Of A Sound Mind, [Healthy & Sane]

 

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“A sound mind.” For some of us that doesn’t seem remotely possible. Over the years we personally have reason to believe this is not real. As mentally ill people we seem to think that we can’t be this way. We think that maybe this applies to normal people, and certainly not me (2 Tim. 1:7).

But it is a gift. That’s important to note. (Just as eternal life is a gift.) I can’t earn it; nor can I generate it up. It must be simply acknowledged and received as a bonus for being a sinner who believes. Sanity is not a fixed condition, but rather a definite process we make. Some of us maybe healthier than others. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are told that our amazing salvation (!) includes:

  • an amazing love,
  • incredible power,
  • and a sound (healthy) mind.

These three are a gift from God. You don’t buy a gift, nor do you earn it. Rather it comes from someone who loves you (!) and only wants to bless. We may have issues, but the Spirit is sound and lucid.

The healthy mind is a mind without any sick or crippling deficiencies. It is a mind that is vigorous and robust. For those of us who struggle with a mental illness this is astonishingly good news. And it may very well be that you are impaired; but even then you’re given a strength.

My own experience is that the Holy Spirit is working, with my meds, to ‘hold me’ in a good place. Just as a diabetic must take insulin, so I need to take my antidepressant. The brain is an organ that can get sick also. We live in a fallen and broken world.

Grace does heal many, but some of us find ‘weakness’ becoming our real strength.

The very presence of the Holy Spirit is what enables. Broken believers are coming to see that their illnesses are helping them to be weak enough for God to use. “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.” 2 Cor. 3:5, NLT

Some thoughts that have helped me out:

“Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives.“ 

— Michael Yaconelli

bizen-kintsukuroi-tea-cup-1 (1)“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold [‘kintsukuroi’]. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

–Barbara Bloom

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Are There Benefits to Being Bipolar?

Bipolar people can be different

Originally Published on July 20, 2010 in “Psychology Today”

Let me start by acknowledging what is well known: Manic Depression or Bipolar disorder can be a devastating illness. Affecting at least 1% of the population, it can, untreated, result in suicide, ruined careers and devastated families. Bipolar disorder is often accompanied by alcohol and drug abuse and addiction, criminal and even violent behavior. I acknowledge this, because I do not want to make light of the burden this illness places on people’s lives, their families and communities.

On the other hand, the history of the world has been influenced very significantly by people with manic depression (see website www.wholepsychiatry.com for details).They include:

“It seems clear that for at least some people with Bipolar disorder, there is an increased sense of spirituality, creativity, and accomplishment. It may be that having bipolar disorder holds great potential, if one is able to master or effectively channel the energies, which are periodically available, to some higher task. This would of course presume the ability to abstain from harmful drugs and alcohol, to have good character, and at least some supportive relationships and community networks.”
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 It might be helpful to consider a reconceptualization. Perhaps instead of it being a disorder, we can think of people with bipolarity as having access to unusual potency. This potency will find a way to be outstanding-either in a destructive way, or in a constructive way. If such a choice is presented to the person, perhaps it can open some doors.
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Originally Published on July 20, 2010 in “Psychology Today”

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them”

Romans 8:28, nlt

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Sourcehttp://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/health-matters/201007/are-there-benefits-having-bipolar-disorder

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Almost Holy, [Almost]

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“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”

Romans 7:18-20, NLT

I hesitate to tell you this, but I have not found any secrets to becoming a holy person.

To be sure, I wish I figured this out. I would very much like to come to you with the secret formula. Sometimes I want to just make things up, just to alleviate your trials and strivings. I would easily latch on this idea of a “magic wand.” I think it would be good; and maybe not.

But the authentic Christian life is hardly formulaic. It seems to defy any attempt to explain, and then guide anyone else into that special place of true obedience or holiness. I’m supposing that you are just like me. I truly want to be right. I would love to be holy. But it ain’t happening. I always seem to end up back in the place I started from. Always, defeat and simple failure. Rats!

I’ve always been mystified by the conundrum of Romans 7. I really want 8, but I’ll settle for 6. Romans 7 has been in limbo for a very long time. I don’t really know what to do with it. (I honestly avoid it, after all chapter 8 is so good!) But way deep down, I have a real strong sense I’m missing something very important.

I suppose it might be compared to making a really good ‘discipleship smoothie.’ Of course we must add to our blender Rom. 8. And many would add Rom. 6. However, a lot of us would hesitate to include Rom. 7, we’re not really sure why. Quite a few commentaries also hesitate. Many good teachers and preachers regard chapter 7 as parenthetical. They suggest that Paul is describing his life before coming to Christ, and certainly not in a ‘present-tense’ discipleship.

When I look at the Gospels, I see, across the board that those– the healed, forgiven, cleansed and made whole were always the desperate. They have nothing, they bring nothing– they meet no requirement, but pure poverty. They are the “zeroes.” (Maybe– even the negative numbers?)

