Helping in a Hurricane

Originally published on September 3, 2017 about Hurricane Harvey, just as relevant two years later with Dorian.   Lately the news has been full of stories about Hurricane Harvey and its disastrous impact. Relief efforts are extensive -- from government agencies, charitable organizations, private foundations, church groups, and individuals. People are eager to help in such horrifically harsh times, yet many are leery as they hear about instances where resources have been misused, rather than get to folks who need it. It is true our generosity can be abused. When such major needs arise, we give compulsively and, at times, compulsory. We often don't take the time to see that our gifts support the efforts that will meet the true needs of the most people. Misplaced trust can particularly happen for those of us with serious mental illness. Many want to help, as we have been helped in our lives. [...]

Helping in a Hurricane2019-09-04T21:02:41-04:00

My Angel of Mercy

It's been a busy week. We are at the National Correctional Education Association (CEA) conference. I have come along to support my wife Susan, who is President. While she attends to many various and sundry presidential matters, I am staffing her display table, selling her book Kicked to the Curb, encouraging people to subscribe to her blog, and sharing information about her business Nexus Point Consulting. Often, a week of being around people would do me in. While I flock to the spotlight, I can be consumed by the energy of crowds. When I took the Myers-Briggs I scored off-the-scale Introvert. I have learned to endure public duties, but they clearly drain me. As I write this alone in our room, listening to the white soul sounds of Slaid Cleves, Susan is still going strong at a reception honoring teachers of the year. It may take me a week or [...]

My Angel of Mercy2019-07-29T20:22:58-04:00

Purposeful Prayer with the Armor of God

About 20 minutes into my 3-hour emotional collapse last Friday night, I told my wife Susan there was more going on than just a disturbance of brain chemicals. The root cause of my uncontrollable crying session is spiritual. God is working in my life and ministry and this puts me at greater risk of Enemy attack. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis — Satan doesn’t need to go after his own, but those who seek to follow Christ. Susan listened prayerfully and suggested I focus on the “Armor of God” passage in my devotional time. It is found in Ephesians 6:11-20 and it goes like this:   Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, [...]

Purposeful Prayer with the Armor of God2019-07-10T22:22:24-04:00

Preparing for Fiery Trials

My soul is searing. Not from the burning wrath of God but from the fiery grace of Christ. The past month has been the most challenging one I can remember over the past decade. I spent 3 weeks in a dungeon of despair, lost in a thick haze of hopeless regret over perceived personal failings that left me feeling irredeemable. Then, around midnight 11 days ago  the fog lifted; my dry bones were enfleshed with spiritual sinews. I walked unweary. I flew like an eagle full of promise and purpose. The psychological diagnosis for this is bipolar disorder. The spiritual diagnosis I’m coming to discern is being tested by the Lord; or, tempted by Satan. Or could it be both? Reflecting on an emotional meltdown 24 hours ago, I’ve come to relate intimately with the baptism of Jesus followed immediately by his desert temptation by the Accuser. Jesus understood his relationship to [...]

Preparing for Fiery Trials2019-07-07T17:10:41-04:00

Musings of a Bipolar Soul

On June 13, 2009, I was driving along the scenic shores of the Finger Lakes region of New York wondering what I was going to do with my life.  I was 45.  I had spent most of the last two decades serving as a pastor while battling bipolar disorder. At my best, I had time and energy left to enjoy family life with my wonderful wife and four beautiful children.  At my worst, I either laid under the covers in a dark bedroom or frantically pursued plans ill-conceived and left undone.  I looked out the window and prayed for vision. Suddenly, it came to me. I would write a book about bipolar and the faith that either fuels us to distraction or saves us from self-destruction.  In less than 20 miles, I conceived of a collection of devotions, inspired by the Psalms.   That journey that began along the shores [...]

Musings of a Bipolar Soul2019-06-03T16:12:11-04:00

Mental Illness on the Streets

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  (Matthew 8:20)   Jesus understood what it is like to be without a home.  Yes, he was a Rabbi supported by the financial contributions of his followers, but he was also a wandering soul at the mercy of the hospitality or rejection of strangers. Masses moved from jubilant shouts of "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!!" to vehement cries, "Crucify him!" From a divine perspective, the homelessness of Christ was part of his mission. But this certainly didn't lessen his human suffering. Jesus teaches us that if we want to follow him, we too will take up crosses such as he did. This has meant many things for Christians throughout the ages --  from verbal harassment to capital punishment, and everything in between. The Apostle Paul [...]

Mental Illness on the Streets2019-06-02T20:48:13-04:00

Sharing Delight in Disorder

Since my book was published, I've not done much to get the word out. As a result, I haven't sold many copies. People who have read it tell me what a difference it has made in their lives, but I have not followed up on this and reached out to others. I have a hard time walking the fine line between bragging about myself and celebrating what God is doing in my life. Lately, I have come to accept the importance of the mission God has called me to carry out. There are so many people impacted by mental illness who are in desperate need of saving faith. As the body of Christ, it's our delightful duty to show compassion for hurting souls. The emotional anguish caused by brain diseases like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, is as real and agonizing as any bodily pain caused by a physical [...]

Sharing Delight in Disorder2019-04-02T18:17:15-04:00

Readers Write: Testimonies to Delight in Disorder

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:50) "Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne. Someone once said, "I don't enjoy writing. I enjoy having written." My experience is far from this. I delight in writing. Many times in my life it has been the sole thing to keep me sane. As I write, the voices within and around me are orchestrated through my fingers, inspired by the Spirit, and guided by the Scriptures. My writing is by no means God's Word. It is one saintly sinner's attempt to say something that gives glory to God and uplifts God's people. I've been struggling to write this week. Daily devotions. Encouraging emails. Blog posts. Nothing is coming to me and it is terribly frustrating. Often when I have struggled in the past, I draw from current experience. What have I found joyful? What [...]

Readers Write: Testimonies to Delight in Disorder2019-03-03T20:09:31-04:00

Feeling Burdened By or a Burden For?

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11.28-30)   I grew up in a country church where there was much talk of having burdens. Members, ministers, missionaries all spoke of having a burden for youth, drug addicts, Africa. Through their impassioned speech, the sweat on their brows, and the waving of their leather Bibles, they would stir up in us a burden to give — prayer, supplies, money. What I got from this early spiritual teaching is that a burden is something God gives a person who then transfers this burden to others. It didn’t occur to me at the time that it had [...]

Feeling Burdened By or a Burden For?2019-02-03T17:04:45-04:00

Honoring God by Loving Others

One of my faithful readers sent me some thoughtful questions. First -- How does one differentiate between experiencing emotional turmoil in their life, and experiencing mental health issues that may require additional aid? (Medicine, Therapy, etc) This points to a very difficult and sometimes controversial distinction in mental health care. Some people are sad by virtue of their circumstances. Time, while it may not remove the sadness, helps to heal. Others, however, have chronic depression that can incapacitate them for weeks, months, even years at a time. Some become anxious in social situations. With the help of proper relaxation techniques, they can face their fears and persist. Others have acute panic attacks that are often confused with heart conditions. Some persons are moody, experiencing highs and lows that seem beyond what is normal. Others have debilitating lows and dangerous highs. How can we determine who is in emotional turmoil and [...]

Honoring God by Loving Others2018-11-15T18:30:24-04:00