A Faithful Response For Falling Soldiers

Attitudes toward military conflict vary widely within the Christian community. Some are strict Pacifists. They take literally the words of Jesus, "Thou shalt not kill.," even in the context of self-defense. I have heard some say, "I will die for my faith, but I won't kill for it." Others are militaristic. They believe it is right, even necessary, to declare and carry out war when there is a just cause, such as fighting "for democracy," or "against terror." Many find themselves somewhere in between, searching for divine answers in an ungodly world. Wherever we find ourselves in the spectrum of beliefs about war, our faithful response is to recognize and honor those who lay down their lives for a cause greater than themselves. ("Sam Stone," by John Prine) Sam Stone came home, To the wife and family After serving in the conflict overseas. And the time that [...]

A Mixed Response to “Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness”

Over this past weekend, I posted a piece ("Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness") on a Facebook page for mental health advocates. I posed the question, "I am a former pastor who has wrestled for over 20 years with bipolar 1. Here is part of my story. I would love to hear from you on how faith has impacted your mental illness, or, how mental illness has impacted your faith." The responses were very thoughtful and uplifting: "The only way I became as stable as I'm proud to say I am today is because of the right meds, a good therapist & learning to have a deep intimate relationship with Jesus. Of these three things I believe my faith is the strongest saving grace for me." "I pray that more people with understanding of mental illness will enter the ministry on their behalf. I watched my son pray for and [...]

Thus Sayeth the Lord: How Can I Hear God’s True Voice?

Sharon Rawlette, one of my regular readers posed a fascinating question that has inspired this post. In essence, she asks, how can we discriminate between “true” voice of God from “false”ones? This question gets to the heart of how God speaks to us as well as how the Enemy tries to keep us from hearing. First, look at what it says in Hebrews: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed to be heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) Jesus is the Word of God spoken at creation, made flesh in his miraculous birth, demonstrated in his compassionate ministry, redeemed in his sacrificial death, enlivened by his resurrection, and delegated to the Holy Spirit after Christ's ascension. [...]

Higher Power Healing

In a recent Medium story, I made this contention: The issue for college students now is not so much “Can I admit my needs?:” but, given these needs, “What do I do now?” If we borrow the language of a 12-step program, many students take the first step of freely admitting their powerlessness, that their lives have become unmanageable, even that they are faced with insanity. But few take the next step, the faith step, believing that a Power greater than myself can restore my sanity. (from "How, Then, Shall We Live?" by Tony Roberts) This post sparked a wonderful response from Howard Chang: Tony, I read your piece. I liked how you highlighted the improvements that have taken placed in mental health care in college campuses since the 80s and posed the question, "What next?" to students after they have taken the first step. However, I think students [...]

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness

How could I serve in pastoral ministry with a serious mental illness? How could someone riding manic highs dipping to deadly lows promote stable growth for a congregation? How could someone who hears voices pretending to be God presume to interpret God’s Word?   How could I serve as a pastor with bipolar disorder? These questions stir my mind and stab my heart. My mind says yes -- I served as a pastor battling bipolar for almost two decades, a good dozen of which were quite fruitful. My heart grieves that my illness has progressed such that I am now deemed disabled from service. The story I want to share here is not what led to my decline but what, by the grace of God and with the help of the church, allowed me to flourish as a pastor with a serious mental illness. Persistent Prayer Partners I fell into the [...]

Budding Faithful Friendships with Mental Illness: Eric Riddle

Our guest today is Eric Riddle. Eric and I first met in March, 2014, a week before the release of my spiritual memoir, Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. We went on to form a faithful friendship that, well, I’ll let Eric tell you about it.. (My words are in italics.) Thanks for joining us, Eric. We’re here to talk about faith and mental illness, two subjects I know you are passionate about. First tell me how you came to faith. I was raised in the church. As many who grow up in the church, I was following in my parent's tradition. I became more serious about my faith after my daughter was born. Going on a "Walk to Emmaus" retreat was a turning point in getting much more serious. I’ve heard those can be very transformational. Yes. The retreat was for men only and about 40 guys representing many [...]

Being “Humble-ated”

Do not be wise in your own eyes;     fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body     and nourishment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:7-8) Last night, I had a dream. I was a pastor again, this time in a large church. People were praising me. Word was getting out about me. My reputation was spreading. My name and photo had even been placed on a Snickers bar. I was getting full of myself, and little else. I was heading for a fall. The dream was not far from the truth (except for the Snickers bar). There was a time when my ministry was celebrated, I was advancing in my career, and my name was recognized. I like to think I gave God the credit, but I fear all too often I didn’t. Then, I fell. Hard. In my case, mental illness got the best of me. [...]