I don’t believe, at this point anyway, that there is a singular principle of sanctification. Perhaps we can truly do nothing in precise alignment. There is no such thing as a “microwavable discipleship,” and no real instant breakfasts. We truly come with a desperate faith– and we will end up with just a desperate faith. This should be incredibly humbling to us all. It takes a long time to learn humility it seems.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am!”

Romans 7:21-24, NLT

Please (someone?– anyone?!) challenge me on this. I tell you, chapter 7 chafes, and then “disrupts” me. Will I always be so misaligned and “out-of-step?” Or am I just a lousy excuse for a Christian disciple? If I’m out of line and screwed up; please let me know. But whatever dear one, don’t give up– “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (John 6:68.)

_______

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”

–Mike Yaconelli

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

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Real Prayer for “Real” People

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“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

Psalm 145:18

I don’t want to pretend anymore. It’s been a little more than six months ago since I prayed this simple prayer: “Lord, may it be the real me who comes to the real you.”

‘Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.’

Psalm 25:5

I have never had a prayer answered so quickly. I moved from delusion and darkness into truth and light in a brief moment. Thirty years of “christian living” had left me a little befuddled, and I was no longer possessed a vibrant faith. What it t seemed was I was worn and tired, and perhaps even disillusioned. I guess I had absorbed a lot of lies. I started to walk carelessly, as if my faith didn’t really matter anymore.

“Lord, may it be the real me who comes to the real you.” This prayer– (more like a heart’s “scream”)– came out of nowhere. As I started to pray I felt a tearing of something inside me, like when the veil was rent in the temple, just like when Jesus died. A desperate cry for truth wrapped itself around my heart. I furiously began to reach for God. I knew I hit something.

I wanted his truth, and no more theology about him. I sought his doctrine well, but not his face. I wanted the real Bryan to come in fellowship with God, and no more masquerades. No more silly pretense. Just the real me, meeting the real God. In a short time things were broken and dislodged within me; years of complacency and cynicism were uprooted. It was kind of like a flash flood in a desert ravine.

Thomas Merton carried this prayer inside him. It should bless:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am  going
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

–Thomas Merton

You must find your own; locate your heart’s cry. Vocalize that with the Holy Spirits direction. Merton’s prayer can become an example of an almost brutal honesty, but it has to become from your own heart. David’s prayers in Psalms can fuel your search.

Where I found truth, there found I my God, who is the truth itself.”

    Augustine

I want to encourage you, but you may have to “shut down the circus.” You must get honest for the truth is waiting,

“Lord, may it be the real me who comes to the real you.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.”

Psalm 86:11

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Jesus, the Romancer of the Church

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.'”

John 3:16-17, New Living Translation

What if I told you that the universe was built for a romance?  Undoubtedly historians and psychiatrists would find that objectionable.  We may not understand life as clearly as we could, but it sure is not a passionate romance, or is it? But could it be a plausible reason for existence? 

I’ve been reading the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon the last few weeks and have thinking a lot about this very intense allegory between a shepherdess and her lover.

It is full of passion and of public declarations of love and desire.  A dialogue is developed, and truths are volleyed back and forth from character to character.

“Kiss me and kiss me again,
    for your love is sweeter than wine.
3 How fragrant your cologne;
    your name is like its spreading fragrance.
    No wonder all the young women love you!
4 Take me with you; come, let’s run!
    The king has brought me into his bedroom.”

Songs 1:2-4

Scripture as a whole leads us to believe that romance is much more substantial then we dreamed it could be.  But if we can, we should visualize Jesus’ love for us as being his motivation for doing what he has done, and is doing.  Love is what keeps him from letting us go!

There are dozens of scriptures that declare a heated love for you.  I believe in a divine romance that Jesus has for your soul.  Love continues to motivate him to reach out for you.  Your devotional life (as Christians call it) is your dialogue with Him.  A sharing of hearts between you and Jesus.

The ancient Jews regarded the book of Song of Solomon to be the ‘holiest of holies’ of scripture and set apart to be read during Passover. 

That time, the Passover, was the most significant in the act of redemption. The inclusion of this book was no accident. It reveals a deep lover that woos a bride. He is quite passionate about you.

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;  you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”

Songs 4:9, ESV

I think that our pastors, and leaders need a “theology of romance” to clarify the place of discipleship in our hearts.  Instead of cold doctrine we need a fervent passion to work it through our lives.  We are the bride of Christ, and we must be reminded of that.  “I am my beloveds and he is mine.”

“Who is this sweeping in from the desert,
    leaning on her lover?”

