Mental Health Ministry with a Faithful Friend

Something HUGE is happening for me this weekend and the only thing better than its magnitude is that my good friend will share it with me. This Saturday from 10:15 - 11 am I will be participating in a Zoom dialogue with my partner in mental health ministry, Eric Riddle. Eric and I first met in 2014, when an article about me and my first book came out in the local newspaper. Eric and I share similar diagnoses and also had experienced a measure of healing from both prayer and pills, worship and psychotherapy, Bible studies and support groups. We met weekly for nine months with no agenda but to walk around Eric's neighborhood, talk about what was in our hearts, and listen for God's guidance. Over that period we conceived of a faith-based mental health support group called Faithful Friends that has touched the lives of dozens of men [...]

Mental Health Ministry with a Faithful Friend2020-08-13T16:20:42-04:00

Seeking Inspiration, Breathing, and Tearing Up: The Labor Process of When Despair Meets Delight

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London. There have been periods in my life when I have written thousands of words each day. I've filled up journal after journal, written poems and devotional essays, letters, blog posts, whatever form I could find to express myself. These creative bursts feel so good. I mean SO good. They provide me a natural high where I feel euphoric. As Dad would say, "I don't feel any pain anywhere. Not in my hair. Not in my fingernails. Nowhere." It is quite beautiful and, while not always, I think the writing produced during these periods is likewise delightful. Then there are other times. Times when words are missing. Sentences are partial. For every paragraph that appears on the screen, I backspace over two. Tonight is one of those times. I don't want to write. But I've [...]

Seeking Inspiration, Breathing, and Tearing Up: The Labor Process of When Despair Meets Delight2020-07-27T20:49:55-04:00

Around the World in 80 Key Strokes: Writing as Global Mission

I have been more active on social media than ever before as I promote my book. While I worry of becoming grandiose by focusing on my own story, I am delighted at the friendships I am forming around the world with people who share the same passions about reaching out to those impacted by brain illnesses with the compassion of Christ and the consolation of the Holy Spirit. One friend I've recently made is Rosette. Rosette is from Uganda and is part of a faith community which takes seriously the call of Christ to engage in healing ministry. She shared a story of a woman with severe schizophrenia who had been left to flounder in isolation. Members of the church visited her, prayed with her, advocated for her to get and take the medication she needed. Now, while not cured, she functions fully in the life of the community. She [...]

Around the World in 80 Key Strokes: Writing as Global Mission2020-07-23T03:13:53-04:00

Delight in Disorder: Cultivating My First Book

I am going through a medication change at the moment. It is a slight "tweaking," but it makes me drowsy much of the time. It is difficult to concentrate and muster the muse for sustained creativity. I thought it best to recycle an older post. This once was written March 8, 2017. It was the first post published in this blog. I had 12 subscribers then. Now I have 449. My guess is that some of you haven't read this. For over twenty five years,  I have journeyed with this illness from manic (even psychotic) peaks to dark valleys of despair.  At both extremes, I have flirted with death—coming very close to ending my life and doing great damage to those around me.  For no apparent reason but the mercy of the Lord, God has kept me alive, saving me  from certain destruction. Yet, I have also found genuine delight in [...]

Delight in Disorder: Cultivating My First Book2020-06-21T20:40:10-04:00

What’s in a Name? A Serious Title Change to my Book.

As I approach the Eleventh hour toward submitting my book for publication, I am calling everything into question. The other night I recorded an audio version and found 33 changes I wanted to make. Then, my mind turned to the title.  When Despair Meets Delight: Stories to cultivate hope for those with serious mental illness. Does this best describe my mission and communicate my message? I had some doubts. Not about it all. It was just not quite right. And the part that wasn’t right was SERIOUS! What is a serious mental illness (SMI). I first found the term on the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) website. While the definition has been in flux of late, SMI tends to refer to those diagnoses which are typically most debilitating, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. But this is a very subjective scale and even the “experts” disagree on [...]

What’s in a Name? A Serious Title Change to my Book.2020-06-04T17:03:17-04:00

A Blessed Rejection

I am still manic, showing no signs of slowing down. It is delightful, but also exceedingly dangerous. Some studies suggest that each severe manic episode you experience in your lifetime robs you of functioning for the future. Chemical highs from the brain may do as much damage as those induce by substances consumed. It is possible that for hour I spend in exercising frenetic energy, I am limiting both the quantity and quality of my life. A good friend who battles bipolar herself reminded me of this today. Our exchange went something like this:   Tony: BJ, if you are interested in receiving a free e-newsletter about When Despair Meets Delight, simply reply with your email address. Thanks! BJ: Tony, I am not interested, and here is why: I am concerned about you. As much as I want you to succeed, I am concerned you are taking on too much. [...]

A Blessed Rejection2020-05-20T14:36:07-04:00

My Pandemic Prayer Journal

I have been keeping an pandemic prayer journal. Like everything in my life, it is irregular. Intermittent. It comes in fits and starts. But as I look back over my Facebook posts the past several weeks since COVID-19 hit home, I have a good record of my life in quarantine. I want to share some of this with you: April 3, 2020 When Hope is Hard to Come By I was sitting on my back deck, listening to “Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry. It is one of the best country songs ever written. Certainly one of the saddest. My wife came out and asked why I was listening to such miserable music. I said something happens when you set suffering to song that gives purpose to pain, adds rhyme and reason to what seem like pointless periods in our lives. These are hard times and it is essential [...]

My Pandemic Prayer Journal2020-04-13T19:48:38-04:00

Hope For Troubled Minds?

We saw a production of "The Diary of Anne Frank." It portrays two Jewish families and a dentist hiding in a Secret Annex to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany. If you haven't read the book, for God's sake, do so. In it young Anne (13 years old when her family moved to the Annex) details life in hiding with the ever present fear that they will be discovered and deported to a work camp. Or worse. Yet, Anne's diary is not at all a woeful depiction of man's humanity to man. It is a testimony to hope in the midst of terror. She particularly finds hope in writing --   “Unless you write yourself, you can’t know how wonderful it is; I always used to bemoan the fact that I couldn’t draw, but now I’m overjoyed that at least I can write. And if I don’t have the talent [...]

Hope For Troubled Minds?2020-02-16T20:50:43-05:00
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