment in this very vulnerable moment and becoming transparent will hopefully bring strength to the entire body of Christ.
So today, on World Mental Health Day, I celebrate the stories of others who became a little vulnerable to be honest so that others feel less alone. And I celebrate my story – because it shows both my vulnerability and resilience, knowing through baby steps and the strength of God finding a wholeness is possible.
Creator God, source of all knowledge and wisdom-
In this unique era of our lives,
When laptops on kitchen tables
And masks in public spaces
Have become our norm,
We ask for blessing of our students.
Some of these young scholars will be learning in classrooms.
We pray for health in body, mind, and soul.
Bless their masks as they wear them from first bell to last.
Bless the air in the classrooms. Bless their unusual recesses and lunchtimes.
May wellness be their companion.
Some of our learners are absorbing knowledge from new spaces-
Laptops instead of smartboards
Dining room tables instead of desks.
May their focus be great.
May connections grow between students and teachers
And students with one another.
We pray for health in mind, soul, and body.
Bless the energy in their homes, and the loved ones assisting them.
Bless the students navigating education
As they split their time between home and school-
Parents, grandparents and friends.
We pray for health in soul, mind, and body
We pray for the health of all their connections.
May their unique schooling inspire all of us to think outside of boxes.
Bless the parents wondering how to balance all of this.
The family members who are classmates and teachers in our current world.
Bless the teachers, staff, and administrators leading in this new realm of education.
Bless our communities as we work to stay well and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
May 2020 be the year in which we grow with you, God of wisdom.
God of the Midmorning, the Early Summer, the Dusk-
We often focus on the youth who rush out of the classrooms into their summer. We focus on their anticipation of free days and joy like the summers afforded us.
The stars aligned for us… but didn’t for many children.
What we forget is our youths’ dread and concern of extra spending time at home during summer break- houses empty of food and filled with stress and violence.
We forget that they wake in worry of what the day will bring- extra bruises, extra hunger, extra chaos.
May their summer days be filled with activities of fun. As they spend time outdoors, may they find safety in friends and neighbors. May they be able to afford programs that the community offers.
As the fireflies return in the evening, May their homes be filled with peace. May they not feel the emptiness of hunger or the fullness of trauma. May their sleep be restful, and may their tomorrows be overflowing with hope.
This morning, I supercried at church – weeping like a small child.
The song was “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Beyond the voices of the choir, I could hear the sound of my dad’s voice…
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…
My dad would sing the song with every fiber of his being. His (probably) tenor voice would sing each syllable with intent. As a civics teacher, a Genocide survivor’s son, and a person who believed Christianity was an active faith, the song was probably the best representation of what he believed.
Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now…
And so, when this song is sung as it was today with the choir, every piece of my being remembered him. I remembered his articulation of faith, of his voice singing a song that was a prayer in his heart. I remembered our time sitting next to one another in church as my faith grew next to his more matured, more articulated faith.
Songs connect us with people and the past. Of moments of joy and of losses. We know what we no longer have, but we know that we’ve been given the gift of something spectacular – the holiness of song, of love, of spirit.
To take each moment, and live each moment, in peace eternally-
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.