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Standing With Her in the Rain

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“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2, NLT

By Lisa Schubert, Guest Author

Samantha approached me outside the church on Thanksgiving morning with her hair disheveled and her coat covered with dirt smudges and raindrops. She demanded to borrow my cell phone to find if the Thanksgiving dinner she had requested from a charitable organization would be ready for pick-up in an hour. I was in a hurry. I needed to be inside preparing to lead worship. I begrudgingly let her borrow my phone, but I insisted on dialing the number myself and standing with her in the gentle rain.

Samantha issued commands to the person on the other end of the line. When she hung up, the rant continued against our church, our staff, the weather, and this meal that would serve as her Thanksgiving dinner. I had to let her go mid-rant, but not before reminding her that I would keep her in my prayers.

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My encounters with Samantha have continued over the past few months. She’s almost always confused, angry and paranoid. She tells stories about growing up with another member of our staff, who never met her until recently. It’s hard to know how to respond to Samantha.

A friend called me recently to ask if our church had any resources for helping congregations to welcome those who struggle with mental illness. I pointed her in a few directions, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at www.nami.org. Even as I offered her the information, I felt uneasy. Connecting with those who have mental illnesses is a complex, difficult journey.

It was raining again on Monday when I saw Samantha. She was sitting in the front lobby of the church. She shouted at me as I walked out the door, “Be careful out there! Two guys tried to kidnap me, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.” Unwilling to believe her, I replied, “Samantha, I’m sorry you had a rough morning. I’ll be thinking of you. Hope your day gets better.” I continued out the church doors and opened my umbrella.

I later discovered that Samantha was mugged that morning. Thankfully, the police believed her while I had blown her off. They arrested the alleged perpetrators that afternoon.

I’m embarrassed by my lack of gentleness and compassion toward Samantha, and I know I’m not alone. I wonder what it means for the Church to embrace, accept and listen to those who have mental illnesses. I wonder how church leaders like myself can grow and help others to deepen their care for people like Samantha.

There are no simple answers, but I think the answer starts in a simple place: We stand with them in the rain.

Lisa Schubert is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Formation of North United Methodist Church, Indianapolis

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Without a Wound? [True Ministry]

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The subject of “the pool at Bethesda” alludes to the following excerpt from the Thorton Wilder play, “The Angel that Troubled the Waters.” The play is based on the biblical verses of John 5:1-4, but it changes the end of the parable. I first encountered this excerpt within the book “Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging,” by Brennan Manning.

The play tells of a physician who comes periodically to the pool of Bethesda, hoping to to see the stir and then be the first in the water and healed of his melancholy. The angel appears and troubles the water. Everybody at the pool hopes to be the first in the pool and thereby be healed of his disability.

An angel appears and blocks the physician at the very moment he is ready to step into the pool and be healed.

Angel: “Draw back, physician, this moment is not for you.”angel1

Physician: “Angelic visitor, I pray thee, listen to my prayer.

Angel: “This healing is not for you.”

Physician: “Surely, surely, the angels are wise. Surely, O Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness. Your eyes can see the nets in which my wings are caught; the sin into which all my endeavors sink half-performed cannot be concealed from you.”

Angel: “I know.”

……………Interlude………………

Physician: “Oh, in such an hour was I born, and doubly fearful to me is the flaw in my heart. Must I drag my shame, Prince and Singer, all my days more bowed than my neighbor?”

Angel: Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.”

Later, the person who enters the pool first and was healed rejoices in his good fortune then turns to the physician before leaving and said:

“But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood.”

“Only an hour… my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”

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For me, the play pierces with the ‘bullet-message’ of this wonderful line— “Without your wound where would your power be?“ This is like a slow percolating of Paul’s teaching, mainly that it’s through my weaknesses that I can truly minister to others like Jesus. It’s the Apostle Paul declaring it’s the weak things that work to create something solid and true in us. And I hope in the many lives that this ministry, brokenbelievers.com reaches.

I hope so anyway. Pray for me.

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Ramblings of a Broken Believer [Weakness]

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“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”   

— C.S. Lewis

I think I am often a creature of habit, far more than I’d like to admit. I rather think we choose our habits and inclinations.  They, in turn, decide our paths.  But I suppose we give ourselves too much credit, to decide and direct.  Simply put, we are not that big. I honestly don’t think we have the power to steer our lives the way we like. That is what I’m thinking about today.

Somebody once told me, “The purpose of life is not to find your freedom, but to find your master.”  I don’t live that way, at least my inner propensity does not include God.  Did you ever think something like this?  “I wish God did not exist.  I want to be in charge, and I want to do, how I want to do, when I want to do it!”

Living it all with no rules and no accountability! Somehow I still seem to find myself sitting on my throne. I like this!

But as we get older, our hair goes gray and we look in the mirror and see bags and wrinkles, we realize how vulnerable and how tenuous life really is.  If we are honest and sufficiently self-aware, we understand that we will never be able to seize control of the known universe.

“Life is what happens while you are making other plans,” John Lennon observed.  It seems that reality springs on you, and you have this bolt out of the blue that shocks you to the core.  Life has happened, and you didn’t even realize it.

I sometimes look at myself in the mirror, not in vanity, but in steady amazement.  The ugly tattoos, and the ‘track marks’ are from another life. I have scars on my wrists from a couple of suicide attempts.  I have an amazing surgical zipper scar from a brain tumor.  I have severe ataxia that makes me walk with a cane. I have lost the use of my right hand in an accident. But I am also learning how to be broken.  And everything that has happened has happened for a reason.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.”   I sense that he did learn, otherwise he couldn’t have said that.

Re-reading this I decided that I ramble a lot.  Forgive me.  Maybe there is scrap or two in it for someone.

“I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling.”

1 Corinthians 2:3

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Just One Step Ahead

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“Life here feels like you were just left off here one day, with no instruction manual, and no idea of what you were supposed to do; how to fit in; how to find a day’s relief from the anxiety, how to keep your beloved alive; how to stay one step ahead of abyss.”

Anne Lamott

The reality is this: so much happens that we’re not in control of. Many deluded souls think they have it by the handle; that they have it figured out. But not me. They say that some circus performers are routinely automatic when walking the tightrope. All though I can recognize the skill, I am terribly afraid of heights.

Life comes at us so fast, racing at us relentlessly. And it is never linear or methodical, there are bumps and curves that must be navigated.

I believe that the Bible– God’s very word, has impressive, supernatural power. It guides me when all other ‘influences’ fail and falter.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path.”

Psalm 119:105

I live for, and love, the guidance He gives. There is so much adventure to it all. To be in harmony with  Him (and His Will) is a wonderful thing. I don’t pretend that I’m walking alone. A solitary mouse moving through the intricate maze. Rather, I seek the direction of the One who is my Companion. (He knows the way.) And He loves me!

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

Song of Solomon 8:5

He is with you in this wilderness.

Being mentally disabled isn’t easy, but who says it should be? Whatever wilderness we find ourselves in is punctuated by His presence. He is there, and He can be leaned on. There are no quick fixes; there is only His strong presence. He is with you in this wilderness.

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