Songs 8:5, NLT

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Our Hearts Plead for Good Pastors

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I always felt that being a pastor was a lot like this

October has been set aside for appreciation of our pastors. I encourage you to pray for them and their families.

flourish2 Within our personal issues of vulnerability, there are usually great problems. These are tender areas: Alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illnesses, homosexuality, sex addiction, porn and chronic depression are all substantial issues of pain and conflict. But as defeated strugglers we are often intimidated by leadership in the Church.

It seems all we can see is their authority, and we are fearful.  Typically, in our fellowships, our pastors and elders are men.  And that alone can sometimes create issues in hearts looking for a tenderness that will heal.

Rather than opening our brokenness up to our shepherds, we fabricate illusions of sufficiency and invulnerability. We are afraid, and our pain still resides in our hearts.  (We were never designed to carry this.)

As strugglers with great pain and confusion, we often brand ourselves as hopeless and completely defeated.  Some of us secretly believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. But this is a lie, as God forgives every sin.

They’ve heard they are going to hell no matter what they do, so they are permanently separated from God. They need to know this is a lie, because whenwe confess our sins, the blood of Jesus covers them ALL and cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Many of us who struggle have a ugly and a twisted sense of our leaders in the Church. We get “really weird” whenever we meet them– an intense paranoia.  Typically, we sense avoidance of those who try to pastor us.  As a result our flaws and weaknesses will only grow us away (not towards) the Church.

Cellulitis is bacterial infection of  the skin and underlying tissue.  While I was in the Army, I developed this inflammation in my right forearm.  It started as a very small spot.  My arm quickly ballooned up, and within days I couldn’t bend my arm.  The infection just continued to grow and spread.  But I refused to see a physician.  When I finally did, they had to drain the wound, and I was put on heavy-duty antibiotics and bedrest. I could have easily lost my arm.

Often we try to live a life separated from outside intervention.  We avoid people who could really help us.  But we are sick, and need a pastor or elder to work through these things. But they intimidate us, and we expect to be rebuked, reprehended and rejected.  Certainly that there is often a need for scriptural correction, but always in love– and even some tears.  

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An Open Note to All Pastors and Leaders:

There is almost always a definite frailty that is common in the hearts of us strugglers.  We have fought for our spirituality, sanity, personality and even our sexuality. We have very few relationships, and the ones we do have are seldom healthy.  We are intimidated by authority and afraid of any kind of transparency.  We live under a enormous pile of shame and nasty guilt.

We need “good shepherds” that can be deliberately gentle and tender. Pastors and elders ought to reflect the astonishing grace of God.  We need His deep love, and you must show us what that’s like.  Please show us.  Verbalize it.  We need to know that we have been forgiven, over and over. Make much of the Grace of God.

You may already know this, but some in your flock have broken walls. Our boundaries are down; they are crumbled, and we are in true danger.  We need you to help us, and share His love and acceptance, and yours as well.  We need to be immersed in the atmosphere of spiritual kindness and forgiveness. It’s not you being a perfect pastor, but us together knowing a perfect God, who flows through yours (and my) imperfection quite willingly.

“We don’t forgive people because they deserve it. We forgive them because they need it–because we need it.” ― Bree Despain

We are not like the “norms” in your congregations.  It is highly unlikely we will be completely healed in this life. Also, many of us are gifted by the Holy Spirit, but we are flawed and we struggle a lot. Pastors must grow in their gifting, so maybe we will grow together. But please consider this; perhaps you need us as much as we need you (?).

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us, your little flock)
 
 
 
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She Gave Everything She Had

“Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44, New Living Translation

“God judges what we give by what we keep.”

–George Mueller

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Jesus has a whole different way of counting.  He sat, and waited, and watched.  Lots and lots of money was being dropped into the box.  The rich actually hired ‘criers’ to proceed them.  They shouted out to prepare the crowds in the Temple for their generous offerings.  Great effort was made to choreograph their procession when the Temple would be crowded. (I think some Churches might allow this, if only to increase the offering.)

But I’d like to think the best of these rich ‘fat cats.’  I want to somehow believe that they didn’t have ulterior motives.  But, knowing the heart of man, I strongly suspect these ‘givers’ intended to get as much ‘PR mileage’ as they could.

When we focus on the widow we find we pretty much dismiss her offering.  To put it in perspective, a laborer would work all day for a denarius.  This widow gave just 1/164th of that. And certainly without the fanfare that these pharisees and scribes created.

Jesus is sitting, and watching very near to the offering box.  He is impressed with this widow, and her scanty contribution.  But He looks at each heart, of each giver.  He puts a value on each one.  The size of the gift is not at all the issue here. It is the dimension of the sacrifice. She was dropping in everything she had.  All of it, without hesitation or negotiation.

As we are His disciples, this particular lesson must be learned.  And, indeed, it is learnable.  If it seems too hard to emulate we need to deal with hard issues.  Like fear, doubt and pride.  And there is nothing quite like ‘sacrificial giving” to penetrate our stony hearts.

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

–C.S. Lewis

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kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us)
 
 
 
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