Fear and Loathing

“For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”

1 Thess. 5:5

A year before I received Christ as my Savior, I was hospitalized in a U.S. Army psychiatric ward.  My uniform was replaced with the distinctive attire of a mental patient.  Ironically, I’d been attached to the same hospital as a medic on the pediatric floor.  And to make things only slightly more surreal was that one of my nurses on the psych ward was someone I bought drugs from!

Previous to this hospitalization, I had dropped two hits of LSD and found myself in an awful mess.  It was night and I was prowling outside my barracks.  I was hallucinating heavily and had lost control of my thoughts.  I had pretty much flipped out  and it entered my drug saturated brain that the darkness would kill me that very night!

Utterly convinced of my impending fate, my mind seized upon the street lights.  If I could stay in that illuminated circle I could escape death!  The light would save me.  I stood under that light for a few hours.  As I stood I could see very clearly the boundary between the light and the dark.  I knew I was safe as long as I didn’t wander.

Despite that traumatic experience, the drugs and the mental instability continued to develop.  I began to mainline cocaine, crossing my “no needle line”.  I also became quite the heavy drinker, with Jack Daniels for breakfast.  I had one basic rule though.  As a medic who worked in maternal/child health, I had the best assignment in the Army.  Many people coveted it, and I was not going to endanger it by drugs or alcohol.  I never went on duty loaded.  It was my rule. I would be the best medic they had.

Shortly after my psych ward discharge, I was reassigned to Labor & Delivery on the night shift.  I was pulled from my duty and I went on an ambulance run as the medic in charge.  We were called to officer’s housing were an older man had died in bed which got me thinking.  Back at the hospital I returned to L&D.  On the way back I took a shortcut through a ward on another floor.  That’s when I found it!

On a waiting room table was a small book called, “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell.  I picked it up, reading it right on duty because there were no mothers waiting for the delivery room.  By the end of my shift I was well on my way to becoming a Christian.  It was a book solidly speaking of the light, and of the dark.  And I knew beyond a doubt that I couldn’t remain in the dark anymore.

I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in June of 1982.  I became a born again believer on July 4, 1982.  I was in Bible College that October.  Life has become radically different, and I became a missionary and a pastor.  All I can tell you is that Jesus is real, he is alive and the Bible is true.  I have translated from the dark to the light, and I am not afraid anymore.  Jesus is my light.

“The people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light.
And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow,
    a light has shined.”

Matthew 4:16

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Links:

Alaska Bible Institute, http://alaskabible.org/

“More Than a Carpenter”, by Josh McDowell http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Carpenter-Josh-McDowell/dp/0842345523

Amazon.com Review

Since its release, More Than a Carpenter has been challenging readers to ask the question, “Who is Jesus?” Author and renowned speaker Josh McDowell acknowledges that while the topic of God is widely accepted, the name of Jesus often causes irritation. “Why don’t the names of Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius offend people? The reason is that these others didn’t claim to be God, but Jesus did.” By addressing questions about scientific and historical evidence, the validity of the Bible, and proofs of the resurrection, McDowell helps the reader come to an informed and intelligent decision about whether Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. This short, 128-page gem does not employ fancy theological words, forsaking the layman, but reads more like an intimate research document laying out the facts with veracious accuracy, from reliable sources ranging from secular scientists to conservative seminarians. A skeptic himself for many years, McDowell always believed that Christians were “out of their minds” but now insists that “never has an individual been called upon to commit intellectual suicide in trusting Christ as Savior and Lord.” McDowell adeptly articulates fundamental answers to poignant questions that cause the skeptic to consider whether Jesus was a liar causing countless martyrs to die in his wake, a lunatic deserving death, or actually the Lord of the universe. –Jill Heatherly

An Inconvenient Madness, [A Broken Believer]

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Very simply, bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings that are defined by major shifts between incredible mania and clinical depression. It’s usually intense and quite disabling.

Depression: There are days when I wake up and I don’t like what I see in the mirror. At times a deep and profound sadness seems to grip me like a vise. It’s like a huge heavy grey cloak covers me, and I can’t shake it off. Typically I hide and crawl into bed for weeks at a time. All is hopeless and I despair of life. I am irrevocably lost. This is bipolar depression and I’m slowly learning that I can shake it free.

Mania: When I’m manic it’s as though I have wings! I’m blasted with a special grace which makes me creative and intelligent and superior to mere mortals.  I become energetically impulsive and irritably crass. It’s all about ME! Thankfully these times don’t happen too often. These moods don’t last long but they’re intense. A measure of freedom can also be found.

