On Being Loved More Gently, [Disability]

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Some of us struggle with mental or physical illness.  Some people don’t understand us and they walk away.  This really hurts, and so we isolate ourselves even more.  We might feel not only forsaken, but cursed. We may see ourselves as consummate losers. But these things shouldn’t separate us from our Father’s love.  I think He loves “his special needs” children even more, lol.

But we must believe that we our transformation is happening, more and more, into the image of Christ.  We are becoming like him (hence the word, Christlikeness).  This is a long process, but it is happening!  God has given his word.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give up on his plan for you.

SpecialNeeds-300x300I’m seeing lately that spiritual growth and getting older often work hand-in-hand (and why shouldn’t they?)  As we get older, we will start having many different issues.  When your 50 years old, you don’t have the same situations that you had when you were 14 or 30.  Physically we grow and understand things differently, and this works into us spiritually.  This blends or melds together, especially when the Word and Spirit are present.

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:3-6, NLT

It is my wish for you that you could walk in your own shoes, and not somebody elses. Also that you would know the grace of God intimately. Being disabled means special efforts will often be necessary, but Jesus’ love for your soul will be molded to fit that disability. There will be no wheelchairs or canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven. I imagine there will be a considerable pile outside the gates. Glory awaits.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:18

Amen.

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The Epiphany of the Red Shoes

 

My Red Shoes
My Red Shoes

A few months ago, my morning routine had taken me outside on our deck.  I just sat and was soaking up the first rays and drinking a cup of coffee.  My mind usually flits about; and I think about many different things.  I’d like to say that at least some are engaged with challenging issues.  But most though are a bit strange and out of bounds.  It seems at times to be like trying to put a leash on a wild dog.

Sitting there on a deck chair, I thought about the shoes I was wearing.  They were black clogs and I wore them everywhere.  I’ve had them for four or five years.  They had liners, so I could even wear them during winter.  As I sat there, it occurred to me that I have always bought and worn either black, or brown shoes.  Always.  As I considered this preference, it struck me as odd.  Why did I always buy dull and ordinary shoes?

Out back in the recesses of my mind, a thought burst into my thinking, it was like fireworks just went off.  I would buy red shoes!  I would retire my faithful sandals and wear red ones instead.  I set down my coffee cup and headed for my laptop.  I ordered a comfortable pair of Crocs, in crimson red.

I waited for the postman like a child waits for Christmas.  I was energized by the thought of having red shoes.  I do a lot of things spontaneously.  I can be far too impulsive, and it usually gets me in trouble.  But when they arrived, they were even better then I expected.  I put them on and started to prance around the house.  And to see a fifty-six year old man acting like a ten year old must of been a sight.  I didn’t want to take them off, and later I even flitted with the idea of even wearing them to bed.

Wearing my new red shoes was a profound experience which I didn’t anticipate. It may seem weird but when I wear them the feeling is somewhat like falling in love, or at least a reasonable facsimile.  Perhaps if its nothing, I’m willing to accept that.

I think of God’s grace and how extraordinary it is. We can reside in a barren wasteland of a tedious existence where joy is seldom found. I know this is true. But there can be an infusion of mercy in such places. A grace that meets with us and alters us. I believe we are to be “grace blasted” believers living with a sense of wonder over the kindness of God. He has chosen us to be His own sons and daughters.

“And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:18

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Tightrope Theology

As a person with a mental illness, it seems my issues are a matter of extremes.  Life seems uncontrollable; the wheels seem to always ready to come off of the wagon.  It strikes me as a semi-crazed place to be.  I look at the “norms” with envy, as their lives are crisp, healthy, and strong.

I once met a man that had a prophetic ministry who was speaking at a local church here in Alaska.  When I met with him, he looked at me intently.  He said many things, but the most significant was this. “You are an unstable man; you are like water.”  This was almost 30 years ago.  It has been an accurate prophecy and assessment since I heard it.  At first it stung, I hated it; but now, all these years later, I find a certain comfort in it.  God knows me; He understands.  I haven’t found any reason to be condemned for being Bipolar.

