Mental Illness or Demon Possession?

Let me make this clear. Mental illness is not demon possession. If you are a faith leader and someone asks you to exorcise a friend or family member, don't do it. What can you do instead? A good pastor friend of mine has shared with me a screening process to rule out lesser afflictions before one might consider a chronic diseased soul. Examine the environment. Take a particularly close look at the relationship dynamics of the person presented as the problem. Often families and other intimate groups target one member and poured all their disruptive thoughts and feelings into a scapegoat who responds with peculiar and sometimes even volatile behavior. It can be very difficult to examine the lives of those convinced they are only acting out of love. They may themselves become angry with you, even abusive. Be sure to tread lightly and have back up before you take [...]

Mental Illness or Demon Possession?2021-09-12T20:52:30-04:00

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 Pray2021-08-25T18:48:46-04:00

“We’re going to be okay.”

One of the labels for the mental illness I have is bipolar disorder 1, rapid cycler. This means that my mood state constantly changes. I often go from abject despair to supreme elevation, and back again in less than the time it takes to complete a sentence. It is exhausting. It's like running a marathon at a sprinter's pace, with no water stations to rest. The body can't take this for long, much less the mind and spirit. The challenges we have faced in 2020 have tried the souls of many, even those with no mental health diagnosis. Added to this the death of both my parents and it is little wonder that the First Quarter of 2021 has hit me like a horrendous hangover. But there is hope. Even when circumstances around us seem bleak, there is a glimmer of hope. As a follower of Christ, I celebrate this [...]

“We’re going to be okay.”2021-04-04T20:10:37-04:00

Prayers Answered and Unanswered: Yes? No? Wait?

At age 55, my father-in-law was diagnosed with an advanced stage of colon cancer. He received an aggressive round of chemotherapy. Inexplicably, he went into a coma. We recruited prayer warriors throughout the country. In just a few weeks, one of his medical interns happened to read a case study that perfectly fit my father-in-laws profile. They adapted his treatment. He returned to full function. He is now 85 and enjoying life to its fullest. Prayers answered, "Yes." Some time ago, my (then) wife and I separated after 20 years of marriage. I desperately wanted to reconcile. I sought intensive counseling for over a year.  I met with church elders and deacons. I prayed. My family prayed. My friends prayed. My church prayed. After 5 years, it became clear marriage reconciliation would not happen and we got a divorce. Prayers answered, "No." I served in pastoral ministry for twenty years [...]

Prayers Answered and Unanswered: Yes? No? Wait?2020-10-25T06:42:56-04:00

What comes after When Despair Meets Delight? — Next Steps.

I’m been on quasi-sabbatical, letting go of some of my busyness to make room for God’s business in my life and ministry. For over a year now, my time has been consumed by my When Despair Meets Delight book and, while there are still things to do to “get it out there,” my mind can now mostly pivot to my next book, my next project, my next dream to pursue. It has been said of writers that there is nothing more terrifying than a blank page. Starting over is daunting for anyone, particularly when it seems we are starting from scratch. We can fool ourselves into believing we have to magically discover the one right thing to do out of an infinite number of wrong choices. This is the Enemy’s convincing lie designed to paralyze us from faithful action. I am devoting this season of transition to discerning prayer. I’m [...]

What comes after When Despair Meets Delight? — Next Steps.2020-10-18T22:04:10-04:00

How Our Thorns Make Us Better, Revisited by Lamar Hardwick

The following post was first posted on September 2, 2020. I am republishing now because there has been a significant development in the life of the author. Lamar has been diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. He is taking an indefinite sabbatical to pursue treatment. This will no doubt change his life in many ways, but he is facing it with the same courage for which he is known. Lamar has been posting prayers for strength to rally his "fight club" as he faces this battle. This one is from yesterday -- Good morning fight club. It’s another great day to fight! Pray this with me “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but [...]

How Our Thorns Make Us Better, Revisited by Lamar Hardwick2020-10-12T03:39:40-04:00

Thus Sayeth the Lord: How do we hear God speak?

Some time ago Sharon Rawlette, one of my regular readers posed a fascinating question that has inspired this post. In essence, she asks, how can we discriminate between “true” voice of God from “false” ones? This question gets to the heart of how God speaks to us as well as how the Enemy tries to keep us from hearing. First, look at what it says in Hebrews: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed to be heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2) Jesus is the Word of God spoken at creation, made flesh in his miraculous birth, demonstrated in his compassionate ministry, redeemed in his sacrificial death, enlivened by his resurrection, and delegated to the Holy Spirit after [...]

Thus Sayeth the Lord: How do we hear God speak?2020-09-30T22:19:33-04:00

Being Transparent: A cost/benefit analysis.

The first person to call me transparent was a spiritual counselor I sought out when I was having a crisis of faith. I didn’t take it as a compliment. I had just bared my soul, laying out my struggles with bipolar, a troublesome marriage, conflict in my church. He watched me with an expression of concern and bewilderment. Then he smiled and said, “You are SO transparent.” He might have been affirming me, but this isn’t how it felt. It felt like a put-down. Like I was too childish to contain my emotions. I wished I could take it back. But it was out there. One of the costs of transparency. Fast forward to today. I was sitting out on the deck with my wife talking about writing a blog post. I mentioned I was weary of promoting my book and feared my readers were as well. She said I [...]

Being Transparent: A cost/benefit analysis.2020-09-26T21:28:09-04:00

The ACTS of a Balanced Prayer Life

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1.2-3) “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” ― Søren Kierkegaard Typically, we think of prayer in the sense of asking God to do something beneficial for us or others. Forgive. Guide. Provide. Heal. All these are crucial components to a balanced prayer life, but if we focus only on what we want from God, we will lose sight of all that God is and who we are in relation to God. When I first became a Christian, a friend taught me a simple method of prayer I have carried with me to this day. I don't always follow the [...]

The ACTS of a Balanced Prayer Life2020-08-26T20:50:05-04:00

Leaning on My Tribe: An Appeal for Prayer

Yesterday, I published this blog post about the “mixed state” I’m now experiencing. Immediately, encouraging words and uplifting prayers came pouring in. For this, I am very grateful. Knowing I am not alone in this battle gives me more confidence to endure. But the attacks remain fierce. On my morning walk today, voices were yelling at me all the things I’ve done wrong in the past and how I am bound to fail in the future. It is not a coincidence that the Adversary is advancing the war as my ministry grows stronger. One of my readers, Paul M., suggested I appeal to my friends and readers to engage in collective prayer for me as I walk through this valley. So, I am doing just that. I would appreciate your hopeful thoughts, encouraging words, and, particularly your uplifting prayers. I need your prayerful support. I believe God hears the prayers [...]

Leaning on My Tribe: An Appeal for Prayer2020-06-18T15:37:41-04:00
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