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

Good Work; God’s Work

In his book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work, Timothy Keller quotes Robert Bellah from Habits of the Heart.  Bellah observes that modern "expressive individualism" eats away at the cohesiveness that ties us together as a people and makes our work meaningful and productive.  Something more is needed.  He writes -  To make a real difference [there would have to be] a reappropriation of the idea of vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one's own advancement. Reflecting on this, Keller identifies streams within the Christian Scriptures and particularly in his own Reformed Christian tradition.  One of these streams flows from Martin Luther.  Keller notes - The headwaters of Lutheran theology put special stress on the dignity of all work, observing that God cared for, fed, clothed, [...]

Good Work; God’s Work 2018-04-16T20:54:18+00:00

Cracked Pots

“… the jar he was making did not turn out as he hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.” (Jeremiah 18.4, NLT). Some months after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I returned to work as a pastor. It was difficult at first, but with much prayerful support, our ministry became fruitful. People who had hidden mental health issues for fear of judgment, now confided in me and together we grew in grace, offering our whole selves in worship and outreach among those who sought healing for body, mind, and spirit. I was asked to serve as a mentor for students preparing for pastoral ministry. One weekend, they brought together mentors throughout the state for training on how to best equip persons for service in what can be a consuming career. Many topics were addressed: spiritual growth, emotional well-being, financial fitness, etc. During [...]

Cracked Pots 2018-04-12T01:20:35+00:00

The Physician Inside: 3 Steps to Better Self-Care

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1 Corinthians 6:19) As a competitive athlete, I diligently trained my body and "played through the pain," dismissing wounds I still face. As a student, I fiercely focused my mind on questions and concepts that helped me better understand who I am, but fell short of understanding how I fit in the world. As a pastor, I offered my best (and sometimes more) to meet people's needs, and became so obsessed with this, I ignored my own. Now, nearly 54, launching new vocational paths, I am eager to do so in a healthy manner. The key is not going to be grueling exercise that ignores the needs of my body. Not isolated intellectual pursuits that further remove me from the company of friends and family. Not self-less service [...]

The Physician Inside: 3 Steps to Better Self-Care 2018-04-10T03:07:14+00:00

The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar

“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum. ― Vincent van Gogh; The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh Now that the human genome project can draw the DNA map of our bodies, gene therapy becomes an ever increasing reality. We can restructure our bodies and minds such that debilitating conditions could disappear. The question we now face is what goes and what stays? And, who decides? One of the persons who serves on the human genome project is Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison has both a professional interest and a personal perspective in genetic mapping. First, she is a psychiatric researcher. She is certainly concerned about the tools medical science can use to alleviate unnecessary suffering. [...]

The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar 2018-04-05T03:54:37+00:00

A Dream Revisited

I have a dream. A nightmare, really. It goes something like this. I am at the peak of my pastoral career. In good health. Surrounded by loving family. Comfortable. Confident. Then something happens. I never know just what. Last night it started with a fever. I knew what was coming on, so I took deep breaths, murmured, growled, cried out. I woke up. But not really. Only enough to feel sure I was in a space other than the dream. Not enough to wake up. The dream goes deeper. I am in a hospital bed, bars on every side. Strapped down. An old black-robed woman hovers beside, whispering harsh words into my ears. Speaking to me in a secret tongue. I want to make her go away but I can't move. I breathe deep. Deeper. Until I can make a small sound. A whimper. A moan. Finally, a scream. It [...]

A Dream Revisited 2018-04-02T01:49:40+00:00

World Bipolar Day Meets Good Friday

March 30, 2018.  Good Friday. As a Christian, Good Friday is a day I celebrate the death of my Savior. Strange, huh? Said better, I celebrate the Way Jesus died for me and for the sins of the world. Good Friday reveals humanity at our worst -- betrayal, false arrest, phony trial, mob mentality, torture, execution. Yet Good Friday also demonstrates humanity as we were designed to be -- faithful, sacrificial, loving to the end.     March 30, 2018. World Bipolar Day recognizes the almost 6 million persons who live with this mental illness that can be both animating and debilitating. Persons with bipolar are often counting as some of the most creative, inspired, intellectual people past and present. But the ravages of the brain disease often lead to destructive behavior, even death.   Today I reflect on this special day for my faith and my mental health from [...]

World Bipolar Day Meets Good Friday 2018-03-30T01:47:17+00:00

Granny Told Me His Name: Lee Ann Leach

It was just about two weeks ago that I found out that others didn’t hear noises in their heads like I do. I have had them all my life. Normal sounds. A car door slamming. A bell ringing. A buzzing sound. Someone saying my name. A ping. This is just one symptom of my mental illness. Right from the start the nurses in the nursery in the hospital where I was born immediately noticed that I was the “most nervous baby” they all had ever seen. Alberta Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 1971. There was a great pouring out of the Spirit in the area at the time and there were revivals going on all over town. Embry Williams was preaching at a week night revival at Alberta Baptist Church. I don’t remember the sermon or what really happened that night, but I do know that I walked down and [...]

Granny Told Me His Name: Lee Ann Leach 2018-03-18T16:22:29+00:00

Blessed are the Unsatisfied by Amy Simpson: A Review

          God is blessing our podcast Revealing Voices in so many ways and we are confident  it will only get better. For one, we’ve managed to score an interview with Amy Simpson, one of the leading Christian voices on the subject of mental illness.           I was first introduced to Simpson’s work through her book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission. As a pastor who has battled bipolar disorder, I felt liberated reading her passionate and compassionate call to open our pulpits and our pews to the voices and services of persons with mental illness. As the child of a father who served as a pastor and a mother who struggled with schizophrenia, Simpson speaks as one who knows inside and out both the failings and the blessings of the body of Christ responding to persons who too often fall [...]

Blessed are the Unsatisfied by Amy Simpson: A Review 2018-03-12T04:53:19+00:00

Sarah Dubinsky: A New Facebook Friend

Sarah Dubinsky and I are diagnostic cousins. Her label is schizoaffective Disorder. Mine is bipolar with psychotic features. Tom-a-to, tom-ah-to. We both struggle with a chemical imbalance that can severely affect our functioning, causing us to perceive what is within us and around us in ways that can be debilitating. We discovered we both had auditory hallucinations. I asked Sarah about hers.   Sarah:  I have different types of voices. The external ones are not so much commanding as negative. Judgemental. Guilt-inducing. Then, there are my internal ones. Assessment voices that are like inner dialogue. These serve a purpose until they spiral into a deeper psychosis.... How about you?   Me: Similar. I had never thought of the assessment voices, but I get that. My external voices are accusatory. Condemning. I’d love to get rid of those, but I’m afraid if I do I will also lose my creative ones. [...]

Sarah Dubinsky: A New Facebook Friend 2018-03-04T05:20:16+00:00