Hiding From the Power of God

Over the past six months, I have 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 [...]

Hiding From the Power of God 2017-05-30T14:09:18+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

Far From Alone

As I write this, I am on the heels of a depressive episode that has threatened to kick my legs out from under me. For almost a week, I've been holed up my apartment; sleeping, watching television, staring at the computer screen. Menacing voices scream inside my head even as I hit the letters on my keyboard, yelling that I am an impostor, that I have nothing to say that people would want to hear. At times like these, the fact that God delights in me is far removed from my thoughts and feelings. Instead my thoughts are filled with things I've done wrong, my feelings are dominated by regret and shame. I sleep and sleep and sleep some more, but even my dreams are distorted by fears that I am unlovable, that I am alone in a pit of despair, far from delight. But I'm not alone. I know [...]

Far From Alone 2017-10-13T10:02:57+00:00

Escape from Death

Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death. (Psalm 68:20) In the years since my suicide attempt I’ve had a great deal of time to reflect on its meaning and the purpose of my life then and now. At times, I’ve described it as a one-time fluke. I had never before nor have I since been seriously suicidal. But the attempt was more than a fluke. It was an attack. It was a spiritual attack from an enemy who wants nothing more than to get God’s children to give up. It was an attack for which I was ill-prepared despite decades of study and devotion. It was an attack I pray never comes again though I know it could. I know I need to be devotionally disciplined on a daily basis in case I am attacked again. The most important part of the [...]

Escape from Death 2017-05-30T14:04:32+00:00

Scorn-full

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123:3-4) While modern medicine has come a long way in helping us understand and explain mental illness, people’s perspectives can lag far behind. Many people still think that with more faith, a stronger will, and a better attitude, such things as depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia can just go away. This outlook often leads to pinning the blame for the illness on the person struggling to overcome it. It can also lead to contempt and scorn on the part of the accuser that the accused may internalized. “If you only had more faith.” “If you weren’t so lazy.” “If you just kept a positive attitude.” Like the [...]

Scorn-full 2017-05-30T14:04:21+00:00

Out of the Depths

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:1-4) When I am in the grip of depression, the last thing I want to hear is that I’ve done nothing to deserve it. My mind busily rehashes old regrets. I am convinced of my guilt over many things. I see my depression, no matter how severe, as but a small price to pay for my sin. The good news that saves us from the darkest corners of depression is not that we are “good enough” on our own. It is that in spite of how horribly we mess up, God has a word of grace to speak to us. [...]

Out of the Depths 2017-05-30T14:03:10+00:00

Escaping the Pain

In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain”? (Psalm 11:1) When I first began to experience the symptoms of bipolar, I tried to escape them with drugs and alcohol, what some call self-medicating. As you might expect, this only made things worse. Treating a mood disorder with non-prescribed mind-altering drugs is not something I would now recommend. I then tried to treat my symptoms with only talk therapy and self-help techniques. While it was good to get off un-prescribed drugs, talk therapy alone was ultimately ineffective. It wound up being another form of escapism from my full problem. It was bipolar disorder causing a chemical reaction in my brain, and I needed something more than encouraging words to re-establish balance. One thing I’ve discovered in my journey through bipolar is that faith and medicine can, and often do, [...]

Escaping the Pain 2017-05-30T14:02:54+00:00

The Healing Power of the Psalms

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. (Psalm 30:2) People like to display their family Bibles when the pastor comes to visit. On one such visit in my first pastorate, my hosts opened up their Bible and showed me a unique treasure I’d not seen before or found since. Written in the margins of the Psalms were folk remedies detailing how one could find healing. The instructions were very specific – “Say this Psalm five times for sore throat.” “Good for gout.” “Heals dizziness.” At first I smiled at the gross superstition of those who applied Scripture in such an ignorant manner. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate, instead, how simply profound their faith may well have been. It takes courage to trust that the God who created heaven and earth takes pains even to heal my headaches. Healing happens. Can you believe [...]

The Healing Power of the Psalms 2017-05-30T14:02:42+00:00

Even Me

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14) I learned growing up the importance of being in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I was taught to maintain this relationship with daily prayer and Bible reading, weekly worship, and regular fellowship with Christians. In spite of this, I often pulled away, turning inward in times of trouble, becoming reclusive when my feelings and beliefs didn’t line up. I believed I was made to praise God with my whole heart, mind, and being. Yet, my feelings were far from God, and I instead obsessed about all that was wrong with me and with the world. Over the past several years now, I’ve often wondered how I could be in a personal relationship with the LORD and [...]

Even Me 2017-05-30T14:02:24+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 2017-12-28T21:26:55+00:00