BrokenBelievers: My Story, Redux

 

Hello!

My name is Bryan Lowe and I guide this blog, BrokenBelievers.com. I’m also a Christian pastor and Bible teacher who struggles with a ripping case of Bipolar Disorder I, and a walloping dose of Hepatitis C  (which I contracted using IV drugs.)

I have a burden for a blog that will concern itself with the challenges of mentally ill Christian believers, as well as key issues such as brokenness and humility. These seem to be critical issues, but are largely ignored and misunderstood by the mainstream church. The following list has all happened in the last five years. My shaky faith has been really challenged by these events.   

  • Death of our daughter, Elizabeth
  • Chemical burns to my lungs due to a workplace accident
  • Diagnosis of Bipolar disorder
  • Brain tumor/surgery ( I now have to walk with a cane)
  • Hepatitis C with encephalopathy issues, chronic nausea
  • Panic Attacks, (loads of fun!)
  • Non-healing sores, a low immune system (yes, I do vitamins)
  • Currently on daily meds–Lithium, Seroquil and Zoloft, (mood-stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants.)

As you can well imagine, ministry became almost impossible, doors quickly closed as word spread. After all, who wants a psychotic pastor? I had several hospitalizations due to Bipolar disorder, esp. when I have had suicidal tendencies/self-harm issues. I have scars on my wrists from very bad times. I suffer from paranoid delusions and hearing voices. For obvious reasons, I resigned as a senior pastor, which was hard because it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. Sometimes, I feel like Job from the Old Testament (and my poor wife, “Joblynn”  has endured as well). I really, really struggled with anger towards God. I still fight with this when life grows dark. So this is what I have had to deal with. From this I want to speak into the darkness, and try to help any who also seek help. I want to be the guy handing out flashlights to the desperate people in the dark. Jesus frees us and leads us to hope. His Word is trustworthy, and his spirit is gentle. 

BrokenBelievers.com is making ministry available to the huge numbers of God-loving Christian Believers who struggle with mental illness.  As Jesus’ disciple, just how much trial am I expected to take, and exactly how do I live?  I would really like it if you had time to go through the web site. There are approximately 130 posts and find something that “rings your bell”. I know that that is a lot, but the list of contents is found in the left column, and a new post is added almost everyday. 

Favorite Thoughts–For now, I offer up some quotes that have personally helped me through the murky darkness. 

  • “God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance.” –A. W. Tozer
  • I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”–Mother Teresa
  • “Our life is full of brokenness – broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives.” –Henri Nouwen
  • “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
  • “I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.” –John Newton
  • It’s not about perfection; it’s about our intimacy with God, or our connection, our relationship with God. Once we get through that, once we realize that we can be imperfect, flawed, broken; those kinds of things are the ingredients of spirituality.”–Mike Yaconelli
  • “If the church remains self-righteously aloof from failures, irreligious and immoral people, it cannot enter justified into God’s kingdom. But if it is constantly aware of its guilt and sin, it can live in joyous awareness of forgiveness. The promise has been given to it that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”-Brennan Manning

Favorite Authors–My favorite authors are the ones who minister to me in my pain and issues. These books are gold to me, and I scour the web looking for their teachings. I don’t follow men, but I do receive from their ministries.  If you follow any of these writers, you will get a sense of where I am coming from, and what exactly is the scope of this blog.  If your curious, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to share more. 

  • Mike Yaconelli– Messy Spirituality; Dangerous Wonder
  • Eugene Peterson– The Message Bible; A Long Obedience in One Direction; Subversive Christianity
  • Brennan Manning–The Lion and the Lamb; Ragamuffin Gospel; Abba’s Child
  • John Piper– When the Darkness Will Not Lift; Desiring God 
  • Henri Nouwen–The Wounded Healer
  • Anne Lamont– Traveling Mercies : Some Thoughts on Faith.
  • Kay Redfield Jameson– Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament; An Unquiet Mind
  • Georges Bernanos– A Diary of Country Priest
  • AW Tozer, anything– The Pursuit of God
  • Francis Frangipane–The Place of Immunity
  • CS Lewis– Grief Observed; Mere Christianity
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer– The Cost of Discipleship; Life Together
  • English Standard Version Study Bible–Great version!

———————————————————————————————-

Short Timers

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.” Ps 39:4, NLT

Typically, we avoid this level of scrutiny.  Life is best enjoyed in a relative ignorance, and we certainly do not welcome the knowledge that life is limited.  We are like people with a bunch of credit cards, and we impulsively  buy whatever we want.

But, do we really want to be reminded?  Our time is brief.  Fleeting.  But the psalmist values the reminder… life has been scrutinized, and counted out.  We only have a finite number of days [they are counted out] and then we must say ‘good-bye’.

I am convinced that we are to be settled on our ‘finiteness’.  We are not immortal, nor are we perpetual.  Things wind down, and soon they will lay us embalmed and in a casket, and a memorial service will be held in our memory.  This will be, more or less, the end of us.  But we will go on.

Are you able to handle this, the truth?  Your life will end, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Let it unfold, and take its lumps.  You really do not have a choice.  There is a limit to our living on this terrestrial ball.  We can make no further advance here.  It is finished.

The verse speaks of an eagerness to know one’s limits.  Tell me, remind me, how short it all is.  I want you to tell me, where the end is, so I can live my life in a response to the truth.  I want to respond to reality, whatever that may be.

We must accept, purposefully, the end of it all.  We can not deceive ourselves.  We welcome the intrusion of a finish line. Let us live, men and women, in a full understanding of our limits.  Let us walk in the fear of our God.

“Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.”

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7, The Message Bible 

God’s Red Bull

by Bryan Lowe

There is a real tendency for entropy as a follower of Jesus.  Things have a real tendency to wind down, and start moving in the opposite direction.  I think all of us can relate to the “Sunday Syndrome”.  In this truly wonderful world of fellowship, worship and the Word we seem to come together.  Life is good on a Sunday morning.  And it should be.

But we wind down, and by Thursday we have sinned and compromised a hundred times or more.  Life is not good on a Thursday afternoon.  Because of our mental illness this degradation downward is usually worse.  We experience a whole lot of shame and guilt.   And having issues with depression, anxiety, or OCD makes consistency even harder.  It is a challenge to maintain a credible Christian walk. It’s kind of the deflated feeling  four hours after downing three Red Bulls.

Paul, himself an interesting fellow, described his own personal walk with Jesus in Philippians 3:10f. in the Message Bible.

10-11I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

Focused on the Goal

 12-14I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. 

Can you tap into that energy?  Paul is pretty aggressive here, he models a “muscular Christianity” that pushes through every obstacle, whether within or without.  Most of our translations use the word “work” when translating “effort”.  The Church fathers used the word “energy” instead.  There is a distinction.  Energy, or “energize” denotes an outside source for power.  I energize my electric razor when I plug it in at night.  It takes a charge and runs accordingly on demand.

We are to press in, and to reach.  We are to be energized by contact with God’s Spirit.  He fills us up, enables us to run full tilt, stretching and straining.  The muscles in the neck popping out, and lunging for the tape.  Paul was an athlete in the Spirit.

These days, developing a spiritual athleticism would not be such a bad idea.  We live in a society where 22 men desperately in need of rest, are surrounded by 40,000 people desperately in need of exercise.  We have become a society of observers and that is a shame.  God loves us, sent his only Son to die for us.  God sets us up with a energy-packed, Red Bull. And I respond with an anemic, 2% milk religion.  And that perhaps is the real tragedy.

 
%d bloggers like this: