Man on Fire

man-on-fireOne morning in January 1984 I set myself on fire. I was in my cabin up on the ridge and I was trying to build a fire. Alaska can be a cold place. I had also started a coffee pot and because it was so cold I opened up the oven door a couple of inches to get some heat.

The oven started getting the place warm, and I gratefully backed up my butt to it. That is when it happened. My sweater ignited from the front burner. At first I didn’t realize that I was on fire, but when the flames started spreading over my head I panicked.

I couldn’t put it out! I dropped to the floor and tried to roll. All that seemed to do is embed that burning sweater into my back, and set the carpet on fire. I ran to the bathroom with the idea of getting under the shower. Somehow I knew that was my only hope.

Needless to say I ended up in the local hospital with second and third degree burns on most of my back. It took months to recover and I still have the scars. It was something that changed my life.

Ironically, I had been thinking of a verse in Hebrews just the night before. I wondered what it meant.

He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.”

Hebrews 1:7

 As I healed I prayed for understanding. Why did the Lord allow this to me? I was in my third year at a Bible college and had given my life over for the Gospel. Why did this happen to me?

I’ve never gotten a complete answer from the Lord, but it did confirm my call into the ministry. It also made me aware of the precariousness of our lives. It taught me to appreciate life.

The doctor told me that if I had run outside instead of staying inside I could have died. God preserved me for His own purposes. We have no way of knowing “our time.”

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28


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Dangerous Thinking


Anne Lamott is a writer and a person who understands mental illness and ‘recovery’ issues.

She is also a ‘brokenbeliever’. I have read several of her books; she writes elegantly on faith and discipleship. She is a rare jewel. She writes carefully and creatively.

Coming across this quote was fortuitous for me, to say the least. This quotation effectively captures a somewhat dangerous mind that prevails among mentally ill people. We should come to the realization that our thinking needs to be ‘supervised.’ I must concur.

I can be patently ‘unsafe’. My thinking will often get distorted. I can get pretty strange at times. The ‘nice people’ who know me first-hand call me ‘eccentric.’ The ‘mean people’ outright ostracize me. Delusions blow through me periodically, with the occasional flare up episode of paranoia. The doctors call this Bipolar disorder.

Like Anne Lamott, I am a Christian believer. But my mind twists things up so much, I must regard it as an enemy. It can be capable of good; but dark things grow there as well. I have given up hope of ever navigating it alone safely. I simply cannot trust it. Mine can be capricious, untrustworthy, and unreliable. I know what it is like to be afraid of your own mind.

“Who is this coming up from the wilderness
    leaning on her beloved?”

Song of Solomon 8:5, NIV

However, if I venture into this steaming fetid jungle, with the Holy Spirit firmly in charge, we can navigate through safely. (But I dare not venture in alone, as things can get ‘scary.’) The Spirit is completely trustworthy and He is always faithful. No matter what I discover, I really try to let Him tell me if the ‘coast is clear.’ Together, we have seen some crazy crap, but He never ever ‘freaks out’ and leaves me alone.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

John 16:13

Dear afflicted one, don’t venture in alone. Look only to Him. He is ready (up on tip-toes!) to be your guide. You don’t have to muscle through the ‘jungle’ all by yourself. Remember that there are others who can help: a spouse, a pastor, or anyone who understands what you’re up against. Only you can know what your mind is doing, but others can help you.

When you find yourself lost in your wilderness, “lean on your beloved.”


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P.S. Anne Lamott has some very readable books out there. Check her out.


The Church Triumphant

A church as a hospital during WW1
“The church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in. It is not a palace with gate attendants and challenging sentinels along the entrance-ways holding off at arm’s-length the stranger, but rather a hospital where the broken-hearted may be healed, and where all the weary and troubled may find rest and take counsel together.” 

James H. Aughey

I have heard of a hospital in England that gives a loaf of bread to everyone who asks. This tradition has been going on for over 800 years. The hungry are fed at St. Cross Hospital by just knocking at a door. This hospital takes ministry very seriously.

Jesus Christ so loves sinners that He gives to all who come to Him. Hungry sinners have to do is knock. But there is more than this. He provides a bath to all who are filthy. A wardrobe to cover up any nakedness. A bed to everyone who is weary and sad, for the Gospel meets every spiritual need.

I like to think that there is room for the mentally ill at Jesus’ hospital. A safe place for those who are exhausted by their battles, a room where Jesus can bless those who are afflicted. I believe there is such a place. For my own soul has been comforted by Him.

The Church carries on the ministry— it’s a St. Cross Hospital— for the immense needs of human beings. The sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve can find salvation and comfort from a world that intends only to destroy. Furthermore we now represent Jesus to a desperate world. We become Christ-like for this reason. The Church triumphs during times like this.

The poor and needy– the sick, the lame, the mentally ill, the prisoner, the addict are the Church’s glory. This little group of rag-tag disciples are responsible for the care of the lost. We just need to figure out how we can reach them. The Holy Spirit will help us.

The World is watching us. We welcome this, for we are the salt and light lifted up so all can see. We were born to serve.

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Matthew 5:13-14

We dare not remove and nullify our mission. When we do so we become nothing more than another institution that is trying hard to secure a place in this world, Our distinctiveness is “blood bought” and our mandate is to be  “the Salt and Light” in this dark place. It is our sure calling. It is the Father’s will. We will be the Church triumphant.


