Category Archives: Books

Self-Pity

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I received a comment on one of my recent posts that really hit home. You see, when I started this blog (as mentioned in the “About” section), I had the intent of beginning a ministry to help others who suffer from mental illness. Being faith-based in nature, my aim was also to help people know God.

Well, by perusing my own posts for the last, oh, several months, I was hard pressed to find much, if any, encouragement from myself.

In other words, I’ve been sulking in self-pity for the longest time. I realized it, but I didn’t seem to care. I didn’t feel the need to make any adjustments. King David used the Psalms to gripe about things, and then he threw in a praise to God at the end, I would tell myself, half-believing the justification.

Also, my posts have gotten shorter. Why? I ask myself. Because I’ve been selfish. I drag myself before the computer, I whine and complain, and then I log off, putting in my “time.”

I’m glad Jesus’ ministry wasn’t like that.

I’m FAR from being like Jesus. Really far. At times I try–

See, I just caught myself before the full-on “woe is me” stuff came out.

Thank you, dear commenter, for bringing my self-pity to my attention. I listened to you because:

  1. you were sincere,
  2. you were loving, and
  3. you know what I’m going through because you suffer from it too.

The truth be told, I came back from the psychiatrist this evening. He’s trying to adjust my meds. Things aren’t working out too well. For some reason, when I leave the psych’s office, I feel like cutting loose with sin. The doctor told me I suffer from hypermania (whatever that is), bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (which explains why I feel the world is crashing down on me when I give in to the tidal wave of lustful thoughts and feelings).

The person who left the above-mentioned comment recommended a book entitled The Temperament God Gave You. I ordered it, and it arrived a few days ago. I like what I see so far. I’m so glad a Catholic book on that topic is available.

Dear readers, the only inspiration and positive thoughts that I have for you this time aren’t necessarily Christian nor are they from the Bible. An hour ago, I was sulking in my big, fluffy chair in my so-called library, and I pulled down my copy of poems by Emily Dickinson. I opened the book to a random page and found something called “Hope.” I posted it on my Facebook page, but you can read it below:

HOPE
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

~t


How Silver Linings Playbook Affected a Blogger with Mental Illness Who Didn’t Quite Know What He Was About to View

The Weinstein Company

And if you say to me tomorrow, oh what fun it all would be.
Then what’s to stop us, pretty baby. But what is and what should never be.
–Led Zeppelin

 

Lately I don’t want to write unless there’s something totally pressing on my mind.

Like now.

I started watching the first 30 minutes or so of Silver Lining Playbook. I haven’t looked into it, but it seems like it’s billed as a nice romantic comedy. Well, the first 30 minutes was enough to trigger all sorts of feelings in me. (The movie was released in 2012, so that shows how “hip” I am regarding pop culture.)

The main character, Pat (played by Bradley Cooper), is bipolar, and his father (played by Robert DeNiro, a nice surprise since I only knew Cooper was in the movie) has issues to a certain extent such as OCD and anger.

I had to stop watching after the scene where Pat was having flashbacks of assaulting his wife’s lover while the soundtrack played “What Is and What Should Never Be” by Led Zeppelin. Ironically,  Zeppelin happens to be my favorite band of all-time, and their songs and mystique have weaved themselves throughout my life since I was in middle school.

I’m not criticizing this movie (I’ve only seen the first 30 minutes); on the contrary, this post is just a half-hearted rant about wanting to see a basic romantic comedy between two people who suffer from various mental issues — and instead being subjected to scenes from my own darkest days in a theater from hell.

I’ll probably continue watching the movie now that I know what to expect — and deal with the triggers as they come. How wise is that, though? I don’t know.

Wow, I started watching during my lunch break, then I had class, and now I’m back at the desk, and it’s still with me — or maybe it’s because I’m still writing this post. However, this movie definitely hits home because Pat is so much like me — heck, the story is so much like mine.

(By the way, at the beginning of the movie, Pat is at the psychiatric hospital wearing a hooded sweatshirt with strings. Those strings would be the first things to come off when one is admitted to such a facility, along with shoe laces.)

I don’t like to write reviews. I don’t consider myself qualified to inform people about such things as movies. Books, maybe.

So consider this an anti-review.

Whatever that means.

~t

 


Why Christians Need Flannery O’Connor

A snapshot of Flannery O’Connor beside her self-portrait

I recently came across this opinion piece on CNN’s website. The title caught my eye since I’m interested in all things Christianity and, being an English teacher, I can’t help but admire and love the works of O’Connor — not to mention the fact that she was Catholic.

