The Cruelty of April

 April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. (from The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot) It's April 26 now. The sun is shining. 68 glorious degrees. A reassuring cool Spring breeze. Cruelty is as distant from this day as the East is from the West. But the nascent scent of lilacs blends with the stink of liquid manure. Unspoken hopes and mislaid dreams float on the surface of the ruddy lawns. April this year has taken a desperate toll on my body and has sapped the strength of my psyche. The 30 pounds I lost the preceding six months have returned with a vengeance. The number alone does not trouble me, but the fact that I find it physically challenging to get out of bed does. A more serious concern is the gripping chronic pain I now [...]

The Cruelty of April 2017-05-30T14:10:38+00:00

Leaving Affinity

Six days ago, I checked into Affinity Place, a peer-run mental health respite/retreat house. Tonight is my last night. Looking back over the week, I'm reflecting on how the Spirit has moved in this ministry of Affinity. I can think of three specific ways: First, the Lord has provided refuge for me. I had reached a critical juncture of mental instability alone at home. I was particularly vulnerable during the nights I couldn't sleep. Here at Affinity, a staff person is on site 24/7. When my sleep was disturbed, I simply came downstairs and talked about it with someone who knew first-hand what I was going through. Next, I have renewed my commitment to valuable spiritual disciplines, particularly morning Scripture reading and prayer. At home, I had become lax in these practices. I was not starting my day talking to and listening for the Lord. While at Affinity Place, God [...]

Leaving Affinity 2017-05-30T14:09:53+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

Sin and Sickness

Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins. (Psalm 25:18) Over the years, I’ve given a lot of thought to the relationship between sin and sickness. The Bible clearly connects the two, but it is not always clear exactly what the relationship is. There are times when sickness is caused by what someone does or fails to do – as when the foolish Nabal’s inhospitable demeanor leads to a heart attack (1 Samuel 25). Other times, sickness is not caused by a person’s sin but rather is a test of righteousness, such as when Satan tests Job. Sickness can result from - the transmission of sin (generational sin or a genetic flaw). - the commission of sin (rebelling against God’s commands or making unhealthy choices). The relationship between sin and sickness can become particularly controversial when it comes to mental illness. Over the years, people [...]

Sin and Sickness 2017-05-30T14:01:49+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