A Child Is Born: March 28, 1992

There was a shift change when you entered the world. A cheering crowd of scrub-clad women there to see your red raisin skin, hear you cry out at the shocking light and cold air, and breathe in the fresh scent of new life. Your life. I was 25 at the time, the same age you are today. Unlike you, however, I was ill equipped to become a parent. I was less than a year into my career as a pastor, working hard in a field that was hardly working out. I had become tangled in a web of depression. Your mother and I were already seeing a therapist for deeply-entrenched issues from our not yet three years together. Not only did I not feel equipped to become a father, I still had doubts about bringing a child into the world, wicked as it was. I was still somewhat under the [...]

A Child Is Born: March 28, 1992 2017-05-30T14:08:33+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

A Close Encounter with a Combative Commentator

My dad is in recovery from his 8th vascular surgery in 6 years. The surgeon said it went as well as could be expected. He 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 ago, 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 Care: "They say health coverage is a right. [...]

A Close Encounter with a Combative Commentator 2017-05-30T14:08:02+00:00

Flight Risk

3.23.2017; 12:10 pm; Delta Flight 3750 As I wait for take-off, my mind drifts to flights gone by: December, 1983 to Kansas City. I become jazzed for Jesus at a New Year's Eve prayer party sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. I return and discover all my possessions had been taken from my apartment. I spend the night at a local IHOP, witnessing to the waitress. For a tip, I leave two quarters and a tract, all I have left to give. March, 1988 to Boston. I visit a woman I met on a mission farm in Georgia. I spend the days reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the nights belittling her for being an upper-class liberal. October, 1992 to San Francisco, with my wife and infant daughter. I became so driven to write a book on faithful fathering that I leave them with the in-laws while I go off [...]

Flight Risk 2017-05-30T14:07:43+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 2017-05-30T14:07:31+00:00

I Ain’t Got No Home

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 to me who are near the end of their [...]

I Ain’t Got No Home 2017-05-30T14:07:12+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

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