I Still Grieve (But I Now I’m at Peace)

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‘Who gathered this flower?’ The gardener answered, ‘The Master.’ And his fellow servant held his peace.”

It was November 13th, in the year of our Lord 1999, was unlike any day I have ever experienced. A beating with a baseball bat would seem more preferable. On this cold afternoon, hell was unleashed on my wife and myself. What we encountered was soul-wrenching and profoundly tragic.

Perhaps a parent’s worst nightmare is the loss of a child. On this day we lost Elizabeth Grace. She was stillborn, which is rare these days– or so I have been told. She entered this world fully formed, a beautiful baby girl. Today, she would of been 16 years old, and thinking about the prom.

But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

2 Samuel 12:23, (When David’s newborn son died.)

Our loss was grievous, but we are not unique. Plenty of families have suddenly lost a child. I can truly commiserate with them. Somehow we are connected in a perverse way. It seems like an exclusive club, that requires a secret handshake, or something. Suddenly without warning, you are thrown into personal chaos, and very little is remotely decipherable, even to a believer.

The book of Ecclesiastes that there is a definite “time to mourn.”  Matthew tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn.” He does go on to say. “for they shall be comforted.” This comfort is available for any who choose to take it, but you can refuse it, if you really want to.

Grief unites us, but Jesus liberates us. Seriously. I can’t imagine meeting life without his care and comfort. He has been outstandingly gracious to this family. Sure there was pain, but there was also tenderness and a kind grace. Still, sometimes it felt like a “kick in the head.” (But I assure you– it was grace.)

What I still can’t understand is simply this. What would it have cost God to allow Elisabeth to live? I mean, what ‘skin off His nose’ would’ve it taken to let her live? I still to this day have questions, but I have decided to trust. (I trust Him after all, to save my soul.)

Those who have suffered like me will comprehend and grasp, the noxious environment of grief and loss. But we can only take what we are dealt. The sadness is there, but so is His comfort. Make no mistake, His love matches (or even exceeds) the pain and the loss of a child. Truly, God is a wonder and He is good.

I do know that He loves me, a weirdly rascalish, mentally ill epileptic. He holds me close to His precious heart, and I will have no other gods except Him. I will not take up umbrage with Him on this. But I must believe that someday soon, I will truly and completely understand this.

ybic, Bryan

 

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The Blessings of an Illness

Hospital-bed1The Bible is full of miraculous healings. Jesus Christ performed many of them. He taught His disciples, and those who would follow, to heal the sick and afflicted.

I’ve personally seen legs lengthened and fevers ‘broken’ on several occasions. It always boosts the faith of those who witness these miracles. I truly believe the Holy Spirit still works wonders today.

Somehow the ‘understanding’ is if you seek a healing you must have sufficient faith. Those who are not healed are the people who have a weak faith, They miss out on a miracle because their faith didn’t measure up.

Faith is an active component to many of the healings in Scripture. Jesus said to the blind man, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:42).

Yet we read of many believers in Hebrews 11 who endured sickness, ill-treatment. We read of vicious brutality and persecution of these “people with faith.”

Not everyone who is sick will receive a physical healing.

  • Epaphroditus was near death, (Phil 2:25-30)
  • Trophimus left ill at Miletus, (2 Tim. 4:20)
  • Timothy, given a remedy for stomach issues, (1 Ti. 5:23)
  • Paul had to suffer his “thorn in the flesh,” (2 Cor. 12:7)

For believers today who must suffer physically or mentally, we may question our faith. (Especially when the healing evangelist comes to town). After 2-3 tries we settle back on our “deficient’ faith feeling a bit miserable.

It seems to me that the real issue is not a weak faith, but holding on to your faith when you are not healed. I hear talk about having faith to be healed–but what about the faith to be sick?

Why do we suffer illness? I believe that for many Christian believers sickness is to bring glory to God, Also, holding onto a faith in the midst of sickness and pain often encourages those who witness it.

Oh dear one, continue to seek a healing. The Spirit does these things today. But if you’re left in your illness, trust in Him still. All your ways end up in His nail-scarred hands of our Lord Jesus.

“The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

ybic, Bryan

 

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The Real Treasures, [Weaknesses]

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As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness, depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life.  So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. We have had to hide our issues really well. 

But I would submit to you that it is we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and general lostness. 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. 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 demanded. 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 simply and quietly replied, “These are the treasures of the Church, these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”

We often can value giftedness more than weakness.

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 weak. I suppose 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 outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.

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Epileptic Christians Rule

Epilepsy understood
Epilepsy understood

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.”

Psalm 73:26, NLT

I think it’s time for me to talk openly about this.

For several months I have been experiencing absent seizures. These are moments when I just ‘check out’ and stare at something–actually at anything, but bright and flashy will almost always draws me in. These are not the ‘grand mal seizures’ with the jerking and shaking and rolling around (but I’ve been told that these can happen to me.) I have the ‘petit mal’ variety. Many times they go undetected and unnoticed by others. They seem like a long pause of thoughtfulness. But it isn’t. I’m having a seizure.

It seems just what I needed, “another kick-in-the-head.” The thought has been brewing lately that I’ve been mistreated by God again. Why? (Why do I always get the hammer? I wonder if heaven has a Complaint Department?)

My medical history would rival the classic, “Moby Dick” in terms of sheer mass and requiring “heavy lifting.” Hepatitis C, Manic depression, Brain tumor surgery and all the after effects–and now this. Perhaps, I need to spend some quality time with my Father?  I like this verse a lot.

“O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed;
    if you save me, I will be truly saved.
    My praises are for you alone!”

