The Stigma of Mental Illness, (we found dog poop in the living room!)

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Robin Williams’ recent suicide has risen the awareness of many people. Over 70% who commit suicide are mentally ill.

One out of five Americans will experience a mental disorder during their lifetime.  But, people can get better.  With proper treatment, most people with a mental illness recover quickly, and the majority do not need hospital care, or have only brief admissions.

Mental illness has traditionally been surrounded by community misunderstanding, fear, and stigma.  Stigma towards people with a mental illness has a detrimental effect on their ability to obtain services, their recovery, the type of treatment and support they receive, and their acceptance in the community.

Exactly what is stigma?  Stigma means a mark or sign of shame, disgrace or disapproval, of being shunned or rejected by others.  It emerges when people feel uneasy or embarrassed to talk about behavior they perceive as different.  The stigma surrounding mental illness is so strong that it places a wall of silence around this issue.

It is like hiding the “pile” instead of dealing with it properly.

The effects are damaging to the community as well as to the person will the illness and his/her family and friends.  But at Mental Health agencies and groups all over are working hard to erase the stigma associated with having a mental illness.

In-House-46638176283_xlargeThe emphasis needs to be on supporting and treating people in their own communities, close to their families, friends and familiar surroundings.

Yet discrimination and community misconceptions remain among the most significant barriers to people with a mental illness being able to actively participate in the community and gaining access to the services they need.

But it is not only people with a mental illness who experience discrimination and stigma.  Rejection of people with mental illness inevitably spills over to the caregiver and family members.

Improving community attitudes by increasing knowledge and understanding about mental illness is essential if people with a mental illness are to live in, and contribute to, the community, free from stigma and discrimination.

People with mental problems are our neighbors. They are members of our congregations, members of our families; they are everywhere in this country. If we ignore their cries for help, we will be continuing to participate in the anguish from which those cries for help come. A problem of this magnitude will not go away. Because it will not go away, and because of our spiritual commitments, we are compelled to take action.”

~Rosalynn Carter

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Being Sick

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Potter shaping a ceramic plate on a pottery wheel

“So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again.”

Numbers 12:15

To be numbered among the chronically ill often can mean a transition into frustration. We can not do what we want, we are ‘trapped’ by a disease we never asked for, and held hostage by our minds and bodies. It seems apart, from the management of our symptoms, we have little time to do anything else. We once had a job– a career… and our time was occupied by that. We were accustomed to something more than this illness.

I once was a pastor of a small church here in Homer, Alaska. I also taught Gospels for many years at the Alaska Bible Institute. I loved both. They defined my identity and gave me purpose. I loved helping people and teaching the Word. I strived to be faithful in the ministry. My wife and two children were also significant and all of these things led me to think they would always be there. I was living my dream (in a good way.)

With the sudden onset of a brain tumor, followed up by a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder (BP), I knew I had to step out of the ministry. I simply could not function. My depression grew more profound with the stillborn death of our third child. Things suddenly ground to a stand-still as we tried to process what has happening to us. I guess I just couldn’t understand and more or less just shut down. I spent months in bed, unable to function.

Some people were jewels. Others were mean and uncaring. (I had to learn to take the good with the bad.) I suppose I should have been more forth-coming, but things were so tangled up inside I couldn’t verbalize a thing. The post-op surgery was an ordeal, as I had to learn many things all over again. Years later I ended up on disability; I was unable to work, and no one would hire me. My symptoms were so unpredictable, and things were too erratic. The BP was giving me it’s customary depression, as well as paranoia and hallucinations.

Sometimes, like Miriam, we are quarantined by the Lord for his purposes. The isolation is worse that the pain it seems. We wonder why this is happening, and fabricate lies about our worthiness or God’s goodness. In our isolation things seem polarized to extremes. Our value seems to be ripped apart by our illness. We can feel cursed, or worse.

I have been slow to learn this: God brings good out of the dark. I’m embarrassed by my lack of acquiring this truth.

“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.”

2 Corinthians 4:7

This light must shine. The treasure is found in clay vessels. Brokenness only means the treasure is now seen clearly. It’s important to note: treasure loses none of its value by being surrounded by broken clay.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Troubles of various ilk come to us. They are variegated and unplanned. No matter what their nature, God holds his people in place while everything else is falling apart. But there is no magic wand; the pain will probably continue. But for the broken believer, there comes another dimension; a new supernatural layer of grace to bolster our beleaguered faith. We will triumph through this thing, and we will stand– because He makes us stand.

