Thursday, June 26, 2008

DAJ ONLINE/ June 25, 2008

I am just now getting back to somewhat of a normal routine after going to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Convention in Orlando. I had not spoken at or even attended one since the early 90’s. I went because Dr. Gunnar Christiansen asked me to come speak at the FaithNet Special Interest Workshop on Saturday morning of the convention.
Giving the speech is not the hard part. I have been preaching since I was 12 years old on the mission field with my parents in Zimbabwe, Africa. However, the crowds are a different matter. I don’t care how big the audience is, but the crowds of people before and after are a problem.
Someone asked why do I write so much about myself? Because I am the only person I know well enough to say much about and the only one, I have permission to say personal things about. By sharing my personal thoughts and feelings, I hope in some small way to provide a window into the inside of those of us with a serious mental illness or who have been sexually abused or both.
The stigma of mental illness and of being a victim of childhood sexual abuse has left me with little of what a psychologist would call a self. My anxiety level sharply increases in a crowd. During the speech I am fine because I control the entire conversation and I know I am at least OK at giving a speech, but before it and after it I am at the mercy of the same stigma that has haunted me all my life.
At the convention, Patty worked the FaithNet booth where they were kind enough to allow us to sell our books for Novastar Opportunities for the Mentally Ill, Inc. I was not there other than to say hi to Patty a couple of times.
I enjoyed meeting folks I knew and making new friends. I finally got to meet Gunnar and his wife Susan that as I said was the reason I went. I also got to spend time with a graduate of Yale Divinity School, Rev. Bob Dell, who had studied under H. Richard Niebuhr. I also got to meet the founder of Mental Health Ministries, Susan Gregg-Schroeder, who I have exchanged many emails with.
Sunday morning I was headed to the FaithNet Interfaith Worship Service when all of a sudden I saw a person surrounded by security guards. I lost it. I did make it on to the service with the help of Patty and Cassy (my great niece). The service was led by the Rev. Willie Israel pastor of the Rolling Hills Moravian Church in Longwood, Florida. Her message along with the music calmed me back down.
A tie back to the last convention I attended was meeting Dr. Brenda W. LaVar again. We had presented together at that convention. A woman so much alive she is contagious. If she were preaching at a church that had died, she could bring them alive and have them shouting and singing like an old time camp meeting of long ago.
Zimbabwe is in the news more than ever now. Before when I would tell someone I grew up on a mission station in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), they would ask me where it was. Now more people have heard of it because of the election mess, but more troubling than the election mess is that people are starving to death. This is from the AP.
“Bread has disappeared from stores. Previously, a loaf in a supermarket cost 2 billion Zimbabwe dollars (20 U.S. cents at the official exchange rate), or 15 billion Zimbabwe dollars ($1.50 U.S.) on the black market. A shopper lucky enough to find milk will spend 3 billion dollars (30 U.S. cents) for about 1 pint. A tray of 30 eggs, also scarce, can bought in a store for 45 billion dollars ($4.50 U.S.).Butter is hard to find, but 17 1/2 ounces of margarine will cost 25 billion dollars ($2.50 U.S.) and a pack of 10 cookies costs 19 billion dollars ($1.90 U.S.).
Robert Rotberg, director of Harvard's Kennedy School program on Intrastate Conflict, said that while sanctions and boycotts may not convince Mugabe to loosen his grip on power, they are sure to sway public opinion and possibly change the minds of top military leaders.
Without his security apparatus and their intimidation tactics, Mugabe's power "could vanish overnight," said Rotberg, who wrote a column in the Boston Globe on Wednesday comparing the current situation in Zimbabwe to Idi Amin's Uganda.
Rotberg said neighboring countries could "effectively bottle Mugabe up" by banning Zimbabwean aircraft from flying over their airspace and curtailing electricity deliveries to the landlocked country. The U.N., African Union and Southern African Development Community could then push him aside to take over during a transitional period until they can ensure a free and fair election.
"Tightening the noose will make the people around Mugabe realize that this ship is really sinking, and they should get off," he said. “
N.T. Wright in his book Simply Christian writes “There are two sorts of traveler. The first sets off in the general direction of the destination and is quite happy to figure things out on the way, to read the signposts, ask directions, and muddle through. The second wants to know in advance what the road will be like.”
The recovery journey is not an easy road to travel and one must be much more willing to be like the first sort of traveler. You may know the destination, but you will not be able to predict all the pitfalls and side trips. To learn to Dream Again and make the recovery journey takes courage and strength. Remember that when someone is talking down to you or asking you to settle for less. Reach high where God waits with open arms for all of us.
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