Good Boundaries

{excerpt from Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission} "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;  surely I have a delightful inheritance." (Psalm 16.6) One thing I have experienced in the time I've spent at psychiatric hospitals is that there are many rules. Rules about toiletries, belt buckles, shoes with strings, and other personal effects. Rules about visits and contact with others. Rules about schedules -- time to sleep and meet and eat and rest. Since I am one who generally functions best with good, clear boundaries, these rules haven't bothered me so much. I've benefited quite well from them and have come to appreciate their value. There's a part of us all, though, that constantly tries to get around the rules. Like the man who found a staff person willing to bring him Starbuck's coffee (for a steep tip, no doubt) to replace the lukewarm dishwater [...]

Good Boundaries 2017-09-18T13:15:51+00:00

Mad Intensities: What Makes Us Laugh

“It's not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ― Stephen Fry, Moab Is My Washpot Fry here captures the truth that demonic mental spirits can be redeemed and turn into angels. Self-consciousness turns us yet leads us to activities of the mind.. language, literature. Apartness, an inability to join in, leads us to appreciate the absurdity of what is deemed "normal." Shame and self-loathing turn to laughter and mad intensities when we are blessed to not take ourselves so seriously. Many of the best comics who have ever been, are touched with a sort of genius notched up to mad proportions. Robin Williams was the best of my generation. He was never [...]

Mad Intensities: What Makes Us Laugh 2017-09-13T22:07:12+00:00

Where is God When the World Goes Mad?

In Elie Wiesel's Night, Eliezer is a Jewish teenager, a devoted student of the Talmud from Sighet, in Hungarian Transylvania.  In the spring of 1944, the Nazis occupy Hungary. A series of increasingly repressive measures are passed, and the Jews of Eliezer’s town are forced into small ghettos within Sighet.  Before long, they are rounded up and shipped out to the death camps of Burkenau, and Auschwitz. Throughout this slim narrative, Eliezer reflects on the nature of God in response to the atrocities he witnesses.  In one pivotal scene, he describes the execution of three Jews, among whom is a young child.             One day, as we returned from work, we saw three gallows, three black ravens, erected on the Appelplatz. Roll call.  The SS surrounding us, machine guns aimed at us: the usual ritual.  Three prisoners in chains – and, among them, the little pipel, the sad-eyed angel.             The SS [...]

Where is God When the World Goes Mad? 2017-09-11T12:49:47+00:00

The Highs and Lows of Homecoming

It's been over 35 years now since I graduated from high school. For the first time, I'm going to the class reunion. Why am I going now? Why haven't I come before? I didn't go for years because I believed there were certain expectations on my life and until I fulfilled them, I would be too ashamed to go back. I'm not sure what these expectations were, but they were more likely self-imposed and largely unattainable. Nothing so easily calculable as monetary success, world travel, beautiful family. I measured my worth by affecting a life-changing difference. Saving the world one hurting soul at a time. It took me 32 years and one "nervous breakdown" before I let this dream die. But, by God's grace, I didn't die with it. My life story doesn't end there. But I wasn't ready to reconcile who I was in high school with who [...]

The Highs and Lows of Homecoming 2017-08-31T23:50:10+00:00

Suicide and Salvation

Not long ago, I took a leisurely stroll with a young friend along a "people path" in my neighborhood. We paused and watched some ducks circling the pond beyond the log fence. "Is suicide the unforgivable sin?" he asked. I was taken aback. I didn't know what to say or how to say it. I needed more time to formulate what the Bible says and doesn't say about the subject of suicide. But I couldn't wait to respond. He seemed urgent. I looked at his face, trying to read what he was saying  in the lines of his forehead."Why do you ask?" He turned away. "I have a friend who was the first person to share Christ with me.  Until about a month ago, I would say she had the strongest faith of anyone I know. Then suddenly she started doing strange things. One day, she scrubbed her church's [...]

