This Special Place, Where it is Always Christmas

“This Gospel anticipates a world far different from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia,where it is “always winter, and never Christmas.” But the promise of the Gospel is that it is always Christmas. To be “in Christ” is to enjoy each morning as a Christmas morning with the family of God, celebrating the gift of God around the tree of life.”

–Kevin Van Hoozer

Christmas can be a torment and tribulation for so many. I have no doubt it brings grief. Family, friends, finances– mixed liberally with heavy doses of materialism and manipulation will always bring us issues.  The music and decorations are mostly mere Novocaine (which doesn’t always work). Stress builds up. And we want none of that.

Being mentally or physically ill often accentuates these issues. I’m not sure why exactly, but suicide increases during this season. Perhaps the challenges Christmas brings just overwhelm a person who is struggling hard just to make it.

“Christmas is for children. But it is for grown-ups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and a nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chilled hidebound hearts.”  

–Lenora Mattingly Weber

As I think about Christmas, it is helpful for me to see it as a “mirror.” It is my reflection back to me. What we see, is who we are. If we have issues in our own life, the Season will just magnify them.  But this doesn’t mean its bad, far from it. There is always conflict, but this spiritual combat can bring us success. Some things must be fought for.

I’m convinced that in all of this, there is opportunity.  

The chance to connect to “Christmas”. The very idea is quite strange.  But Christmas can be an exquisite treat.  It is made by mixing love and truth in generous portions. As we look hard for it, there is something that moves us to a place far beyond us. Grace makes us to stand and look, perhaps for the first time.

When we truly process this, we’ll find “Christmas”. And honestly, it is more than a holiday. For the Christian, it is special time. And yes, there will be times when it is trying, but in my own thinking, Christmas has become a time of great joy and anticipation.

It won’t take much, maybe a little imagination on your part.

But those things you do may ignite and become a blaze that will direct them through their lives. Be kinder then you need to.

“The universal joy of Christmas is certainly wonderful. We ring the bells when princes are born, or toll a mournful dirge when great men pass away. Nations have their red-letter days, their carnivals and festivals, but once in the year and only once, the whole world stands still to celebrate the advent of a life. Only Jesus of Nazareth claims this world-wide, undying remembrance. You cannot cut Christmas out of the Calendar, nor out of the heart of the world.”   

Anonymous

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Messy Presents: A Christmas Poem for All Seasons

We want our presents in pretty paper
All wrapped up in a shiny neat bow
We want our faith to be the same
So our doubts and struggles never show

Yet the greatest gifts aren’t neat and tidy
Like the manger birth steeped in blood
A child born like any other babe
With the addition of dirty stable mud

And Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross
After flogging caused welts and spit adorned
The bleeding brow of the King of kings
Ringed by crowds who mocked and scorned

Each trial and loss we face in life
Can draw us closer to the God we need
If we don’t bury the doubts that rise
But seek the gift each death has freed

Open the messy presents He gives
To find healing for all of life’s woes
Remember when you grieve the most
The Babe born to die for you knows

For more Christmas poetry, check out my latest poem on Anchored Voices blog. It’s called My Favorite Name.

‘Sunning Ourselves in the Smiles of God’

kites

A boy stood on a windy hillside, flying a kite.

He continued to release the string of the kite and it went higher and higher until it was completely out of sight. One of his friends walked up and asked how he knew there was still a kite on the other end. He replied. “I know it’s there, I can feel it tugging on the line.”

Like the kite, we can’t see heaven with our eyes, but we can feel it tugging at our souls!

As a person with a mental illness, it’s easier in some ways to think about that place I am journeying to.  Through many cycles of depression I find this present life gets old, and the more I hear about heaven, the more excited I get.  I imagine a life without meds, and the constant monitoring of my moods. This place is going to be good, and that’s just the start!

 Heaven is described as:

  1. a great reward, Col 3:24
  2. present suffering not worthy to be compared with future glory, Rom 8:18 
  3. eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 2 Cor 4:17-18
  4. surpassing riches of His grace towards us, Eph 2:7
  5. beyond all we could ask for or even think, Eph 3:20
  6. a complete and total healing, Rev 21:3-4

I sometimes think of my infirmities and pain.  I can’t wait to “shed” this mental illness. 

To be free from it will be one of best things I can think of.  To take off my depression, like a heavy coat on a warm day. To sit with Jesus in a cool garden with living water, that’s more refreshing than any iced tea. Eternity is my favorite things to think about–

“Where the unveile’d glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.

—Ezekiel Hopkins 

I want to encourage you who are struggling now, with depression, anger,  schizophrenia, paranoia, abuse, OCD, addictions, PTSD, bipolar or any other handicap. There is a day coming, when we will forget the challenging battles that we’ve had to face. Wait for it.

And I must tell you, with all the strength I can muster–take hope and just journey one more day, and go ahead, dream about heaven.

Love, Bryan

 

Children in a Mentally Ill World

 

Mental illnesses in parents represent a risk for children in the family. These children have a higher risk for developing mental illnesses than other children. When both parents are mentally ill, the chance is even greater that the child might become mentally ill.

The risk is particularly strong when a parent has one or more of the following: Bipolar Disorder, an anxiety disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, alcoholism or other drug abuse, or depression. Risk can be inherited from parents, through the genes.

An inconsistent, unpredictable family environment also contributes to psychiatric illness in children. Mental illness of a parent can put stress on the marriage and affect the parenting abilities of the couple, which in turn can harm the child.

Some protective factors that can decrease the risk to children include:

  • Knowledge that their parent(s) is ill and that they are not to blame
  • Help and support from family members
  • A stable home environment
  • Therapy for the child and the parent(s)
  • A sense of being loved by the ill parent
  • A naturally stable personality in the child
  • Positive self esteem
  • Inner strength and good coping skills in the child
  • A strong relationship with a healthy adult
  • Friendships, positive peer relationships
  • Interest in and success at school
  • Healthy interests outside the home for the child
  • Help from outside the family to improve the family environment (for example, marital psychotherapy or parenting classes)

Medical, mental health or social service professionals working with mentally ill adults need to inquire about the children and adolescents, especially about their mental health and emotional development. If there are serious concerns or questions about a child, it may be helpful to have an evaluation by a qualified mental health professional.

Individual or family psychiatric treatment can help a child toward healthy development, despite the presence of parental psychiatric illness. The child and adolescent psychiatrist can help the family work with the positive elements in the home and the natural strengths of the child. With treatment, the family can learn ways to lessen the effects of the parent’s mental illness on the child.

Unfortunately, families, professionals, and society often pay most attention to the mentally ill parent, and ignore the children in the family. Providing more attention and support to the children of a mentally ill parent is an important consideration when treating the parent.

-Source: unknown
 
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