I am ; even me.

I’m writing this on September 11, 2019. World Suicide Prevention Day. About an hour ago I read the tragic news about Pastor & Mental Health Advocate Jarrid Wilson, who died two days ago by suicide. Here is how Christianity Today described Wilson — His wife, Julianne Wilson posted a photo tribute of her husband on Instagram. The photo slideshow shows him fishing “in his happy place.” She described her husband as “loving, giving, kind-hearted, encouraging, handsome, hilarious.”... “Tragically, Jarred took his own life,” [          ] Eaton said. ”Over the years, I have found that people speak out about what they struggle with the most.”   I did not know Jarrid Wilson, but I know his story well. His story is the story of far too many persons who try so hard to care for others yet are unable to receive care for themselves; not so much out of stubborn [...]

I am ; even me.2019-09-11T12:07:27-04:00

Grandma’s Prayer: How Long?

I have little to say. The thought of composing a post from scratch seems insurmountable. But I don't want to give up. I know there are people who read my work looking for encouraging words. Not false hope, for sure, not even a hope that can be seen, but a hope that is rooted in the Good News of Christ:   The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1.5)   I do a lot of self-reflection here and there is a method in my madness. I have found working in mental health ministry that more people are willing to explore their own emotional struggles if you first share yours. But there is a great danger in this. You can get so caught up in musing on your misery that you bring others down rather than lift them up. I'm determined  not to do that. So, [...]

Grandma’s Prayer: How Long?2019-06-23T19:44:51-04:00

Is Depression ‘of God’? – Leanne Sype

In 2013, I partnered with Leanne Sype to begin the process that led to the publication of Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. I was thrilled with her work as editor, a crowdfunding consultant,a spiritual adviser, and friend. Here is some of her story. *** I have depression. It’s called “situational depression” because it was induced by the situation of both my kids being diagnosed with mental illnesses. My son has ADHD. My daughter has depression and anxiety, which, for her, include symptoms like self-harm and thoughts of wanting to die. Over the course of navigating treatments, advocating for academic accommodations, and engaging in the bulk of the emotional support for each kiddo, I felt depression slowly weigh down on my chest. *** I once had a Christian friend tell me that anything with the prefix de- isn’t “of God.” Depression fell into that category in our conversation. Whether that [...]

Is Depression ‘of God’? – Leanne Sype2019-05-15T20:07:09-04:00

Sharing Delight in Disorder

Since my book was published, I've not done much to get the word out. As a result, I haven't sold many copies. People who have read it tell me what a difference it has made in their lives, but I have not followed up on this and reached out to others. I have a hard time walking the fine line between bragging about myself and celebrating what God is doing in my life. Lately, I have come to accept the importance of the mission God has called me to carry out. There are so many people impacted by mental illness who are in desperate need of saving faith. As the body of Christ, it's our delightful duty to show compassion for hurting souls. The emotional anguish caused by brain diseases like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, is as real and agonizing as any bodily pain caused by a physical [...]

Sharing Delight in Disorder2019-04-02T18:17:15-04:00

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness

How could I serve in ministry with a serious mental illness? How could someone riding manic highs dipping to deadly lows promote stable growth for a congregation? How could I faithfully hear God's voice in the midst of competing voices within and around me? These questions stir my mind and stab my heart.   My mind says yes -- I served as a minister with bipolar for almost two decades, a good dozen of which were quite fruitful. My heart grieves that my illness progressed such that, in 2009, I stepped away from pastoral ministry for health reasons. The story I want to share here is not what led to my decline but what, by the grace of God and with the help of the church, has allowed me to serve in ministry with a serious mental illness.   Persistent Prayer Partners I fell into the pit of psychological despair [...]

Mixing Ministry with Mental Illness2019-03-10T21:18:29-04:00

Faith in the Midst of Fear: A Love Story

Over Labor Day weekend in 2018, I met the woman who would 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, not a slave subservient to me or a master who emasculates me. I am truly blessed. Susan and I have experienced the last six months as if they were sixty. It has been thrilling, delightful, full of joy and peace. Some we love and who know us best have expressed concern over how quickly our relationship has developed. We respect this. Yet, we have received God's confirmation each step [...]

Faith in the Midst of Fear: A Love Story2019-02-24T06:53:23-04:00

How We Talk When We Talk About Faith and Mental Illness

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” ― George Orwell, 1984 "... speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4.13) Language can build up. It can also tear down. Language can reveal truth or it can perpetuate lies. An inspired Word creates the world. A death-dealing sentence can go a long way to destroying it. When I studied for ministry, I became keenly aware of how language impacts people.  It was 1989, the year the  New Revised Standard Version of the Bible came out. This version, among other things, changed the male pronouns referring to humanity to more gender-neutral ones. It was quite awkward for me at first, but I got used to it and the more I studied the original languages and the evolution of the English language, I could appreciate why the changes were made. Yet, there are other [...]

How We Talk When We Talk About Faith and Mental Illness2018-12-12T17:55:27-04:00

Running from the bipolar that runs in me.

One of my readers recently  contacted me with a heart-wrenching life story. As much as I wanted her words to be unique to this one family, I was trapped by just how much they applied to me and so many other persons with bipolar disorder: "... my husband was diagnosed with bipolar four years ago, and was on medication. However, he decided to stop last summer (unbeknownst to anyone) and then, in the midst of a manic phase, left me and our family in November. He still professes Christ, but has filed for divorce and has accumulated $40,000 in debt. I have struggled with trusting him and anything he says, as you can imagine. Yet here, I see you are a man of faith, and some of the same issues have taken place in your life. As it stands now, this is in God's hands. God has been good [...]

Running from the bipolar that runs in me.2018-12-10T17:05:19-04:00

Praying When You Can’t Pray

A few weeks back, I surveyed my subscribers to ask what topics you would like to me address. I received this response from a woman I'll call "Miriam" --   Maybe could you write about tips for maintaining a prayer life and connection with God in the midst of a severe depression when all spiritual consciousness feels absent and motivation is non-existent due to the disorder.   Oh my, Miriam, we've been to some of the same miserable places. I suspect many of you reading this have as well. They say misery loves company. I say there is no better company for misery than a fellowship of faith. I'm typically not one to give advice, or tips. But I can share some stories from my experience and the experience of others I've known that might be an encouragement. When we have fallen into a pit of despair, sometimes it helps [...]

Praying When You Can’t Pray2018-11-18T21:20:19-04:00

What I Believe About Suicide

God is more just than I will ever be. And, God is more loving than I can ever imagine. For centuries it has been standard church doctrine that suicide is a shameful sin, deserving eternal punishment. Persons who took their own lives were restricted from church burials, families were ostracized, even excommunicated for fear this deadly infection would spread to the whole body. The teaching that suicide leads directly to hell is rooted not so much in Scripture as in a desire to deter someone who wants to end his life from doing so. Lately, with suicides of prominent church leaders and their family members, this teaching is being called into question. Most recently, Inland Hills Church put out this message: Inland Hills Church grieves with heavy hearts as our Lead Pastor Andrew Stoecklein was welcomed into Heaven on Saturday night after battling depression and anxiety. It’s not the outcome [...]

What I Believe About Suicide2018-09-16T05:48:09-04:00