When God Sends a Cardinal by Helen Sarver

There is an old folklore saying that, “When God sends a cardinal, it’s a visitor from heaven.” My mother was a collector of cardinal figurines and placed them in pairs throughout the house. For the most part, I paid little credence to her red-feathered friends until after her death in 1999. A week following her service, I was walking from the mailbox and a female cardinal landed on the front porch. She began chirping wildly, as if she was saying, “Good morning, Helen!” Another amazing appearance of my “cardinal family” happened in March of 2001, two months after my father passed away. My sister and I were in Florida facing the task of taking care of our parents’ house. I stayed at the house alone the final two days. As I left their house that final time, two cardinals were perched on the front porch railing. My eyes filled with [...]

When God Sends a Cardinal by Helen Sarver2024-01-15T08:46:05-05:00

The Blessings of Gratitude

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ― Marcel Proust. Gratitude is a spiritual practice. It has a way of seeping into our souls - uplifting our spirits, refreshing our spirits, even invigorating our bodies. In my spiritual journey, I have been through seasons where I felt bitter and dark. At these times it is all the more essential to give thanks for the people, experiences, and things that bring us happiness and lighten our loads. What are you grateful for? I am thankful for many things. The one thing that stands out for me on this day is spiritual friendship. I have been blessed throughout my life to know people who are spiritually mature, who regularly pray for me, who I can count on to encourage me when I am laid low and put me in [...]

The Blessings of Gratitude2023-09-10T21:03:47-04:00

Praying the Bible, day by day

My morning and evening prayers have me reflecting on pilgrimage. The Scripture reading this morning is about a significant and mysterious event in the childhood of Jesus. Mary and Joseph take him along on their family pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They then return home, or start to before they realize he is not with them. They had assumed, even taken for granted that he was in the crowd of pilgrims returning home. He was not. Lectio 365 asks us to consider times we take for granted that Jesus is with us only to discover we have left him behind. For me I lose sight of Christ when I overlook my daily devotional practices and get lost in the crowd of people and things and busyness of the world. Where do you find Christ in your daily life? +      +      + Love does not delight in evil but [...]

Praying the Bible, day by day2023-02-13T14:06:04-05:00

My Unquiet Mind: A Recent Bout with Anxiety

Anxiety's like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you very far. ― Jodi Picoult, Sing You Home Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippiansn 4.5-7) Have you ever had a panic attack? I had one this week. I was feeling fine, hopeful after getting the first sound sleep I had gotten in days. I was going about my morning routine, doing a devotional in fact. Suddently out of nowhere a tightness gripped my chest. My breathing became labored. I had no idea what was happening to me. I called the pharmacist. He reviewed my medication. He said nothing would indicate that [...]

My Unquiet Mind: A Recent Bout with Anxiety2022-04-16T18:23:42-04:00

Word of the Year: Eucharisteo – the miracle of thanksgiving.

Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.  ― Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are   Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  (2 Corinthians 9.10-11)   Each year I select a word to focus on in my faith journey each day. Said better, God selects the word and I confirm it. Today the word came to me from Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. The word Eucharist appears in various forms 53 times in the Greek Scriptures. Strong’s Concordance lays out three ways that these words can be used: 1. To be grateful, to feel grateful; 2. To express gratitude [...]

Word of the Year: Eucharisteo – the miracle of thanksgiving.2022-01-02T20:56:30-05:00

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
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