Sacred Rest

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. (Psalm 116:7) One of the marks of bipolar disorder is a sense of restlessness. Often, I struggle a great deal with this. I pace. I sit. Then I stand up almost at once. I toss and turn in bed. There seems to be no rest for my weary soul. But the Psalmist here assures us that we can lay claim to a promised rest. It is our possession as we grow in our relationship with God. The Sabbath-rest God desires for us in this life, a rest that often escapes us, is fully realized at the end of our extended life journeys. We will then look back on all the LORD has done for us, grateful for the temporary rest we enjoyed, blessed by the eternal rest that lies before us. Rest is such a cherished [...]

Sacred Rest2018-12-02T20:01:23+00:00

Where is God When the World Goes Mad?

In Elie Wiesel's Night, Eliezer is a Jewish teenager, a devoted student of the Talmud from Sighet, in Hungarian Transylvania.  In the spring of 1944, the Nazis occupy Hungary. A series of increasingly repressive measures are passed, and the Jews of Eliezer’s town are forced into small ghettos within Sighet.  Before long, they are rounded up and shipped out to the death camps of Burkenau, and Auschwitz. Throughout this slim narrative, Eliezer reflects on the nature of God in response to the atrocities he witnesses.  In one pivotal scene, he describes the execution of three Jews, among whom is a young child.             One day, as we returned from work, we saw three gallows, three black ravens, erected on the Appelplatz. Roll call.  The SS surrounding us, machine guns aimed at us: the usual ritual.  Three prisoners in chains – and, among them, the little pipel, the sad-eyed angel.             The SS [...]

Where is God When the World Goes Mad?2018-11-28T19:50:09+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

When Depression Looks Like Laziness

I went to bed last night at 6 p.m.. I got out of bed at 1 p.m. this afternoon. 19 hours. Sometimes it's longer. This time it would have been had not Briley, my 80 pound lab overpowered me with her playful bites on my hand and slobbering kisses across my face. Briley loves me very much and doesn't want me to add to the despair of my depression by wallowing on a bed of misery. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I attributed days like these to sheer laziness. I couldn't understand why some days I was so eager to start the day that I would wake up hours before my alarm. Sometimes not sleeping at all. Then other days it was like a Sumo wrestler sat on my gut, pinning me down with no chance of escape. How do I tell if I am buried in depression [...]

When Depression Looks Like Laziness2018-10-21T20:26:41+00:00

The Young and the Anxious: World Mental Health Day

I am a baby in the Baby Boom Generation, born in 1964. I remember doing drills where at the teacher's command, we would hide under our desks, get on our knees and cover our heads. The thinking was that in case of a nuclear attack, those wobbly cast metal one-unit desks would shelter us from radiation. We may have been foolish, but damn, we believed in the power of our own resourcefulness. Even though I came from a "broken home," I was encouraged by voices of teachers, coaches, and pastors around me that I could rise above my station and aim for a better life. "You are good student," "You understand the game," "God has big things in store for you." These voices filled me with hope during particularly dark days at home. Wednesday, October 10 is World Mental Health Day. The focus this year is "Young People and Mental [...]

The Young and the Anxious: World Mental Health Day2018-10-09T16:28:29+00:00

Baking Cookies; Confronting Abuse

by Amanda Ladwig... One of the many amazing things about truly working through childhood sexual abuse is the act of taking every single thought, and terrible memory captive and watching Christ redeem them. Facing them. Feeling them. Without making excuses. Without placing or taking the blame. The abuse and abuser no longer linger in the darkest parts of your mind controlling or tainting the memories you have. They are front and center. Begging to be defeated. Every day, and sometimes minute-by-minute, there are battles fought to reclaim simple things, innocent objects, smells, and sounds. Things that may seem trivial to others represent a great victory. That being said, today I fought a battle and won. Today, I reclaimed what should have been a pleasant childhood memory. Today, I ate an Italian wedding cookie and enjoyed it. That won't mean much to you, but to me, it is a significant victory. [...]

Baking Cookies; Confronting Abuse2018-10-02T18:09:56+00:00

A Rape Survivor Speaks… with Compassion

by Kelcey R. ... Right now, I am sitting on my couch while an “I Love Lucy” rerun plays in the background.  Here and there, my laugh punctuates the low volume of the TV, and the silence of an otherwise quiet night. It’s a nice moment. However, if all someone saw was the snapshot of this moment I am in, it would be leaving out the other roughly 10,920 days of my life. What I don’t share often is that half of those days have been freckled with nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, and other symptoms of ptsd. The snapshot wouldn’t be able to show that I spent a lot of those days, months, and years trying to white knuckle my way through grief and anger, before I learned how much more able Jesus is to carry those things for me. This week was a hard week, if you watched the [...]

A Rape Survivor Speaks… with Compassion2018-10-01T01:09:58+00:00

Guilt is Good; Shame is Sinful

Some time ago, a friend wrote to me a blog comment in which she raises a very tough question  She writes this -- We have a dear, Christian friend who has stage 4 cancer. Although he lives a good life, helping others and spreading the word of God, he believes that God is punishing him for his past sins by giving him cancer. Do you believe God punishes people for their sins? Especially after a person has found the Lord and changed his/her life?  I wrote back -- Wow, big question. It depends on how you define "punishment". Certainly, God allows natural consequences for our behavior. A life-long smoker may develop lung cancer and God may choose not to miraculously intervene. I would say, though, that in a case such as this we are really the ones who have punished ourselves, "fallen into the pit of our own making." The good [...]

Guilt is Good; Shame is Sinful2018-09-26T13:25:52+00:00

Living in Love

“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16)   You don’t fall out of love Like a cradle When the wind blows And the bough breaks.   Love is in the broken bough, the blowing wind, the falling cradle.   Love lives in us When we live in love   We live in the hands of the cradle-maker, the breath of the blowing wind, the heart of the broken bough.   (dedicated to S.L.; 9.23.2018)

Living in Love2018-09-23T22:17:52+00:00

Godly Sorrow Over Deadly Grief: Reflecting on my Suicide Attempt

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;     my eyes grow weak with sorrow,     my soul and body with grief.  My life is consumed by anguish     and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction,     and my bones grow weak.  (Psalm 31.8-10) This week I shared my story with a youth group at Eminence Christian Church (IN). I started by having the youth turn to each other and say, "God loves you more than you can imagine," then, "God brought you here to be blessed." I then went through how God had orchestrated events in my life over the past decade to bring me there tonight. The event that almost prevented me from being there.  My despair over it. My book. The support of my family and friends moving back to Indiana. My blog post about suicide. The youth leader reading it and inviting me to come. The [...]

Godly Sorrow Over Deadly Grief: Reflecting on my Suicide Attempt2018-09-21T17:20:25+00:00