Between Thanksgiving and Christmas: Advent Hope in a Season of Grief

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. There were 11 of us gathered for fellowship and feasting. My 21-month old great niece dubbed Princess Nora provided the entertainment. We listened to a Spotify music playlist of holiday music. We told family stories and gave thanks for making it through another year. It was a bittersweet celebration, for as much as we enjoyed those who could make it we were mindful of those who could not. 2020 took a great toll on our family. We lost my father in July of cancer and my mother in December of COVID. Grief has since been a ever present companion in our lives and sometimes it can be disruptive to our family relationships. Fortunately, yesterday, it was was present as a gracious friend reminded us of good memories and things that live on. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in a time of grief as well. According to History.com [...]

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas: Advent Hope in a Season of Grief2021-11-27T05:18:42-05:00

My Life Partnership: In Sickness and in Health

I'm writing this intro section shortly after midnight on Susan's birthday. She is reclining with her granddaughter Rose who is congested and unable to stay asleep in her crib. I'm praying we all get the rest we need to enjoy the day that lies ahead. The genesis of what follows was first published in February of 2019. I'll tack on an addendum to bring it up to date. Over Labor Day weekend in 2018, I met the woman who would soon become my wife. Susan is all I could ever ask for in a life partner. She is intelligent. She has a beautiful smile. She has a great sense of humor. And, most importantly, she loves me and shares my faith. She accepts my identity as one who has bipolar disorder and affirms my mental health ministry. She is a definitive example of “ezer,” a help-meet who enhances my life, [...]

My Life Partnership: In Sickness and in Health2021-11-20T06:26:35-05:00

The Relationship Between Creativity and Mental Illness

I start this post with one basic assumption. Not all persons with mental illness are creative. Some sit around all day playing video solitaire, watching episodes of Judge Judy, counting the cars that pass by. Some persons with mental illness have neither the desire or the capacity (or both) to do anything that resembles creative expression. (Though you never know the depths of creativity lodged in their brains.) At the same time, I find my mental illness plays out in a creative way, primarily in my way with words. I'm not Hemingway. It's not quality, but quantity for me. Most of my waking and sleeping hours are spent plotting how I can use my words to the best effect. When I am under unusual amounts of stress, you will likely find me tucked away in a corner, Pilot G-2 gel pen gliding across a composition journal, describing the world as [...]

The Relationship Between Creativity and Mental Illness2021-10-06T05:30:37-04:00

Mental Illness or Demon Possession?

Let me make this clear. Mental illness is not demon possession. If you are a faith leader and someone asks you to exorcise a friend or family member, don't do it. What can you do instead? A good pastor friend of mine has shared with me a screening process to rule out lesser afflictions before one might consider a chronic diseased soul. Examine the environment. Take a particularly close look at the relationship dynamics of the person presented as the problem. Often families and other intimate groups target one member and poured all their disruptive thoughts and feelings into a scapegoat who responds with peculiar and sometimes even volatile behavior. It can be very difficult to examine the lives of those convinced they are only acting out of love. They may themselves become angry with you, even abusive. Be sure to tread lightly and have back up before you take [...]

Mental Illness or Demon Possession?2021-09-12T20:52:30-04:00

Karma vs. Grace: A Psycho-Spiritual Analysis

Karma means action and action motivated by compassion is good. To complain that what happens to you is just the result of your karma is lazy. Instead, confidently recalling the advice that, "You are your own master," you can change what happens by taking action. ~ Dalai Lama.   If you want God's grace, all you need is need, all you need is nothing. But that kind of spiritual humility is hard to muster. We come to God saying, "Look at all I've done," or maybe "Look at all I've suffered." God, however, wants us to look to him... ~ Timothy Keller.   I have a good friend (I'll call her Trish) who practices Buddhism. Trish says she likes having a teacher tell her what to do to gain spiritual enlightenment. She claims this is just what Jesus did with his disciples. He showed them the right things to do, and [...]

Karma vs. Grace: A Psycho-Spiritual Analysis2021-08-22T18:34:04-04:00

The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar

“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum. ― Vincent van Gogh; The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh Now that the human genome project can draw the DNA map of our bodies, gene therapy becomes an ever increasing reality. We can restructure our bodies and minds such that debilitating conditions could disappear. The question we now face is what goes and what stays? And, who decides? One of the persons who serves on the human genome project is Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison has both a professional interest and a personal perspective in genetic mapping. First, she is a psychiatric researcher. She is certainly concerned about the tools medical science can use to alleviate unnecessary suffering. [...]

The Bittersweet Blessing of Bipolar2021-08-19T22:46:15-04:00

Higher Power Healing

I have been dabbling in twelve step programs through much of my adult life. Recently I have been led to fully immerse myself in "working the steps" and thus far it has been a cleansing experience. There is something about surrendering our wills to God that gives us a huge measure of wisdom, courage, and serenity. I don't know where this journey is leading me, but I am committed to taking it one step at a time. This does not mean I have somehow replaced my faith in Christ with faith in a nebulous "Higher Power." I believe this would not only be foolish but dangerous to do. Christ has an exclusive claim on my life and the lives of many others. But is this Truth for all? I can only say, as a Christian who is also in a twelve step program that Christ is the only Way I [...]

Higher Power Healing2021-08-08T21:50:38-04:00

A Wondrous Lifestyle Change

I have now admitted that I am powerless over my compulsive eating -- that my life has become unmanageable. But this is not the full truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It is not the Gospel truth. The Gospel says this: By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3) I have all I need to stay clean from sugar and eat well not on my own, but through all the many means God gives me. My intellect and desire. Food labels and the money to purchase healthy food. My sponsor and friends in recovery. My wife and family encouraging me. Prayer and reflection on Scripture and other spiritual readings. I am blessed by God with so many things to keep me on track. So how does this relate to my mental illness? One key component toward mental [...]

A Wondrous Lifestyle Change2021-08-03T17:34:40-04:00

A Commitment to Life: or, a funny thing happened on the way to the refrigerator.

I haven't been writing as much lately. I'm grateful to those who have been filling in for me. By sharing your stories, you have been a blessing to me and many others. Often when I have a lapse in writing it is because I am struggling with depression. This time I've had some of that. But it runs deeper. It is more that I've had the need to hibernate so I can come out more refreshed. During this season of hibernation I have been pruning excessive activities, increasing therapy, attending to some health issues, and getting rest. Grand and glorious rest. Perhaps the biggest decision I've made during this sabbath season is to lose weight. My particular program involves both a food plan and a fellowship component. It requires much discipline and I have found that I have little self-discipline. Two weeks in, though, I am responding well to the [...]

A Commitment to Life: or, a funny thing happened on the way to the refrigerator.2021-08-01T23:15:08-04:00

When the Planet Got Hit by a Bus: A Pastor’s Perspective on the Pandemic.

This week's guest post was written by Rev. George Love.  George is a long-time friend of mine going back to seminary days.  He is a husband, father and the pastor of Hebron Presbyterian Church in Shepherdsville, Kentucky.  George appreciates the invitation to reflect on mental health in the context of our shared journey through the pandemic.     A year or so ago the planet got hit by a bus. Everyone on the planet pretty much. Usually when someone gets hit by a bus, it’s just one person.  Everyone else sees how monstrously awful it is that this happened and people who weren’t hit by the bus do all they can to come to the aid of the person who was hit.  That’s not universally true, but in large part there is truth to it. So, the problem when everybody on the planet got hit by a bus was two-fold. [...]

When the Planet Got Hit by a Bus: A Pastor’s Perspective on the Pandemic.2021-04-27T20:06:20-04:00
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