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Finding New Ways to Love


“…and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,”

1 Thessalonians 3:12, ESV

As you mature as a Christian believer you may feel “stalled” by an attained growth. You might feel you’ve finally arrived. And in a sense you have. You have finally worked through a few issues, and although you know your not quite perfect, you feel like things are starting to “click.”

Many times when we finally get to this point, you realize there just has to be something. But you really don’t want to go back and yet this can be a season of complacency. This can be a dangerous time. It’s good to be on guard against the “doldrums of discipleship.”

Serving others can help you work through this curious time. You will find a lot of health in this, it also takes the focus off of self which is a great thing. Since I struggle with depression at times I find myself looking beyond my issues. I focus on someone else. Instead of becoming absorbed in myself, I redirect my vision to serving the Lord by serving another.

“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

Mother Teresa

I’m discovering new ways to love. People I never dreamed of are crossing my path.  As a Christian, I’m called to reach “all that the Father gives me.” The day should (and is) filled with “divine appointments” which my Father desires for me to keep. This won’t make me more “spiritual,” only more available.

We are meant to keep on, “increasing and abounding in love.”

To keep this increase we must continually look for news ways to love. Jesus had this when He saw the 5000. He questioned His disciples to see what they had. The managed to scrap up “five loaves and two fishes” hardly worth mentioning (Matt. 14:16-18). But Jesus had plans for this meager beginning.

Sometimes we stall in our discipleship. We think what we have is too little, or, we don’t see the need of the crowds. Either or both. We limit God’s kingdom by our lack of responsiveness. The Holy Spirit is asking us to “increase and abound.”

Always find new ways to be fruitful. Don’t hinder yourself until you think you’re ready. Look and perceive the appointments of the Lord. Make yourself available and anticipate chances He brings your way. If you’re limited, that’s ok too. He will gracefully multiply what you do have, just like “the loaves and fishes.” :-)


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Discernment for Dummies

discernment “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.”

Hebrews 5:14, NASB

“The first point of wisdom is to discern that which is false; the second, to know that which is true.”

Lucius Caelius Lactantius


Defined, discernment is the ability to perceive reality as it really is. It is a difficult quality for mentally ill people to have. We tumble through this world with wrong perceptions. We deal with issues like delusions and paranoia. Some of us are tangled up with derealization/depersonalization. We question the “realness” of our reality.

Discernment is being in a right relationship with truth.

One of my prayers has been, “Lord, let it be the real me who encounters the real you.” I’m belly-full of pretense and posturing. I know I have this strange tendency to deceive myself. I don’t know when I’m getting screwy.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

John 16:13, NIV

The Holy Spirit leads me into what is true and valid. I can trust Him to interface and interpret for me what is real and what is authentic. That is His ministry. That is what He does,  I can trust Jesus’ referral.

There are many ways that God gives to help me discern. These are the things the Spirit uses:

  • the Bible
  • personal desires, hopes, and inclinations
  • circumstances
  • solid counsel from the mature
  • common sense
  • past results and experiences
  • “gut” impression
  • supernatural leadings (dreams, visions, audibly)

True discernment comes in the objective reality of the Bible. This book wants to direct and guide me like no other. It stands as the trustworthy  director in a world of competing voices. It directs me through all of the din. I must read God’s Word to  walk in His truth.

Discerning the realness of reality once was the easy attribute of Adam. After the Fall, we (human beings) lost this ability. We currently struggle with the inability to see truth. We’re regaining this through the Spirit. Thank God we’re being transformed and renewed with this new ability. Faith is the adventure we now get to operate in.

“Faith is the divine evidence whereby the spiritual man discerneth God, and the things of God.”

John Wesley


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Nothing! Romans 8:38, Revisualized

Just a gentle reminder from one of the greatest truths ever written for the hearts of men. I’m sure you have either read it or heard it many times. Here, in this artwork you can see it. I hope that this approach will help you receive this truth by faith. It helped me!


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A Life for a Life


We must decide upon some things. This is not easy theology. It calls us to take decisive action.

The idea of Jesus dying on the cross for my sin is brutal. I’m left with the idea that I contributed to His death. But my sin had to be covered, and alas, and He did so. But I can never repay God for the drastic measures He took. But I do know that my life is now His. His for mine.

In many cultures it is a life for a life. Some people groups believe that the person who saves another person is owed a “life debt” out of gratitude. I become His “property” because He died in my place. A life for a life. His for mine.

There are sins that I commit that He must pay for. This is not as easy as you might think; I confess my sin, and Jesus Christ picks it up. He has chosen to pay every and all penalties for it. I go “scot-free” while He must die. This is what He decided to do for me. A life for a life.

The cross was not just a Roman method of execution. It was planned in eternity for the rebellion of mankind. It was God’s “method.” He knew those “from the foundation of the world” but had to find a way to atone for their sin, and redeem them from Satan’s control. He must die for them. And it’s a life for a life. His for mine.

I’ve been “ransomed” and redeemed. His death gives me eternal life– something which can ever be taken away. His own death makes me “holy.” The Bible promises me even more than this: forgiveness, peace, joy and “real” holiness. He has done everything, I have done nothing except believe. His life for mine. A life for a life.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Romans 11:33, ESV


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