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The Urgency of This Moment

 

“Johnny Quick”

 “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.”

John 9:4, NLT

To be quick means that we move very fast; being slow often implies a reluctance or a mental delay.  To hesitate while doing God’s will for us suggests a degree of ignorance or stubbornness.  Our quickness is to be seen while doing “the tasks assigned to us.”

Urgency should be woven into our hearts.  We need to have wings on our feet, a fleetness and an alacrity.  A “double-eagerness” as we carry out His work.  It should be of no surprise that God sets before us an itinerary of work He wants us to do.

So many brothers and sisters sleepwalk through their salvation. They snooze when Jesus desires they “watch and pray” with Him.

Jesus was on a  timetable. He communicated a need of doing.  He is in tune with the work of God, and is involved in the urgency of his present moment.  Jesus knows this, and he clearly communicates the need to do.  We are not called to be manic for Jesus; we are expected to be alert and aware.

This is a cry for urgency to his disciples.

“The night is coming.”  It is getting late.  In response Jesus issues an order.  Work at what the Father has assigned you.  It is almost dark now.  There is a “principle of spiritual velocity” calling us to an alertness and an awareness of needful things to do before “the time is up.”

In Acts 9 the disciples show a holy zeal in their day’s work.  We can’t stop speaking what we have seen and heard.”  The Old Testament prophets carried this urgency–Jeremiah and Amos both declared to us this avidity placed on the believer.  Jesus desires that we factor in this concentrated awareness of the approaching night.

I recently read of an evangelist in the last century.  He had a watch made, and on the dial he had a picture of a setting sun.  And over it, the words, “the night comes.”  Everytime he would look at his watch he would be reminded of the shortness of life and the need of the performance of his duty.  That lesson should be transmitted to each zealous believer.

The key word I guess, in all of this, is zeal.  And often the older we get the more this word becomes diminished, and distant.  (I believe our Father understands this about us.) No matter what we do, He focuses His love on us.  There will never be a condemnation on us.  But we can still waste away our lives in a tragic way, which we will later regret. 

But we have to ask ourselves this, will I just be an admirer, or can I become a zealous disciple of Christ?

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Jesus Actively Helps Me

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“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT

These two verses out of Hebrews 4 establish three things.

  • We are “criminals” and in need of representation.
  • Jesus Christ stands ready, and able to help us before both this world and to the one to come.
  • Jesus still has a present day ministry as our priest and provider.

And he is busy! He did not ascend to heaven to wait around for his second coming. He is active, and we are being acted upon. This is the present work of heaven.

There is more, let’s look to the story of Paul’s voyage to Rome. He is a prisoner being escorted to stand before Caesar. He has a guard who is watching him as he travels by ship across much of the Mediterranean.

Because of the time of the year, the trip will be hard. The weather is very iffy, and awful storms could pummel a ship at times. No matter what, it will be a hard journey.

 “When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. 14 But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. 15 The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale.”

16 “We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. 17 Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.”

Acts 27:13-17, NLT

The storm is probably a once in a lifetime experience. It seems everyone is problem-solving trying to keep the ship from “breaking up.” They are fighting for their lives. After tossing over the cargo, and the ships tackle, they would have cut down the mast. Leaving it up would only weaken the ship’s hull, which reduces their chances.

They then did something called “frapping.” It involved wrapping ropes or cables around the hull in a criss-cross manner. This outside strengthening would have been “levered” to increase tightness. It could be an effective way of surviving the unsurvivable.

There is a specific Greek word to describe this frapping. It is used in only one other place in the entire Bible. In Hebrews 4:16 we read–

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Can you see the connection? In those desperate times when the storm is ripping up everything, attempting to destroy us– our families, our friends and neighbors. Just survival seems a long stretch. It is then that Jesus fraps (or wraps) us tightly.

But many of us go through typhoons with the cables coiled up on deck. We seem oblivious and ignorant of its existence. We really don’t see the “present tense’ ministry of Jesus standing to intercede. We merit nothing– but are promised everything. We are on the knife’s edge of falling apart.