Before reading anything in the Belief section of the website, I always scan the credentials of the writer to see from which angle the topic is being viewed. Needless to say, I was a bit shocked to find that this piece was written by a leader associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Why would the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission be praising an odd, peacock-obsessed Catholic writer?

There was only one way to find out.

I do hope you take the time to read the following article. It is a sobering critique on American evangelical Christianity and how so much of it is feel-good, seeker-friendly entertainment to justify our sense of entitlement, all the while avoiding that dreaded “s” word: sin.

The following is the original column by Russell D. Moore in its entirety:

 

On my Christmas list of gifts to buy my evangelical friends, there’s a little book of prayers.

This is less predictable than it may seem, since the prayers aren’t from a celebrity evangelical preacher, but from a morbid, quirky Catholic who spent her short life with pet peacocks and wooden-leg-stealing Bible salesman stories.

But I think Flannery O’Connor’s newly published “Prayer Journal” is exactly what Christians need, maybe especially at Christmas.

The book, recently discovered in the writer’s papers in Georgia and now published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, reproduces the handwritten notebook prayers scribbled down by O’Connor during her years as a student at the University of Iowa.

The prayers are jarring because they are so personal and raw, clearly not written to “edify the saints” in a published manuscript. They are, well, just prayers.

Part of the rawness and authenticity of the prayers come with the way O’Connor refuses to sentimentalize her personal relationship with Jesus (thought it’s clear she has one). She is here constantly aware of her own fallenness and of the seeming silence of the God to whom she pours out these little notes.

O’Connor notes that her attention is “fugitive” in prayer. She confesses that hell seems more “feasible” in her mind than heaven because, “I can fancy the tortures of the damned but I cannot imagine the disembodied souls hanging in a crystal for all eternity praising God.”

She is constantly second-guessing whether her prayers for success as a writer are egocentric, or a genuine striving to use the gifts God has given her.

Moreover, O’Connor is constantly aware that she is a sinner, and she can’t get around that. Perhaps the most widely publicized sentence in the book is her confession that she “proved myself a glutton, for Scotch oatmeal cookies and erotic thought. There’s nothing left to say of me.”

Even when she’s confessing sin, she seems aware of her sinfulness in doing that. She says of sin, “You can never finish eating it nor ever digest it. It has to be vomited,” but, she immediately concludes, “perhaps that is too literary a statement; this mustn’t get insincere.”

O’Connor’s prayers are hardly “inspirational,” in the sense that many American Christians want: a model of the “victorious Christian life” where “prayer changes things” and we’ve got “joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts, to stay.” That’s why we need them.

American evangelicalism, my own tradition, rightly emphasizes the biblical truth that the gospel is good news, that our sins are forgiven in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We rightly emphasize that the believer now has a personal connection to God, accessible in prayer through the priesthood of Jesus himself.

But sometimes we forget how hard that is in this time between the times.

Some of our worship services are so clean and antiseptic, led by grinning preachers and praise bands, talking about how happy Jesus makes us, that we forget that the Spirit prompts us to “groan” at our sin and the suffering all around us (Romans 8:22-23). This is especially true at Christmas, with so many evangelicals forgoing the dark longing of Advent to go straight to the tinsel-decked rejoicing of Christmas.

Some Christians, then, can wonder if something’s wrong with them when they feel as though God seems distant, or when, despite all the smiles at church, they still feel guilty for the way their hearts don’t seem to match up with their hymns.

But the good news isn’t that we are all put together. The good news is that though we’re wrecked and fallen and freakish, Jesus loves us anyway and has made peace for us with God and with each other. That’s not something we always feel. We see it by faith.

O’Connor, elsewhere in her letters, writes of what it means to agonize over one’s sin, to wonder “if your confessions have been adequate and if you are compounding sin on sin.” She concludes that this agony “drives some folks nuts and some folks to the Baptists,” while noting, “I feel sure that it will drive me nuts and not to the Baptists.”

Those of us who were “driven to the Baptists” can benefit from a book of prayers that remind us that the Christian life is exactly what Jesus promised it would be – the carrying of a cross.

We can be reminded in prayers such as these to remind ourselves that between now and resurrection we will never be, in ourselves, anything other than sinners. That’s why we need a Christ.

It’s only when we grapple with the darkness of a fallen cosmos, only when we’re honest about the fact that all our efforts look more like Herod’s throne than Bethlehem’s stable, that we can sing “Joy to the World.” Flannery O’Connor wasn’t an evangelical Protestant, but we need her.

We need her, especially perhaps, as we pray for peace on earth, goodwill to men, for Christmas in a Christ-haunted world.

 

(Source: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/15/why-christians-need-flannery-oconnor/)

~t