Thank God for Pills and Prayer by Paul Monson

Every day I like to say, “Thank God for drugs!”  I don’t mean the kind that make you high or get you stoned. I’m referring to the medical kind that make you well.  You see, I suffer from Parkinson’s Disease and I take drugs every day. They help control my shaking, enable me to speak and to swallow, and type the words you now read.  Without them, I couldn’t function well enough to hold down a job. I’d be collecting disability. With them, I continue to work in full time ministry. This isn’t theory or conjecture for me.  I know from personal experience how medications directly impact my quality of life, so I thank God for them.    This is also why I see the need for the mentally ill to take medication.  If a medication helps control a bipolar person’s severe mood swings or keeps a schizophrenic in touch [...]

Thank God for Pills and Prayer by Paul Monson2019-10-30T17:41:18-05:00

Even in the chaos, there is encouragement.

I find delight when I write. More delight when people read what I write. And even more when readers respond to what I write. But I am perhaps most delighted when someone is moved in such a way by my work that they offer me an encouraging word or, one that challenges me to do better. Like this from a reader named Bev:   Tony,  I understand the focus of your email is mental illness.  However, it seems that examining your mental illness and dwelling on it makes it more intense.  I suffer from anxiety, and yet, I know that if I were to spend too much time thinking of it, it would be worse.  There are so many ways to become and stay stable that I don't want to spend time irritating a wound.  Today the sky is so lovely, and I will dwell on the good and the [...]

Even in the chaos, there is encouragement.2019-08-14T21:29:19-05:00

Purposeful Prayer with the Armor of God

About 20 minutes into my 3-hour emotional collapse last Friday night, I told my wife Susan there was more going on than just a disturbance of brain chemicals. The root cause of my uncontrollable crying session is spiritual. God is working in my life and ministry and this puts me at greater risk of Enemy attack. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis — Satan doesn’t need to go after his own, but those who seek to follow Christ. Susan listened prayerfully and suggested I focus on the “Armor of God” passage in my devotional time. It is found in Ephesians 6:11-20 and it goes like this:   Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, [...]

Purposeful Prayer with the Armor of God2019-07-10T22:22:24-05:00

Enemies Sprouting Like Mushrooms

In The Message, Eugene Peterson calls Psalm 3 – “A David Psalm, when he escaped for his life from Absalom, his Son.” The words that follow reveal a hunted poet king, surrounded and scared. God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms, Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery: “Hah! No help for him from God!” (vv. 1-2) David sees no escape from sure defeat, certain death. This does not keep him from crying out to God – in fact, it motivates him all the more to do so. He lifts up to God the torturing taunts of his enemies and then reminds himself just Who it is he’s talking to – But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high; With all my might I shout up to God; His answers thunder from the holy mountain. (vv. 3-4) [...]

Enemies Sprouting Like Mushrooms2019-04-12T21:29:31-05:00

Bleeding Prayers

You have taken from me friend and neighbor; darkness is my closest friend. (Psalm 88:18)   When I am in the grip of depression, a weighty spirit pins me down to the bed. Some wonder why those of us with mental illness don’t just get up and go about our days. While this would certainly help, sometimes doing this is like running a four-minute mile with a broken leg. So what can we do when we trapped in a cave of despair? Pray? Hardly! We can do next to nothing. Only moan, alone, in misery. Yet, by God’s grace, the Holy Spirit translates our feeble groans into effective prayers. More than anyone, Jesus gets this. On the dark night before he was killed, he sweat prayers of blood. (see Luke 22:44) Then, the Holy Spirit transforms his sweat into strength. He is given the spiritual strength to endure suffering -- [...]

Bleeding Prayers2019-03-17T21:02:18-05:00

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6.2) One thing I am discovering this year is what a wonderful thing is to share burdens with someone you love so dearly. Since I have been with my wife Susan, we have faced many challenges and experienced many blessings. Our marriage vows: sickness/health; plenty/want; joy/sorrow, have certainly been tested and tried true. I have never been so confident as I am now that our love will survive and that this love is from God and will extend to all God's people. Labor Day, the day before I first spoke to Susan, I had two auto accidents. Yes, two. First, a deer hit me. That's right. I did not hit the deer. She hit me. It was a massive wallop, but I could still drive. So, I reported it and kept going. About 4 hours [...]

Bearing One Another’s Burdens2019-02-06T22:24:08-05:00

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 Pray2018-11-18T21:20:19-05:00

What If My Pastor Has a Mental Illness?

Last week, I invited readers to submit questions about faith and mental illness. My intent is not so much to give advice, as to share portions of my own story that could be helpful. One reader sent me a question about what to do when your pastor is displaying symptoms that could indicate a mental illness. After praying about it a good bit and revising draft after draft to sift out personal opinion, this is what I wrote: I began to exhibit symptoms of mania and depression when I entered pastoral ministry at the age of 26. I would thrust myself into work for hours upon hours, sometimes days and days. Then I would crash and get out of bed only for the bare essentials. I don't know precisely how this impacted my congregants because no one talked with me about it. I suspected they talked about me instead of [...]

What If My Pastor Has a Mental Illness?2018-10-28T15:23:10-05:00

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 Life2018-08-27T20:14:47-05:00

A Church With No Walls

This has been a particularly good week to be part of a faith family that cares and shares. Last weekend, my prayer partner contacted me about how I was coming along in a terribly difficult family conflict. We prayed for each other as brothers in Christ. This week, an elder followed up to ask if I needed any financial assistance. I told him I was holding up so far, but that the offer was a huge show of support. Yesterday, my pastor and his family showed up at an author fair I was featured in. Their smiles made my whole day. Today, a man came up to me to tell me how much he appreciated my article in the local newspaper. Yes, it has been a particularly good week to be a receiving and contributing member of my faith family. A healthy, holy church includes all God's children both by [...]

A Church With No Walls2018-07-22T20:29:43-05:00