Does Suicide Destroy Faith?

I just received word today that a family member died by suicide. I didn't personally know this young man, but each time I hear of someone who has suffered greatly and lost hope for this life, I feel sick to my stomach. I didn't used to feel this way. I used to feel angry. I used to believe suicide was a terrible act of cruelty against one's self. I used to believe it was horribly selfish against one's loved ones. I used to believe it was an ultimate act of ingratitude against God. I used to believe this. No more. Suicide is not the unforgivable sin named in the Bible as "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit."  It is more a symptom of our human condition than a sinful action. It is far from a selfish act. Instead, it is more a desire to unburden loved ones of the suffering [...]

Does Suicide Destroy Faith? 2017-10-23T14:50:53+00:00

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse

This is not something I want to write. It's something I feel compelled to write. First, an explanation. Mental illness is a serious problem, both for those of us who have it and for our loved ones impacted by it. It is a also a major societal issue. How we care for those who are most vulnerable is a reflection of who we are and what we believe. If we let "the least of these" fall through the cracks, we will be judged by our consciences and by our faith convictions. God does not look lightly at those abusing His children. Mental illness is a medical condition stemming from faulty brain chemistry which current medical science can treat, but not cure. My own bipolar disorder is considered a serious mental illness (SMI). SMIs are disabling conditions that are chronic. You can't just take a pill and make them go [...]

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse 2017-10-19T14:49:19+00:00

A Faithful Response to Mental Illness

I was first diagnosed with a mental illness in 1991. I told only my wife and one trusted friend. Four years later I had a manic/psychotic episode that essentially made it necessary for me to tell the members of the congregation I was serving. By God's grace, they responded with amazing love and tremendous support. I was given unlimited paid leave and told I could resume my work whenever I was ready. Women provided meals and childcare so my wife could visit me. An offering was taken to pay off the gigantic cost of health care. On the flip side, both my therapist and psychiatrist respected my faith and the role it played to promote healing in my life. They appreciated that I did not use my faith as an excuse to refuse medical treatment. They saw the two working hand-in-hand to guide me towards well-being. Certainly, there were [...]

A Faithful Response to Mental Illness 2017-08-17T13:17:18+00:00

Delight in Disorder: My Story, My Message, My Mission

My Story In 1995, I was a young, ambitious pastor serving a small village church.  One Sunday, I delivered a sermon on human illness and divine healing in which I shared these words: When we become ill, it is important to listen to our bodies and pray that God help us make necessary changes. Our ailments may be blessings in disguise. We may be expecting too much from ourselves, or avoiding things we need to face. As we listen to our bodies, talk and reflect with others, and pray together, we can gain spiritual insight which will help us live healthier, more productive, more abundant lives. The next day, I was in the seclusion room of a psychiatric hospital. I was told I had bipolar disorder, that I would never work as a pastor again, that my marriage would likely end, and that I would spend the rest of [...]

Delight in Disorder: My Story, My Message, My Mission 2017-08-28T20:14:23+00:00

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. [...]

Being “Humble-ated” 2017-05-30T15:02:04+00:00

Gentle Rejoicing

This morning I met three of my objectives for the day: Get out of bed before noon.       2. Get dressed. And,        3. Go to church. Going to church was the biggest step. When I am in a depressive cycle, I want to be left alone. If I do go out, I want to blend in, not stand out. Some times I am able to pull this off, to mask my symptoms, to grin and bear it. This was not one of those times. Many people came up to me and asked how I was doing. The best response, if I don't want to stand out, is to follow the script: “How are you?” “I'm fine, thanks. And you?” “Okay.” Many times I have been able to recite the anticipated response and the play goes on as directed. This morning, though, I couldn't bring myself [...]

Gentle Rejoicing 2017-05-30T14:04:57+00:00

Discovering Delight in Disorder

For almost twenty years, I served as a pastor with bipolar disorder.  I have journeyed with this illness from manic (even psychotic) peaks to dark valleys of despair.  At both extremes, I have flirted with death—coming very close to ending my life and doing great damage to those around me.  For no good reason except the mercy of the Lord, God has kept me alive, saving me  from certain destruction. Yet, I have also found genuine delight in my disorder and this is the story I tell in Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. How can we delight in an illness that has contributed to a divorce rate of more than 90% and leads over half of those diagnosed to attempt suicide? Countless times, when I have been driven to the edge of a cliff, God has rescued me and set me on level ground.  Why would God do this?  Because [...]

Discovering Delight in Disorder 2017-05-30T14:00:39+00:00