A Close Encounter with a Combative Commentator

Some time ago my dad had his 8th vascular surgery in 6 years. I wrote this in my journal that day... The surgeon said it went as well as could be expected.  Dad is now awake and responsive. There is a palpable sense of peace permeating the air in this expansive waiting area. I'm here with other close family members,. We are sitting in solitary solidarity. All is well. All was not well two months prior the last time dad had surgery. We were shoehorned into a cubbyhole with what seemed like hoards of masses of thousands of other families. and clans and troops. Fox News was blaring over the airways. One man in camo jacket, tube socks and scuffed penny loafers did the commentary: On International Affairs: "Who cares if he has personal relations with the Russians? I say keep your friends close and your enemies closer." On Health [...]

A Close Encounter with a Combative Commentator 2018-05-13T23:42:10+00:00

I Ain’t Got No Home

{This post was originally posted on May 20, 2017} Lately, I have felt an all-too familiar sense of exile. As a pastor, I moved around a good bit and was encouraged by my ministry supervisors not to put down roots. Now that I'm retired, divorced, and living on my own, it is easy to given in to the temptation to withdraw, to isolate myself, which leads to a vicious depressive cycle from which it's hard to escape. While it does not replace face-to-face contact, I appreciate the community I  have come to know through social media. Often, I read posts that give voice to my unexpressed feelings and help me feel less alone. The post "My Father's House,"  from Mama's Musings is a reflection on how mortality impacts our desire to "come home." Today has been a long and emotion filled day. I have spent time with two people close [...]

I Ain’t Got No Home 2018-05-09T18:31:24+00:00

Prayers Answered: Sometimes Yes; Sometimes No; Sometimes Wait and See

At age 55, my father-in-law was diagnosed with an advanced stage of colon cancer. He received an aggressive round of chemotherapy. Inexplicably, he went into a coma. We recruited prayer warriors throughout the country. In just a few weeks, one of his medical interns happened to read a case study that perfectly fit my father-in-laws profile. They adapted his treatment. He returned to full function. He is now 85 and enjoying life to its fullest. Prayers answered, "Yes." Five years ago, my wife and I separated after 20 years of marriage. I desperately wanted to reconcile. I sought intensive counseling for over a year.  I met with church elders and deacons. I prayed. My family prayed. My friends prayed. My church prayed. After 5 years, it became clear marriage reconciliation would not happen and we got a divorce. Prayers answered, "No." I served in pastoral ministry for twenty years while [...]

Prayers Answered: Sometimes Yes; Sometimes No; Sometimes Wait and See 2018-04-26T10:42:10+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

From Ministry through Madness to Mission

In March of 2014, I published my spiritual memoir, Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. Having served in pastoral ministry and gone mad, it’s now my mission to bridge the gap between faith communities and the mental health world. The vocation I envisioned when I went to seminary hit a large pothole, needed a major adjustment, even an overhaul. But the journey did not end. It had been 25 years since I first became a pastor. I felt passionate about faith, was eager to lead the flock, and saw visions of big things ahead. My church was in a countryside village. The people were kind and generous. They encouraged me for my preaching skills even though I read from a manuscript. They were patient with my counseling even though I was still, “wet behind the ears.” They were particularly enthused about my growing family and expressed hope for evangelism by [...]

From Ministry through Madness to Mission 2018-02-22T03:07:20+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 2018-02-08T09:44:15+00:00

All the Difference in the World

In 2008, my mental illness progressed to the point that I became unable to work in my profession. I had served as a pastor for over 20 years. It was more than just my job. It was my calling. My vocation. I did not work as a pastor; I was a pastor. I delivered God's Word week after week to help people, my people, see their stories in God's story. I led Bible studies at a local addiction treatment center, extending the hope of Christ's forgiveness for those ready for a new path in life. I prayed with wailing women as they sat beside their dying husbands. After I resigned from pastoral ministry, I didn't know what I would do. I tried many things. Weeding. Cleaning furnaces. Roofing. Volunteering at the VA. Building mini-barns. I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to stay busy, but I [...]

All the Difference in the World 2018-01-19T16:08:56+00:00

No One Cares About Crazy People: A Review

I hope you do not "enjoy" this book. I hope you are wounded by it; wounded as I have been in writing it. Ron Powers knows craziness inside and out. His book is part-expose, part-memoir. Not only does he unveil the atrocious way demoniacs/lunatics/maniacs/mentally ill have been abused throughout history, he also shares a very personal story about how mental illness has ravaged his family. Powers primarily examines schizophrenia, the mother of all mental illnesses. The most debilitating. The one most resistant to treatment. This is the illness Powers's sons Kevin & Dean have. But this diagnosis does not define them. They are creative, compassionate young men. Powers describes how his sons were moved by music and this passion for artistic expression gave them direction and purpose. But, as their minds gave way to the mental illness within, they would lose the capacity for anything coherently creative. Only chaos. [...]

No One Cares About Crazy People: A Review 2018-01-19T16:09:36+00:00

Giving Thanks for My Illness

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18) “While she might not have opted for this illness, neither does she entirely regret it; she prefers, as she writes so movingly, a life of passionate turbulence to one of tedious calm.” ― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for many things. I'll name five: Food to eat. A roof above my head. Family members who care for me. Faithful friends who make me laugh. And my mental illness. Yes, I am grateful for my mental illness. I have come to prefer the "passionate turbulence" of bipolar disorder to the "tedious calm" of being "normal". This is not to say I enjoy all aspects of my illness. Sometimes it is a pain in the ass. Sometimes [...]

Giving Thanks for My Illness 2017-11-24T14:48:35+00:00

How We Talk When We Talk About Faith and Mental Illness

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” ― George Orwell, 1984 "... speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4.13) Language can build up. It can also tear down. Language can reveal truth or it can perpetuate lies. An inspired Word creates the world. A death-dealing sentence can go a long way to destroying it. When I studied for ministry, I became keenly aware of how language impacts people.  It was 1989, the year the  New Revised Standard Version of the Bible came out. This version, among other things, changed the male pronouns referring to humanity to more gender-neutral ones. It was quite awkward for me at first, but I got used to it and the more I studied the original languages and the evolution of the English language, I could appreciate why the changes were made. Yet, there are other [...]

How We Talk When We Talk About Faith and Mental Illness 2017-10-10T12:37:27+00:00