In addition to writing for this blog, I write for such publications as Upper Room, These Days, and Stand Firm. Writing these devotionals is an exercise of faith for me and a way to connect with others hungry for the Word.
This month I was fortunate to have a series of devotions (“Our Unbelief; God’s Faithfulness”) published in the Aug/Sept/Oct issue of these days. They hit home for several persons — from a psychologist in Tempe, Arizona, to a retired minister in Bradenton, Florida, and many others.
Perhaps the most gratifying response came in the mail – letters from a homeless person with a Ph. D. in political science who had schizophrenia and had been living on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee until an hospitable congregation took him under their wings, found him housing, welcomed him into Bible Study and encourage him to become an advocate for the homeless.
I thank God for the connections I’ve made here at Delight in Disorder. My primary mission is to build bridges so people of faith can live with greater compassion for those with mental illness.
Here are three of my These Days devotions that are building such bridges and two of the responses I received —
But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:13b-14)
Sometimes I lay awake in bed all night replaying all the mistakes I’ve made — as a husband, a father, a pastor. I think of poor decisions, thoughtless actions, missed opportunities and it eats me up. Like the Apostle Paul, I find that the very things I want to have done, I haven’t and the things I most wanted to avoid, I have done. This self-criticism can be crippling and self-defeating. It causes a crisis of confidence and gets in the way of healthy relationships.
How do we forgive ourselves for past mistakes? Forgiveness is less an action we perform and more a gift we receive. God recognizes that we are limited creatures and offers us the grace of acceptance. We can be assured when we do the best we can with what we have and what we know that God will take care of the rest and equip us to grow in faith and love through Christ. Knowing the forgiving grace of God in our hearts and in our minds helps us forgive ourselves and others.
When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” (Luke 15.9)
In her book Exuberance: The Passion for Life (Vintage Books, 2004), Kay Redfield Jamison explores persons and figures who manage to maintain youthful enthusiasm well into their later years. From Teddy Roosevelt riding horses with his children in the White House to John Muir climbing giant sequoias in Yosemite, some have an uncanny ability to hold onto the spontaneous joy of childhood play.
Of all the divine qualities we attribute to God, exuberance is rarely at the top of the list. Yet God delights in us from the before we are knit together in our mother’s womb until after we are given new, spiritual bodies. God recognizes our value and celebrates with the heavenly beings when we come to God by grace.
Because God delights in us, we are able to delight in God. The Psalmist says “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37.4) We rejoice together with all creation, having been found worthy in the sight of the One who made us and declared us very good.
“For my people are foolish,
they do not know me;
they are stupid children,
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil,
but do not know how to do good.” (Jeremiah 4.22)
As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, I have learned the importance of regularly taking my medicine to maintain healthy emotional and behavioral balance. Does that mean I have always heeded this wisdom? Sadly, no. There was something about going against medical opinion that felt enticing. Whether it be with our health, our careers, our faith, or in any number of other areas, we are skilled at rebellion. We do what is not right and fail to do what is best.
There is a major difference between ignorance and foolishness. It is one thing to lack the information on which to make an informed decision and quite another to be given knowledge and fail to use it. God reveals in the Word made flesh in Christ and made clear in pages of Scripture what we need to do to live wisely and abundantly yet we persistently refuse to follow God’s guidance. We instead adamantly go our own way to the detriment of ourselves and others. God is patient with us, but is no doubt divinely disappointed when we insist on willful foolishness.
I am a psychologist, and I attend Desert Palm United Church of Christ in Tempe, Arizona. Our church is in the process of establishing a covenant as a WISE Congregation, which you may be familiar with. The goal is to help reduce the stigma of mental health among our members such that they can more openly discuss their own battles and receive support. Our WISE committee members, led by our pastor, Rev. Tom Martinez, read the book, Blessed are the Crazy, by Sarah Griffith Lund and we were galvanized.
I will order a copy of your book, Delight in Disorder, and share it with our committee members.
In peace, hope and love,
If you have felt moved by a reflection here in my blog, a chapter from my book, or a devotionals I’ve published, send me a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org (or simply hit the “contact” button in my website heading). Let’s keep the conversation going for the good of those with troubled minds.