Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Month: October 2021

With Days Getting Shorter Here Are Seven Ways To De-Funk

The sun sets today at 6:09 pm. In two months it will set at 4:39 pm. With the spookiest weekend of the year in a couple of days, the biggest ghost haunting me right now is the actual darkness.  For many of my friends and neighbors, with November and December in the Northern Hemisphere come seasonal affective disorder, holidays highlighting our loneliness and/or family disconnection, and just a lot of demanding expectations. Though I wouldn’t say I have seasonal affective disorder, the lengthening nights can usually amplify my anxiety and worsen my darker moods. It often feels like the dark is actually closing in on me. Do you feel me on that?

One of the most important bible verses for me, especially when the darkness has felt oppressive, has been John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Looking deep into the eyes of our immediate astronomic future, and well aware of how depleted our resilience is by almost two years of Covid related stress, lets tune up our tool kit to lean into Jesus’ never-to-be-overcome light.

Here are some ideas for how to de-funk when you are seriously in a funk. They are very practical, designed to let the Light in, not to manufacture it.

1. Create your own “de-funk” playlist

What songs bring you joy? What’s your jam? Nostalgia seems to help me. I go to the songs that are connected with happy memories or seasons of safety in my life. It seems that new music began to matter less and less since 2001. So the “Things Fall Apart” album by The Roots often gets in there, but also a bunch of James Taylor and Rich Mullins. I always love it when my friend, Audrey, sends me new worship songs because I have very little idea about new music.

2. Welcome (certain) distractions

Tik Tok does not qualify! At least not for me. I deleted the TikTok app from my phone but now everything gets reposted on Instagram reels and I’m all the way back in. But distraction is not always a bad thing. When you are feeling in a funk, your ruminating thoughts need something to interrupt them. I think distractions are especially helpful when we are conscious of them. Say to yourself, “I need a distraction,” and then go get distracted.

3. Be creative

Creativity might be the best distraction, but for the creatives who practice some form of art creation to make a living or to fulfill their calling this one might not work exactly the same. You don’t have to be an artist or think you have very much artistic talent to be creative. There is something very therapeutic in the time warp you can sometimes experience when you last long enough in a creative task. If you can get past the initial frustration and/or self consciousness there’s deep freedom on the other side. You can just be self directed if that’s you, but you don’t have to do it alone. There are tons of tutorials for free or cheap online, and there are lots of art centers where you can sign up for classes. Why not?

4. Make someone else’s day

It feels counterintuitive every time. Enough people have said it that it might even sound cliché, but I still think I need to say it to you because I still need to hear it: GIVING FEELS GOOD. When you yourself are depleted it doesn’t make that much sense, but giving to someone else helps. I hope that someone else’s blessing lands on you often, but we can’t control that. We can, however decide to do something for someone else.

5. Connect with friends and family 

Just reach out. Forget having a reason to call. Impose yourself on them. Depending on how safe it feels, you could say, “I’m feeling down and I need some company, can I come over?” I honestly wish more of my friends would do that. I think it would be fun. Especially when they’re just feeling a little funky and not in full blown crisis mode. Most of these ideas work best as preventative measures. There are a bunch of resources available if you need more support for your mental health. Here’s some resources

6. Go for a walk or other form of exercise

We carry a lot of stress in our bodies. Interrupting what’s happening inside sometimes takes going outside. On some days this is a monumental effort and walking around the block would be justly celebrated with much rejoicing. The scientific data makes the benefits clear. For me it’s the victory over my will not to get up and do anything that is most attractive. Just doing the dang thing you didn’t want to do lightens things up.

7. Make a list and do something on it

I love lists. I live on Trello. Checking boxes legit releases endorphins. But just creating the list helps put things in perspective too. In my head, all the swirling anxiety about what needs to be done feels huge. It usually looks a lot smaller on paper, even if some of the items on the list still feel impossible. Do the one thing you can do now. I think this is one way to actually do what Jesus directed us to when he said in Matthew 6:34, “Do not worry about tomorrow, each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Just some ideas for you and me, my friends. May Christ’s light shine on you. If you have any more ideas, use the comments below!

Fullfill All Righteousness: a meditation on Matthew 3

Jesus changes the direction of all our religious quests. We had convinced ourselves that by our careful observation we could be righteous, but we had only just begun. We hade barely gotten to the beginning when we thought we had arrived at the end.

“John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

John helped the people realize they could begin. Clean off the old and embrace a new beginning! You better at least try since God’s Chosen One is going to show up any minute, and his baptism will be of fire. And his baptism will not just change you; it will change the whole world. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”

We still spend most of our time getting ready to begin. There’s a lot of repentance needed in this world, yes; but what we too often don’t remember is that righteousness starts only after repentance. Feeling bad that we were bad. Feeling hopeless that we could ever be good. These pass for righteousness in a world as crooked as ours. But Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness.

“Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”

I like the old language here which captures the insult to John’s sensibilities. John must suffer this reversal of roles. Jesus the one for whom he prepared the way would come to be baptized by him? Yes, suffer this cousin. Permit it to be so. Allow me to show you what my Father really means.

Jesus enters the waters of sin and makes them clean. The ritual that most would use to begin again, again; Jesus uses to fulfill ALL righteousness. After this beginning with John, he went around our world completing things, making them whole, healing broken things, making them sound, finding lost pieces, replacing them to their proper places.

Baptism is a beginning, yes, but for Jesus it was already the end. “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

To fulfill all righteousness was to be revealed as who he was. Repentance was more than turning away from sin, something Jesus could not do since he had no sin to turn from; for Jesus repentance was turning to the Father and his love. And so it is with the Son and so it is with us, his younger siblings.

Don’t turn only to let sin see your back; turn to let God see your face. Give yourself to God’s love. Be beloved. Fulfill all righteousness.