Medication prescribed by my psychiatrist helps smooth things out. It was hard to adjust to taking them, but now I know I did the right thing. It’s been over 10 years since my diagnosis and I suppose I have the dubious honor of just surviving. I have several scars on my wrists that remind me of a long journey. Those afflicted will understand.

It’s been suggested that bipolar people can become more empathetic and sensitive to the suffering of others. I’d like to believe that this is true. This seems like a biblical idea.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

2 Corinthians 1:4, NLT

 “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.”

Isaiah 50:4

For the broken believer, I’m confident that the Lord can turn my mental illness into something positive and good. The Holy Spirit empowers the Christian to do the extraordinary. It’s in our weaknesses we can become strong. We are fully enough in Christ. (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I stepped down from my positions as a pastor and a Bible instructor when the bipolar symptoms became clear. This wasn’t easy but I knew it was what God wanted. Today I still speak on occasion at a local Church.

I also minister here at brokenbelievers.com and http://www.lambfollowers.com.. I try to post everyday and I get constant feedback from those who are in need. Just a single post, a list of 24 hour crisis hotlines, averages 175 hits a day by itself! (https://brokenbelievers.com/247-crisis-lines/)

I do covet your prayers for both ministry sites.

This work would never have happened unless I was “detoured” by my bipolar.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Romans 8:28

I want to urge you to look at the big picture of mental illness. Sure it can be remarkably disruptive, but the Lord can transform you. Meds and therapy are vital for me. Prayer and Bible reading even more so. You can find a way through this. It’s not easy. Don’t fight the illness. The Father works close to His “special” children. There is a real and abiding hope for you. I’m convinced you can find it.

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Chasing Down Euphoria

“That’s the difference between me and the rest of the world! Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!” 

Calvin & Hobbes, comic strip

One of the blessings of turning 55 is I come to a place where I can sit and think about my life. I’m intrigued by how it unfolded the way that it did.  I know I can be a bit of an eccentric. But that’s ok. When the warm ocean current of depression and the cold water current of weird personality meet it will  get very tumultuous.  And being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder brings even more issues. But I do admit– I have lived life hard. (Perhaps harder then it had to be.)

I do have a ‘dark side.’ One of the most disturbing areas I had was an almost insatiable thirst for ‘euphoria.’  Both drugs and alcohol, I discovered would put me in the place of exhilaration and elation.  And I longed for anything that would put me in this mental state.  If you had come to me with two hits of ‘acid,’ I would definitely take them both, and not even blink. That has changed since I accepted Christ. The impulses are tamed by God’s Spirit and Word. (Thank God!)

My quest for euphoria has taken me down some strange paths.  I learned to buy those drugs that would work that special bliss into my being.  But I couldn’t maintain euphoria.  I chased after that idea, without ever achieving it.  LSD, PCP, marijuana, whiskey, cocaine, and  even ‘needles’— all those old standbys have brought me to a false sense of inner freedom.  I tried to stay ‘stoned’ as long as I could. I drank enough vodka to float a battleship.  I was a maniac. Completely out-of-control.

“You will be bruised all over, without even remembering how it all happened. And you will lie awake asking,  “When will morning come, so I can drink some more?” 

Proverbs 23:35, CEV

depressedcomputerThe man who penned this must have knew the back side of getting hammered.  There is a lot of pain in this lifestyle, and not just hangovers and depression. Yet we can’t wait until we can start it all over again.  This love for the high is the precursor to addiction.  Crossing this line is a moment of strange logic for the user, but in reality,  it is a form of mental illness and insanity.

My addictions (which imprinted an ‘addictive personality’) are seldom reasonable.  As I pursue the euphoria (I love to get “high!”) my own ravenous appetite begins to feed off my own personality.  When a dam breaks, it starts at a tiny leak. This can take several years.  But the pressure will slowly continue and then it begins to escalate.  Soon the water pushes through until the dam breaks.  Floods ensue as the lake flows through.  Disaster is just that close.

“You say to each other,  “Let’s drink till we’re drunk!  Tomorrow we’ll do it again.  We’ll really enjoy ourselves.” 

Isa. 56:12, CEV

When we pursue, and then try to purchase our euphoria, we will inevitably end up as drunks and as addicts.  When fixed on the pursuit of carnal pleasure, we end up destroying ourselves, and the lives of those closest to us. When I start hurting others by my actions, I must consider I may have a big problem. Maturity is in part, understanding our desperateness, and then moving beyond it.  But the reality is that we are scarred, and that we continue to escape by “the skin of our teeth” until we die or get sober. Only Christ can save the euphoria-chaser.

Sometimes I’m a piece of work, it’s alright though because I’m His piece of work.

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