He Was in Heaven Before He Died

The following is not a story based solely on facts. I did have a Grandpa George and this was pretty much how he lived and died. But I didn't make it to the funeral. Instead, I was in a hellish heaven of my own on the psych unit of Columbia Presbyterian.   I got the call late at night that Grandpa George had died.  He had lived a hard life.  He didn't have the opportunity to get a good education.  He never learned to read or write because his demanding father made him quit school to help in the fields.   He worked hard to get by and managed to scrape together a living.  He met a woman - Maize - at the tomato factory where he worked.  She says he was throwing tomatoes at her, so she knew he liked her.   They were married in less than 3 months. [...]

He Was in Heaven Before He Died 2018-08-02T00:11:28+00:00

Who Are You?

I am a Christian who has bipolar disorder. I cycle from extreme mania to pits of depression, but I am not a manic-depressive. My identity is not in my illness. My identity is in Christ. Where do you find your identity?  This morning my pastor shared a story of a teenage girl who had lost a sense of her she was. Like many her age, she had looked for her identity in relationships with others just as lost as she was. Her self-worth plummeted. Whatever confidence she once had crashed to the ground. She desperately needed someone to pick her up, someone to share with her the hope that was rooted in her faith. Not just some wish for better days, but a genuine hope that would hold onto her when she fell. Somehow, she found her way to the pastor's study. He sat quietly with her. Listened to her. [...]

Who Are You? 2018-07-29T21:47:27+00:00

A Church With No Walls

This has been a particularly good week to be part of a faith family that cares and shares. Last weekend, my prayer partner contacted me about how I was coming along in a terribly difficult family conflict. We prayed for each other as brothers in Christ. This week, an elder followed up to ask if I needed any financial assistance. I told him I was holding up so far, but that the offer was a huge show of support. Yesterday, my pastor and his family showed up at an author fair I was featured in. Their smiles made my whole day. Today, a man came up to me to tell me how much he appreciated my article in the local newspaper. Yes, it has been a particularly good week to be a receiving and contributing member of my faith family. A healthy, holy church includes all God's children both by [...]

A Church With No Walls 2018-07-22T20:29:43+00:00

Heritage from the Lord; Fruit of the Womb

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,     the fruit of the womb a reward.  (Psalm 127:3) After worship today we had a luncheon recognizing Nursery volunteers. Our coordinator shared Psalm 127:3 and noted how important children are in the life of the faith family. She called the names of those who are serving in nursery care. It was quite impressive to hear of the many women, men, and teens devoting their time to see that the youngest among us are cared for in Christ. This day also happens to be my grandson's second birthday. I don't see him often, but each time I do he is a delight. Unlike his older sister who has the vocabulary of an Oxford grad, he is the daredevil in the family. All boy, as they say. We were playing on their jungle gym and I noticed when he got to the bottom of the slide [...]

Heritage from the Lord; Fruit of the Womb 2018-06-03T20:26:14+00:00

Good News for Good Friends

It was "Bring a Friend Sunday" at my church today. The Lord gave me strength to get up and pick up three of my friends. My sister joined us as well. It was a gorgeous sunny day. The sort of day I imagine the Psalmist faced as he rejoiced, "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Announcements were given of all the Lord is doing through our faith community. The Psalms spoken and sung called us to worship. Scripture shared the promise of new life for all who are born again in the Spirit of Christ. Prayers were offered praising God for faithful friends and loving family, calling on God to heal the hurting, guide the lost, save the fallen. Then Pastor Andy read the focus text, Zechariah 3:1-10, which begins with a prophetic vision: 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high [...]

Good News for Good Friends 2018-05-20T23:19:15+00:00

Why I Go to Church

Last week, I wrote about "Why I Don't Go to Church." The title is a little misleading because I do go to church. Just not every week. Not like I used to. Of course, when I was a pastor I sort of had to go. I got paid for it. Now that my livelihood is no longer dependent on weekly worship, why do I go at all? Why invest my time and money on something many have come to see as irrelevant to modern living? First, some context. Last Sunday morning I went to worship for the first time in a long while. I did not want to. I did not enjoy it. I do not remember anything but that I left my tithe check at home. Again. But I was there. And being there made all the difference in the world. I praised God within the body of believers. [...]

Why I Go to Church 2018-04-30T00:56:58+00:00

Why I Don’t Go to Church

46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2.46-47) Inspired by the Holy Spirit, early Christians were on fire. They worshiped daily, shared meals bountifully, praised God delightfully, and built a reputation for loving each other and others with precious passion and compassion. They were filled with a spiritual fervor that knew no end. +          +          + I have had such spiritual fervor. What has happened to my faith? I went to church this morning, the first time in a long while. For various reasons, I have been absent from the pews much of the year. I have many excellent explanations, but no good excuses. My [...]

Why I Don’t Go to Church 2018-04-22T19:43:37+00:00

Jesus Talks to Me, Am I Mentally Ill?

Yesterday, I received two messages with video clips of Vice President Pence responding to a “mental illness” accusation. My first thought was “What now?” I rarely open political messages or links, but given this was about faith and mental illness, I felt both obliged and intrigued. In the clip, Pence refers to a comment on ABC that claimed Christianity was a mental illness. Unlike much political rhetoric that is filled with deceit, I suspected that Pence was reasonably accurate in his remarks. Authentic Christian faith doesn’t hold up well to media sound bytes. The exact comment made was this: It’s one thing to talk to Jesus, it’s quite another when Jesus talks back to you. That’s mental illness. Was this a joke? A careless slam on Pence? Something more? Two other persons on the show took umbrage at the remarks. One said: Jesus talks to me every day and I’m [...]

Jesus Talks to Me, Am I Mentally Ill? 2018-02-16T05:05:11+00:00

Penance: Spiritual Self-Harm

penance: (n) punishment inflicted on oneself as an outward expression of repentance for wrongdoing. ‘he had done public penance for those hasty words’.   When I first separated from my (now) ex-wife, I was miserable. I wrestled with a sense of guilt and confusion, searching my mind for what I could have done differently to make a better marriage. It wasn't as if I had shut God out of my life, or the life of my family. Faith, while admittedly mixed with many of my own flaws, was evident in who we were and how we behaved. My mental illness had certainly played a strong role, but even that didn't seem like an adequate reason. Granted, over 90% of people with bipolar who marry wind up divorced. Yet, I held out hope that God would bless us to be the slim exceptions. My time alone after I left my family behind [...]

Penance: Spiritual Self-Harm 2018-01-24T03:18:30+00:00

Resolve to be Loving, Kind, and Just

One feature of the bipolar disorder illness I have is that my goals are high and when I don't reach them, I plummet into a pit of depression. When I am manic, I think I can conquer the world and when I don't, the world comes crashing down upon me. It's a vicious cycle and I know of no sure way to prevent it. Spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study, worship and fellowship, can temporarily temper the extreme highs and lows. Yet, try as I might to remain positive, too often I wind up sitting on the edge of the cliff with Jonah, the sun burning hot on my flesh, wallowing in waves of self-pity. When I'm manic, I think I can conquer the world and when I don't, the world comes crashing down upon me. Mental illness is extremely self-centered. Some people find this very offensive, [...]

Resolve to be Loving, Kind, and Just 2018-01-19T16:10:24+00:00