I believe this message has not come to you by accident. You are either in the storm, or know someone who is there. The name of this post is, “Jesus Actively Helps Me.” I hope you will see it, and live it.

ybic, Bryan

 

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What Are the Treasures of the Church?

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artwork/ranonus treasures/DArt

An Archbishop was given an ultimatum by the Huns who surrounded his cathedral. “You have 24 hours to bring your wealth to these steps”, the war-leader declared. The next morning the Archbishop came out leading the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lunatics. “Where is your treasure? Why have you brought out these, people?” The Archbishop calmly replied, “These are the treasures of the Church— these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”

As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness: ADHD,  depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life. Physical illnesses like fibromyalgia, migraines, diabetes and epilepsy are denied. So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and our doctors appointments. We change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. The pressure to hide is very strong.

But I would suggest to you that it is perhaps we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and lostness, than whole people can. We understand we have needs; a sound mind, a healthy body and we know it. We have no illusions of wellness, nothing can convince us that we are well. We are not. We are broken and only our loving creator can mend us.

You might say that the Church needs us.

But I am afraid the the Western Church no longer sees its “treasures” like it should. In our pride and self-centeredness we have operated our churches like successful businesses. We value giftedness more than weakness. We definitely have no room for the desperately sick or weak. Maybe it’s time for the Church to begin to act like Jesus?

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church should be a verb.  Church is who you are. Church is the human out-working of the person of Jesus Christ. 

Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.

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Playing Defense, [Protecting Others]

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“Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.”

Nehemiah 4:17-18, ESV

Nehemiah was supervising the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. He gathered the men and assigned them to various parts of this. His focus was on building as fast as possible.

But there was enemies who threatened to disrupt the work. There was a conspiracy that directly threatened the work that was taking place.

Nehemiah had to act. He prayed and then posted protection among the men in strategic places, These stood guard to defend the workers. Nehemiah then ordered those who labored to wear swords while they worked.

We who are building God’s kingdom need to arm themselves against our spiritual enemies. We are called to give diligent attention to this, and defend God’s people.

“Take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:17

Furthermore we are “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). We’re not working against “flesh and blood.” but the “spiritual forces in the high places.” This is an unseen war that really does exist.

God’s Word is our powerful defense. We’re called to handle it skillfully. This is a mark of maturity. The sword must be engaged to help those who aren’t really aware of this present darkness.

Nehemiah understood. He was diligent and very aware of the evil that swirled around him and his people. He wouldn’t minimize this problem, but met it head on.

We must be like him. We are to be aggressive defenders of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot afford to look away or pretend the enemy is not resisting us. We see his work daily.

“Father, thank you for the Bible. The Word is alive and active as we yield it. Teach us to overcome the enemy as we protect our selves and our loved ones with it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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The Master of My Panic

“God is our refuge and strength,
  always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.”

Psalm 46:1-2, NLT

[David says,] “Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking…But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me.”

Psalm 55:5, 16

Apparently, David understood what we now call a “panic attack.” He sure wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. David understands the shaking and fear that wanted to eat him up. He seems to go from “crisis-to-crisis” and very possibly this could of contributed to a deep anxiety.

My own experience with a panic attack is similar to what he must’ve felt. I start to shake and feel a pressing anxiety. The trembling gets very intense, I feel like death is imminent and my heart races. A feeling of doom often accompanies this. When I first started having them they were completely overwhelming; I had no idea what they were. They were quite scary. They seemed to happen once every week, sometimes more, sometimes less.

Mayo Clinic has put out the following list of symptoms:

  • Sense of impending doom or danger
  • Fear of loss of control or death
  • Rapid, pounding heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment

Mine typically last for 20-30 minutes. When I finally asked my doctor, she knew exactly what they were. There is no drug; the attack can only be treated by an awareness of what is happening. There is no cure for them and really no way to eliminate them completely. I was stuck with them. She told me to use a paper bag to ease the symptoms.

As a believer the panic attack had to be understood as coming under the lordship of Jesus Christ. When an attack occurs it is time for me to “hunker down”and prepare for the coming storm. Since I know he is in charge, I become less anxious. (And that is a good thing.)

Educating myself has helped a lot. Just to know many others experience them is a real encouragement. The panic attack is quite common and much is known about it, the attack can be understood and even managed by understanding its true nature.

I know that all that touches me is the Lord’s concern; of that I have no doubt.

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http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/basics/definition/CON-20020825

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