A Faithful Response to Suicide

I am a man of faith who has attempted suicide. As such, I feel a unique responsibility to share my story. I want to stress that this is my own story. Not the story of Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. Robin Williams. Or the countless others who don't make the news. Still, maybe my story will contribute to a better understanding of how someone like me could choose death over life. First, my own story. In high school, I was a star athlete and a stellar student. I gave a speech at my high school graduation and shared a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson called, "Richard Cory." It begins: Whenever Richard Cory went down town, We people on the pavement looked at him: He was a gentleman from sole to crown, Clean favored, and imperially slim. And ends... So on we worked, and waited for the light, And went without the [...]

A Faithful Response to Suicide 2018-06-11T19:53:29+00:00

The Relationship Between Religion and Mental Illness by Psychosis Recoverer Peter McDonnell

We are all lucky enough to have a brain.  Some are grounded, shaped by experiences of regularity that don’t feel the need to explore anything spiritually interesting or indeed supernatural.  Some people would rather search that kind of thing out. My brain is geared toward the latter, but I have learned that an element of conventionality and being in step with the ordinary world is no less than a necessity.  Kind of like Agent Mulder from ‘The X Files’ who has his sceptical partner, Agent Scully keeping him grounded and ready to consider the more scientific answers to some of this wonderful life’s questions.   One of the biggest questions in this life is ‘Is there a God?’  My instinct tells me that yes there is, undoubtedly, based on my observations and experiences, and what I feel in my heart.  Then my more rational side prods me and says ‘hold [...]

The Relationship Between Religion and Mental Illness by Psychosis Recoverer Peter McDonnell 2018-06-05T21:35:57+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

A Close Encounter with a Combative Commentator

Some time ago my dad had his 8th vascular surgery in 6 years. I wrote this in my journal that day... The surgeon said it went as well as could be expected.  Dad is now awake and responsive. There is a palpable sense of peace permeating the air in this expansive waiting area. I'm here with other close family members,. We are sitting in solitary solidarity. All is well. All was not well two months prior the last time dad had surgery. We were shoehorned into a cubbyhole with what seemed like hoards of masses of thousands of other families. and clans and troops. Fox News was blaring over the airways. One man in camo jacket, tube socks and scuffed penny loafers did the commentary: On International Affairs: "Who cares if he has personal relations with the Russians? I say keep your friends close and your enemies closer." On Health [...]

A Close Encounter with a Combative Commentator 2018-05-13T23:42:10+00:00

Joy in the High, Peace in the Low, and Love In-Between

It has been a long and winding week. I have traveled over 1500 miles. Eaten a Magic Mushroom Panini at a Beatles-inspired cafe. Spent way too much money on luxury hotels. Played Yahtzee with my son and dominoes with my daughter. Received a generous portion of hugs from a little girl and little boy who have won my heart. Learned why a ram wears a belt with a crayon hanging down. Any guesses? Overall, it has been perhaps the most fantastic, glorious, delightful week of my life. So what's next? I know myself well enough to know I can't keep the pace up. The higher I climb, the lower I fall. I have experienced this far too often such that I have come to expect it as a norm. But what if I have a new norm? What if I can experience highs and then level off to a peaceful [...]

Joy in the High, Peace in the Low, and Love In-Between 2018-05-09T19:30:55+00:00

I Ain’t Got No Home

{This post was originally posted on May 20, 2017} Lately, I have felt an all-too familiar sense of exile. As a pastor, I moved around a good bit and was encouraged by my ministry supervisors not to put down roots. Now that I'm retired, divorced, and living on my own, it is easy to given in to the temptation to withdraw, to isolate myself, which leads to a vicious depressive cycle from which it's hard to escape. While it does not replace face-to-face contact, I appreciate the community I  have come to know through social media. Often, I read posts that give voice to my unexpressed feelings and help me feel less alone. The post "My Father's House,"  from Mama's Musings is a reflection on how mortality impacts our desire to "come home." Today has been a long and emotion filled day. I have spent time with two people close [...]

I Ain’t Got No Home 2018-05-09T18:31:24+00:00

Hiding From the Power of God

Last year, I witnessed God's amazing power in so many ways. My father survived intricate bypass of his carotid artery. Then a stent placement. Then a bypass of the bypass, which had become clogged with scar tissue. I made a commitment to healthy eating and exercise. I lost 30 pounds in 3 months and felt the best I can remember. My step-mom pulled through a delicate spinal implant. I was rear-ended and wound up spending 5 days in the medical-behavioral unit to address both physical and psychological needs. As a result of the injury, I have chronic neck and back pain. But it could have been much, much worse. My 94-year old grandmother, who very much wanted to let go of the burdens of this life, passed into the next in a beautiful way, in her room, within the house she helped build. Surrounded by loved ones. My son, who [...]

Hiding From the Power of God 2018-04-26T10:44:33+00:00

Prayers Answered: Sometimes Yes; Sometimes No; Sometimes Wait and See

At age 55, my father-in-law was diagnosed with an advanced stage of colon cancer. He received an aggressive round of chemotherapy. Inexplicably, he went into a coma. We recruited prayer warriors throughout the country. In just a few weeks, one of his medical interns happened to read a case study that perfectly fit my father-in-laws profile. They adapted his treatment. He returned to full function. He is now 85 and enjoying life to its fullest. Prayers answered, "Yes." Five years ago, my wife and I separated after 20 years of marriage. I desperately wanted to reconcile. I sought intensive counseling for over a year.  I met with church elders and deacons. I prayed. My family prayed. My friends prayed. My church prayed. After 5 years, it became clear marriage reconciliation would not happen and we got a divorce. Prayers answered, "No." I served in pastoral ministry for twenty years while [...]

Prayers Answered: Sometimes Yes; Sometimes No; Sometimes Wait and See 2018-04-26T10:42:10+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