Jeremiah 17:14, NLT

I have worked hard to eradicate self-pity over the years (or I think I have). I’ve had so many medical issues and I don’t ever want to add “hypochondriac” to this list.  I heard this joke about a young boy who was so caught up with his illness that he started to take his M&Ms one by one with a glass of water, like a pill.

The jolt is becoming real now. They want to take my driver’s license away. (What next–will I be mandated to hear a protective helmet?) All of this is so wrong, it seems to me. (“Can I get an ‘amen’ here?”) The last few days I’ve taken a new med, a proven anti-convulsive. I have never ever wanted a drug to work more then this one. Unfortunately, I am experiencing some side effects. I covet your prayers now, more than ever, especially for my wife, Lynn and my kids.

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“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.”

    John Henry Newman

Some links I have discovered to be interesting, and maybe even helpful.

http://epilepsyfoundation.ning.com/group/christianswithepilepsy

http://www.squidoo.com/ahealthyresponsetoseizuresversusdemons

http://morethanstone.blogsome.com/2007/02/27/epilepsy-and-spiritual-warfare/

&

ybic, Bryan

 

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In Love with a Lion

 

“I will not leave you alone. You are mine.  I know each of my sheep by name.  You belong to Me.  If you think I am finished with you, if you think I am a small god, that you can keep at a safe distance, I will pounce on you like a roaring lion, tear you to pieces, rip you to shreds, and break every bone in your body.  Then I will mend you, cradle you in my arms, and kiss you tenderly.”

Brennan Manning, Lion and Lamb

God stalks us.  He never lets up.  We can never, never out run Him.  A popular 182 line poem, from a generation ago, was called “The Hound of Heaven“.  It described a person being pursued by God. This is part of it.

I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated.

                                        –by Francis Thompson

The very remarkable thing is not our prodigal hearts; rather it is the amazing love the Father has by chasing us.  Jesus is consistently reckless about capturing us, and making us his own.  His love is like a homing mechanism in a missile shot at us that defies our escape.  We can weave and dodge all we want, but we have been targeted, and He is coming for us.

The way we talk and posture, it as if it is us that does the choosing.  I’m not saying we don’t to a degree.  But the Bible paints God in a different light.  He initiates, and He chooses.  He superintends our life, choreographing our movements.  If you remember the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis it will support this reasoning.

My Bipolar depression and epilepsy issues can never thwart or nullify Jesus’ love for me.  I can’t point at them as reasons not to be his follower.  He is not intimidated by my medical condition. My brain tumor and the death of my daughter didn’t phase Him. They are merely physical footnotes to the story of my life.

We opened with a Brennan Manning quote. He observes that life with Jesus will involve being torn to pieces and such.  He will not complacently love us, He just isn’t fond of you because you’re sort of a likable person.  His love is rough, and savage and furious.  He is quite tempestuous and intractable.  He won’t let go.  Your issues are probably not as significant as you think.

If you’re depressed, manic, paranoid or delusional you can still surrender to Jesus.  These are not your identity, they are not permanent. Yes, I get depressed and have incredible issues with anxiety.  I have a hand tremor almost all the time.  And I can get really paranoid.  But, I am his follower–first and foremost.

Let Him love you today.  His kind of love will heal you completely.

He will seize you and draw you close. You will find the rest you seek leaning on Him.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, NLT

“Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.”

 J.I. Packer

*

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The complete text of the “Hound of Heaven” can be found at:  http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-hound-of-heaven/

Heart Disease

Hearts 168457_154905807894473_110794108972310_320156_2061498_n“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

Jeremiah 17:9, NLT

We are the wounded. What exactly has caused it isn’t always known.  A death, divorce, depression and disability are great triggers.  Some of us are chronically ill, others are mentally ill.  We struggle to hold a job, and to go to church. There are some who are reading this who are controlled by addictions.  And a few of us consider suicide on pretty much a regular basis.

We’ve been hospitalized and stigmatized, and sometimes even institutionalized. And at times we endure massive attacks of fear and anxiety.  We are not easily understood, and we hear the whispers.  Our paranoia can often saturate what what we are thinking, (I think its more like a “marinade.”  Our brains just soak it up.)  Most of us are ‘walking wounded.’ We limp physically, and figuratively with equal pain.

“For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable,
    and your wound is grievous.”

Jeremiah 30:12, ESV

If we are honest (and God insists on a rigorous honesty) we realize that we are a mess!  The prophet Jeremiah had a tremendous understanding of the human condition, and was never beguiled by the lie of pride, arrogance and selfishness.  He declares that we are diseased down to the core, like a rotten apple.

At times we continue in our favorite style of darkness.  And havoc sporadically rips through us and we become “disaster areas.”  How very sad, and profoundly tragic.

But you must understand this powerful fact.  Jesus Christ has been sent by the Father to save and cleanse all who come to Him.

“At that time a fountain will be open for David’s descendants and for the people of Jerusalem to cleanse them of their sin and uncleanness.”

Zechariah 13:1, NCV

“Children, it’s time for a bath,” and what God has done provides us the only way to “get better.” Some of us have carried staggering burdens for decades.  But I must be truthful. Our afflictions may continue to disturb us.  If you are bipolar or depressed, it just could be you’ll remain so.  But I know first-hand that our Father will give us an extra ration of grace.

In the Old Testament, family patriarchs could give an additional portion to a son he especially loved.  All were blessed, but some more so. That peculiar proclivity of our Father is why some of us with deep wounds can follow closer than others who are healthy.

“For I am the LORD, your healer.” Ex. 15:26

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“The treatment a wound gets decides whether time will bring healing or bondage.”

&

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion. (Lord, have mercy on each reader)

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Dangerous Thinking

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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.