Love for the Unlovable

I composed and published the following post on November 26, 2017. I'm glad to say I have much more for which to be thankful. I am in a wonderful relationship with a beautiful and intelligent woman. I have been hired as a Faith & Mental Health Advocate for a vibrant and progressive church. My son has experienced a remarkable recovery from a mysterious, debilitating condition. Yet, given my illness, I still cycle rapidly through bouts of depression and bursts of mania. Yesterday was a low point. I wanted to spend the day with my lady friend, but wound up wallowing in bed until 4:30 pm. The day got better and today hasn't been so bad, but I still carry a pall of darkness that I can't shake.  It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here's what I wrote last year....   I have been mired [...]

Love for the Unlovable2018-11-21T17:24:52+00:00

Praying When You Can’t Pray

A few weeks back, I surveyed my subscribers to ask what topics you would like to me address. I received this response from a woman I'll call "Miriam" --   Maybe could you write about tips for maintaining a prayer life and connection with God in the midst of a severe depression when all spiritual consciousness feels absent and motivation is non-existent due to the disorder.   Oh my, Miriam, we've been to some of the same miserable places. I suspect many of you reading this have as well. They say misery loves company. I say there is no better company for misery than a fellowship of faith. I'm typically not one to give advice, or tips. But I can share some stories from my experience and the experience of others I've known that might be an encouragement. When we have fallen into a pit of despair, sometimes it helps [...]

Praying When You Can’t Pray2018-11-18T21:20:19+00:00

The Spiritual Costs and Benefits of Mental Illness

One of the exciting things for me about engaging in dialogue over faith and mental illness is the diversity of perspectives from persons with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. As I have interacted with blog readers, small group participants, conference attendees, and listeners of my podcast, I have been impressed both by the level of understanding and, more significantly, the desire to learn and grow for the sake of all those impacted by mental illness. Two questions I received from two readers illustrate well this sort of distinct perspective. First, from C.C.:   Does having mental illness make a person struggle with knowing God more than the average person?   There are no doubt particular challenges a person with mental illness has that someone without one does not. Recently I had a conversation with a woman who was going to give a talk at a nearby Walk to [...]

The Spiritual Costs and Benefits of Mental Illness2018-10-31T21:12:32+00:00

Your Questions About Faith and Mental Illness

This week I sent out emails to my subscribers that said this... If we could have a private conversation, what questions would you ask me about faith and mental illness? I received a wonderful and wide-ranging response. Here are some I've received so far:   "Is God ok with me taking meds for the rest of my life? Does having mental illness make a person struggle with knowing God more than the average person?"  ~ C.T.   "Why is it so exhausting? The mental battle has reeked savagely on my physical self. I battled for years depression. Always treading water. My spiritual walk though however has gotten stronger. I am a stronger more faithful Christian. Now my battle is trying to make it to places people expect me to go. Church is a big one. The guilt for disappointing is immobilizing." ~ S.B.   "How does one differentiate between experiencing [...]

Your Questions About Faith and Mental Illness2018-10-25T21:10:17+00:00

Bruised, Not Broken: Resilient Hearts

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isaiah 42.3) My parents divorced in 1975. From then on, I have been identified as a child of a broken home. This brokenness certainly describes the nature of the family we once had, or hoped to have. That image of family is forever broken, shattered, never to be fixed. But I am not a broken person. Bruised, yes. Even deeply wounded, but not broken. At least not forever broken. Fractured, but capable of being mended. In time, with plenty of prayer and much care, I have passed through stages of recovery to become a wounded healer who intimately feels the pain of others and, by God's grace, responds in love. In her soon-to-be published book Kicked to the Curb, Dr. Susan Lockwood describes resilience is the life of a young woman named Rose. Rose is a twenty-something [...]

Bruised, Not Broken: Resilient Hearts2018-09-19T11:53:23+00:00

The ACTS of a Balanced Prayer Life

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1.2-3) “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” ― Søren Kierkegaard Typically, we think of prayer in the sense of asking God to do something beneficial for us or others. Forgive. Guide. Provide. Heal. All these are crucial components to a balanced prayer life, but if we focus only on what we want from God, we will lose sight of all that God is and who we are in relation to God. When I first became a Christian, a friend taught me a simple method of prayer I have carried with me to this day. I don't always follow the [...]

The ACTS of a Balanced Prayer Life2018-08-27T20:14:47+00:00

The Fruit of Faithful Friends

In March of 2014, I met Eric Riddle, a fellow pilgrim on the road to faithful recovery from mental illness. We had both seen the good and bad of mental health care and faith community ministries and thought God might use us to contribute to the solution rather than just complain about the problem. We committed to meet weekly for walks, Scripture study, intercessory prayer, and brainstorming. We spent a great deal of time at first dealing with our own brokenness. Eric and I both had received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and had been treated both as inpatients and outpatients. Beyond our mental health diagnoses, we shared the pain of broken relationships, the joys and concerns of parenting, our hopes and fears for the faith communities, our local community, our nation, our world. Our genuine prayer was that God might use us as wounded healers, partnering with churches and [...]

The Fruit of Faithful Friends2018-08-12T20:42:52+00:00

Who Are You?

I am a Christian who has bipolar disorder. I cycle from extreme mania to pits of depression, but I am not a manic-depressive. My identity is not in my illness. My identity is in Christ. Where do you find your identity?  This morning my pastor shared a story of a teenage girl who had lost a sense of her she was. Like many her age, she had looked for her identity in relationships with others just as lost as she was. Her self-worth plummeted. Whatever confidence she once had crashed to the ground. She desperately needed someone to pick her up, someone to share with her the hope that was rooted in her faith. Not just some wish for better days, but a genuine hope that would hold onto her when she fell. Somehow, she found her way to the pastor's study. He sat quietly with her. Listened to her. [...]

Who Are You?2018-07-29T21:47:27+00:00

A Faithful Response to Suicide

I am a man of faith who has attempted suicide. As such, I feel a unique responsibility to share my story. I want to stress that this is my own story. Not the story of Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. Robin Williams. Or the countless others who don't make the news. Still, maybe my story will contribute to a better understanding of how someone like me could choose death over life. First, my own story. In high school, I was a star athlete and a stellar student. I gave a speech at my high school graduation and shared a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson called, "Richard Cory." It begins: Whenever Richard Cory went down town, We people on the pavement looked at him: He was a gentleman from sole to crown, Clean favored, and imperially slim. And ends... So on we worked, and waited for the light, And went without the [...]

A Faithful Response to Suicide2018-06-11T19:53:29+00:00

Heritage from the Lord; Fruit of the Womb

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,     the fruit of the womb a reward.  (Psalm 127:3) After worship today we had a luncheon recognizing Nursery volunteers. Our coordinator shared Psalm 127:3 and noted how important children are in the life of the faith family. She called the names of those who are serving in nursery care. It was quite impressive to hear of the many women, men, and teens devoting their time to see that the youngest among us are cared for in Christ. This day also happens to be my grandson's second birthday. I don't see him often, but each time I do he is a delight. Unlike his older sister who has the vocabulary of an Oxford grad, he is the daredevil in the family. All boy, as they say. We were playing on their jungle gym and I noticed when he got to the bottom of the slide [...]

Heritage from the Lord; Fruit of the Womb2018-06-03T20:26:14+00:00