The Spiritual & Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness

In my mental health support group this week, we discussed forgiveness. It was a very intense discussion that was both personal and revealing. I can't stop thinking about it. Who have I forgiven? Who has forgiven me? Who have I yet to forgive? Who has not shared forgiveness with me? I've been doing a lot of self-reflection, which sometimes leads me to excessive self-regret. So, I thought it would be good to turn to a few friends to help me compose this post. I'll fashion this as a dialogue, though it was actually a series of three Facebook message threads. +     +     + Me: Hello, Kim. What do you see as the distinction between forgiving and forgetting? Kim: Forgiving is choosing to let go of a sin/trespass against oneself while forgetting is choosing to never remember again a sin/ trespass against oneself. .. to never [...]

The Spiritual & Emotional Benefits of Forgiveness 2017-09-28T10:30:24+00:00

Higher Power Healing

In a recent Medium story, I made this contention: The issue for college students now is not so much “Can I admit my needs?:” but, given these needs, “What do I do now?” If we borrow the language of a 12-step program, many students take the first step of freely admitting their powerlessness, that their lives have become unmanageable, even that they are faced with insanity. But few take the next step, the faith step, believing that a Power greater than myself can restore my sanity. (from "How, Then, Shall We Live?" by Tony Roberts) This post sparked a wonderful response from Howard Chang: Tony, I read your piece. I liked how you highlighted the improvements that have taken placed in mental health care in college campuses since the 80s and posed the question, "What next?" to students after they have taken the first step. However, I think students [...]

Higher Power Healing 2017-06-04T23:01:24+00:00

The Cost of the Cross, Much More than a Free Smiley Face

The symbol of Christianity is a cross, not a smiley face. I write this on the Tuesday of Holy Week, the week we remember the final earthly mission of Jesus Christ, culminating in his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. When I was a pastor, I would silently refer to this as “Holy Hell Week.” I was expected to do four times as much ministry and all with a cheerful demeanor. It was only by the grace of God that I did, at least to the degree that I did. Easter, of course, was designed to be the spiritual peak, the week you could reach many more folks than the rest of the year. People came to hear the Good News that “Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed.” Because Christ is risen, we have the hope of new life in Christ. Very few from the Easter crowd had come to [...]

The Cost of the Cross, Much More than a Free Smiley Face 2017-05-30T14:09:33+00:00

Life and Death with Bipolar

A friend of mine, who also has bipolar, was in an auto accident when she was in college. She was taken to the emergency room where she had an x-ray and cat-scan. Neither showed any physical damage. She called her resident adviser to come to the hospital to pick her up. By the time he got there, she was livid with the staff, crying out to anyone who would listen, and many who wouldn't, that she was paralyzed. Three doctors and several nurses examined her and found nothing physically wrong. As the night wore on, however, she became hysterical. She said she had a massive inflammation in her spine. She was admitted to a medical-behavioral unit where she was diagnosed as having an acute manic episode. She was given psychotropics. They also performed an MRI and found a mass in her lower spine.  Another cat-scan also revealed a mass in her [...]

Life and Death with Bipolar 2017-05-30T14:08:15+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

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