Mixed States: Maniacal Despair

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?     Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;     if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,     if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me,     your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me     and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;     the night will shine like the day,     for darkness is as light to you.  (Psalm 139) Time will pass; these mood will pass; and I will, eventually, be myself again. But then, at some unknown time, the electrifying carnival will come back into my mind. ― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness For some months, I've enjoyed [...]

Mixed States: Maniacal Despair2019-03-20T19:27:26-04:00

Bleeding Prayers

You have taken from me friend and neighbor; darkness is my closest friend. (Psalm 88:18)   When I am in the grip of depression, a weighty spirit pins me down to the bed. Some wonder why those of us with mental illness don’t just get up and go about our days. While this would certainly help, sometimes doing this is like running a four-minute mile with a broken leg. So what can we do when we trapped in a cave of despair? Pray? Hardly! We can do next to nothing. Only moan, alone, in misery. Yet, by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit translates our feeble groans into effective prayers. More than anyone, Jesus gets this. On the dark night before he was killed, he sweat prayers of blood. (see Luke 22:44) Then, the Holy Spirit transforms his sweat into strength. He is given the spiritual strength to endure suffering -- [...]

Bleeding Prayers2019-03-17T21:02:18-04:00

Why I Go to Church

{originally published on April 30, 2018}   When I was a pastor I had to go to worship every week. Not only was it expected, I got paid for it. Now that my livelihood is no longer dependent on weekly worship, why do I go at all? Why invest my time and money on something many have come to see as irrelevant to modern living? First, some context. Last Sunday morning I went to worship for the first time in a long while. I did not want to. I did not enjoy it. I do not remember anything but that I left my tithe check at home. Again. But I was there. And being there made all the difference in the world. I praised God within the body of believers. The lungs gave me breath. The feet helped me move. The Head helped me think. That night I wrote a [...]

Why I Go to Church2019-02-27T20:10:21-04:00

Anxious Affliction

Some months ago, I've became rather obsessed about anxiety. In "Moving Anxiety to Motivation," I explored how God's words "Don't be anxious about anything..." (Philippians 4.6) indicate more God's loving reassurance than God's wrathful scolding. Certainly, God wants us to be anxiety-free, but He knows the best way to reach this goal is not to scare anxiety out of us, but instead to be Present with us, neither taking pity on our predicament nor trying to cheer us up with false platitudes. One month about a year ago, I only left my basement apartment four times. For worship, and to pray with a brother in Christ. My hermitage existence hit me as I was putting clean clothes away. PJs. Underwear. Socks. That's it. Friends asked me what I do as I lie in bed all day. Mostly, it's less about what I do than what I avoid. I sleep. [...]

Anxious Affliction2019-02-20T21:50:39-04:00

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

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 Love2019-01-27T14:23:37-04:00

The Physician Inside: 3 Steps to Better Self-Care

Note: This was first published in the Spring of 2017. Much has changed. I have more reason than ever to maintain my well-being. My solitary self is now in a shared union with another. What God has joined together is our job to care for.   Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (1 Corinthians 6:19) As a competitive athlete, I diligently trained my body and "played through the pain," dismissing wounds I still face. As a student, I fiercely focused my mind on questions and concepts that helped me better understand who I am, but fell short of understanding how I fit in the world. As a pastor, I offered my best (and sometimes more) to meet people's needs, and became so obsessed with this, I ignored my own. Now, 54, launching new vocational [...]

The Physician Inside: 3 Steps to Better Self-Care2019-01-23T18:31:51-04:00

Good Work; God’s Work

In his book, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work, Timothy Keller quotes Robert Bellah from Habits of the Heart.  Bellah observes that modern "expressive individualism" eats away at the cohesiveness that ties us together as a people and makes our work meaningful and productive.  Something more is needed.  He writes -  To make a real difference [there would have to be] a reappropriation of the idea of vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one's own advancement. Reflecting on this, Keller identifies streams within the Christian Scriptures and particularly in his own Reformed Christian tradition.  One of these streams flows from Martin Luther.  Keller notes - The headwaters of Lutheran theology put special stress on the dignity of all work, observing that God cared for, fed, clothed, [...]

Good Work; God’s Work2019-01-20T19:44:12-04:00

How Can I Best Respond to Depression?

Originally published April 23, 2017: I had coffee and scones with a good friend the other morning. One thing I greatly value about our friendship is that we quickly dispense of pleasantries, moving right to prayer and the sharing what is deepest in our hearts. I told him that after a lengthy period of emotional and spiritual high, I had fallen into a depressive low. At my peak, I was spending as much as three hours a day in intensive prayer and Bible study. Lately, however, my time with God had become desperately pleading for some sustenance in a verse or phrase of Scripture – “Get up and eat,” “Jesus wept,” “God is love,” and the like. My friend, who has some close loved ones battling mental health issues, asked me a very sincere and poignant question, “How can I best respond to someone who is depressed?” I thought back [...]

How Can I Best Respond to Depression?2019-01-04T17:08:31-04:00

12 Blessings in 2018: Featured Posts to Encourage and Inspire

2018 began with modest expectations. It is ending with endless possibilities. Along the way, God has blessed me with new new opportunities, new friends, a new life partner. I still experience chaotic mood swings that require diligent treatment such as medication and therapy; but with a caring network of family and friends and a strong connection to Christ's body, my sanity is maintained and I can contribute to the common good. Most particularly I offer friendly counsel to those like me who have troubled minds by sharing the inspiration of God's word and the encouraging Way of Christ. Now that the year is winding down, I thought it would be good to look back at the journey. Below I have 12 featured posts (one/month) with a brief excerpt. The titles contain a link to the posts. I hope you will review these and enjoy reading through the blessings of 2018. [...]

12 Blessings in 2018: Featured Posts to Encourage and Inspire2018-12-30T15:38:54-04:00