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+00:00

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+00:00

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+00:00

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+00:00

Choosing Life Over Death

I've been asked to share my story with a youth group next week. Like many teens, they are facing intense issues. More than just what sport to play, who to ask out on a date, what college to choose. No, much more than this, they are asking life and death questions like: how can I cope with this pain, who can I turn to for help, why live. When I was in high school, I had much to live for, or so it seemed. I was a top scholar-athlete. I was in theater, student government, publications. One would think I didn't have a care in the world. But inside I was festering with despair. At high school, I read a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson called, "Richard Cory." It begins, Whenever Richard Cory went down town, We people on the pavement looked at him: He was a gentleman from sole [...]

Choosing Life Over Death2018-09-13T08:02:51+00:00

Ironic Iconoclasm: Healthy, Holy Humor

Some time ago, I was asked this question: In two words or less, how would you describe your sense of humor? The first two words that came to my mind were - "Ironic Iconoclasm". Then I wondered, "What does that mean?" This post is my effort to answer that question. First, irony comes in various forms.  I like how this on-line dictionary defines one aspect of irony - a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other's false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning —called also Socratic irony. I've learned this form of irony not so much from the classic Greek philosopher Socrates as from my self-proclaimed Kentuckian father Veston.  When Dad wants to catch someone off-guard with a thought provoking question, he begins with - Now, I only have a sixth-grade education, so you'll have to help me understand this... Dad is actually [...]

Ironic Iconoclasm: Healthy, Holy Humor2018-09-03T20:55:08+00:00

Flight Risk

July 9, 2018, 6:30 a.m. Indianapolis airport... I sit in a cafe sipping mediocre coffee to cap off a $20 breakfast. It’s a price I’m willing to pay for the peace of mind to be at the gate several hours early to collect myself. December, 1983 to Kansas City... I become jazzed for Jesus at a New Year's Eve prayer party sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. I return and discover all my possessions had been taken from my apartment. I spend the night at a local IHOP, witnessing to the waitress. For a tip, I leave two quarters and a tract, all I have left to give. March, 1988 to Boston... I visit a woman I met on a mission farm in Georgia. I spend the days reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the nights belittling her for being an upper-class liberal. October, 1992 to San Francisco... I travel [...]

Flight Risk2018-07-10T21:29:30+00:00

Revealing Voices: The First 10 Episodes

One of my social media friends, Cat Lyons, asked me if Revealing Voices is still running. It is. This faith-based, peer-led, story-driven, stigma-breaking podcast is now 10 episodes strong. All these episodes can be accessed through our website: Revealing Voices {dot} com.   Here you will find a diverse collection of voices from people on the front-lines of faith & mental illness. Nurses. Pastors. Writers. Activists. Therapists. Advocates, and others. For a taste, here are the episode titles (with links) and show notes. Episode 1: "Faithful Family": Jen Riddle (Eric's wife) & April Cohen (my sister) discuss what drew them into their spiritual and healing professions. April shares what it is like to care for an adult brother who has bipolar disorder, and Jen reveals how she and Eric navigate a relationship with a mental health diagnosis. Episode 2: "Amy Simpson is Unsatisfied": Amy is an author, speaker, and life & leadership [...]

Revealing Voices: The First 10 Episodes2018-07-09T01:59:09+00:00

Why I Don’t Go to Church

46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2.46-47) Inspired by the Holy Spirit, early Christians were on fire. They worshiped daily, shared meals bountifully, praised God delightfully, and built a reputation for loving each other and others with precious passion and compassion. They were filled with a spiritual fervor that knew no end. +          +          + I have had such spiritual fervor. What has happened to my faith? I went to church this morning, the first time in a long while. For various reasons, I have been absent from the pews much of the year. I have many excellent explanations, but no good excuses. My [...]

Why I Don’t Go to Church2018-04-22T19:43:37+00:00

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 [...]

Is Depression ‘of God’? – Leanne Sype2018-02-14T17:16:05+00:00