Suicide and Salvation 2017-08-21T15:07:46+00:00

Sacred Rest

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. (Psalm 116:7) One of the marks of bipolar disorder is a sense of restlessness. Often, I struggle a great deal with this. I pace. I sit. Then I stand up almost at once. I toss and turn in bed. There seems to be no rest for my weary soul. But the Psalmist here assures us that we can lay claim to a promised rest. It is our possession as we grow in our relationship with God. The Sabbath-rest God desires for us in this life, a rest that often escapes us, is fully realized at the end of our extended life journeys. We will then look back on all the LORD has done for us, grateful for the temporary rest we enjoyed, blessed by the eternal rest that lies before us. Rest is such a cherished [...]

Sacred Rest 2017-07-30T21:33:14+00:00

What Rochester Has Given Me: Grace Church (PCA)

Faith communities have been an essential aspect of my life. Since I retired from ministry, I have been blessed with two churches in particular. Columbus Reformed Presbyterian (Columbus, Indiana) and Grace Church PCA (Rochester, New York). I find it very reassuring that while I am leaving Grace PCA, I will have a spiritual family in Columbus RPC to call home. Still, there is much I am grateful for and want to celebrate with Grace. When I first showed up in Rochester, I was essentially homeless. A downtown church had paid a three-day voucher for me to stay at the Cadillac Hotel. I was grateful for the mission of this generous church, but it was not a good fit theologically or socially. I had researched PCA churches since I first read Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. I was drawn to their commitment to Biblical truth as well as Christ-centered mission. [...]

What Rochester Has Given Me: Grace Church (PCA) 2017-06-30T14:11:58+00:00

My Fall from Faith: Terri Nida

Two of our aims here at Delight in Disorder is to connect faith and mental illness in such a way that our suffering becomes redemptive and that we see our whole lives in a spiritual light. Body. Mind. Soul. I first read Terri's story in You Share: Stories that Matter.  Some time later, she became a subscribing member of Delight in Disorder. So, I wrote to her about doing a guest post. She graciously agreed. While Terri is not diagnosed with a mental illness, she has struggled with depression most of her life and her story reveals such powerful immersion into the nature of  suffering: physical, emotional, and spiritual, I thought it fit well here. This is her story... On August 18, 2013, I suddenly felt dizzy. It had been a nice Sunday afternoon. The hanging plants on my balcony were slowly swinging in the breeze, and I remember admiring [...]

My Fall from Faith: Terri Nida 2017-06-27T22:02:38+00:00

Enemies Sprouting Like Mushrooms

In The Message, Eugene Peterson calls Psalm 3 – “A David Psalm, when he escaped for his life from Absalom, his Son.” The words that follow reveal a hunted poet king, surrounded and scared. God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms, Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery: “Hah! No help for him from God!” (vv. 1-2) David sees no escape from sure defeat, certain death. This does not keep him from crying out to God – in fact, it motivates him all the more to do so. He lifts up to God the torturing taunts of his enemies and then reminds himself just Who it is he’s talking to – But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high; With all my might I shout up to God; His answers thunder from the holy mountain. (vv. 3-4) [...]

Enemies Sprouting Like Mushrooms 2017-06-26T22:36:53+00:00

The Grim Disbelief of Sylvia Plath

 Sylvia Plath doesn't reflect much on God in her early journals, but when she goes to provide child care for a Christian Science family, we see a developing theology which, though unorthodox, she articulates well.  She finds some common ground with Christian Science, in the value placed on the importance of thought (Mind).  But she differs in her perspective on the basis of this Mind. Now that I ponder over it, I do see a sudden neat edifice of logic, and I do agree with some of their generalizations in spite of the fact that I am philosophically at the other end of the pole, - a "matter worshiper". Yet, Plath is certainly more complex than a simple "Material Girl". I believe that there is a realm (abstractly, hypothetically, of course) of absolute fact.  Something IS.  And that, in our poor human lingo, would be the "truth". No sooner [...]

The Grim Disbelief of Sylvia Plath 2017-06-12T17:25:09+00:00