Those of us who walk the tightrope of sanity and insanity have One in heaven who not only knows us, but is on our side.  Hebrews 7:25 declares:

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

I must realize that I am not the “bad apple in the barrel,” nor am I cursed.  Rather the opposite is true.  I am the richest of all men, because of His radical grace that gets extended to the weakest. Those who “touch” my life are blessed by their contact with me, and since I have been so unnaturally “graced,” they become blessed by His presence through me. WOW! I simply need to be me, and they are drawn to you.

The issues that a mentally ill person (and those who are often a struggler and a rascal) faces are formidable.  But without His promises they are impossible.  The secular view is just to create a “zero sum” game.  It is to bring a person to some stupefied place of stasis.  Not exactly up–but not down either.  Stable, sort of.

It is very good to be stable.  But my goal can not be stability, but an obedience to a supernatural God who loves me supernaturally.  I simply can’t live without knowing that.  However, when I know it, I can handle the tightrope.  I will start to walk a “supernatural” walk.

You could say that God has a hobby, or a specialty.  It is weak and handicapped people.

He loves working with us and in us.  And I have become very much convinced that He pours out special favor on those of us who struggle so difficulty, those of us who will never fit in or be ‘normal.’

We need to come to that real and authentically holy place where we see God. But also in that place, and at the same time, we need to see ourselves as well.  And actually, both are most critical.  They are done imperfectly— but both must happen, nevertheless.

I exhort you to take on your tightrope.  You will only stay upright and cross it if you are aware of His grand love and presence.  It is an amazing thing to balance and walk, and if we fall?  Well, we drop into His net.  Get back up, and get in line again.  Secure your heart into the love of God for your soul.

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Straining at Your Oars

“He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”

Mark 6:48

It is good for us to know that Jesus sees our labor and effort.  He perceives all that concerns us, and he knows the issues that matter most.  Attentive and keenly aware he comes.  It is quite common for us to think that he isn’t aware, and we may feel that he will pass us by without a word.  But that is not the case at all.

Jesus watches us, all the time.  He knows the battle, the fight we have with our flesh, and the difficulty we have with the challenging people in our lives.  Not everyone loves me, and I struggle a large part of the time.  My depression, and my paranoid fears cannot obscure his sight.  Jesus knows when (and why) I labor like I do.  And he doesn’t condemn me at all.

The disciples were straining very hard to move the boat.  Every oar was being used and every man had his seat.  They probably tried to work together.  Considerable effort was being expended, but to no avail.  The wind pushed harder against them.  This is perplexing.  If you remember, they are trying to obey the command of Jesus to cross the sea.  Why do things have to be so difficult?

I’m intrigued by believers who expect sunshine, blue sky and red roses because they are doing God’s Will.  They don’t seem to factor in the issue of conflict and challenge.  They see their “Goliath” and they pretend that he doesn’t exist, or they try to make peace with him. The battle to come is of no consequence and doesn’t happen.  We are sorely mistaken.

Doing the will of God will often mean that there will be a headwind directly at us.  The seas will become impossible, and we may even be driven back.  But special comfort comes, when we realize we are being watched.  Jesus is doing constant surveillance on us, and he even sees our toil on the oars.  What a precious promise.

“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”

Matthew 28:20

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The Inertia, [Apathy]

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“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.”

Helen Keller

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As I suffer with manic depression I have come to see that much grief comes not from mania, and not from the debilitating depression. These are both substantial, but my biggest issue has to do with the inertia that lies between these two poles. There is a paralysis– an apathy that immobilizes me. And this is as bad as any other state of mind.

“And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.”

1 Kings 18:21

My passivity is disturbing, and bipolar disorder is as much of “detachment” as it is of extremes. I sit and stare, not able to motivate myself to get up and do something. I’m not really depressed, but nor am I manic– I’m just “there” unable to find energy to do anything. Life just rolls over me.

Perhaps the most deadly sin is this “faltering between two opinions?” We are content to just sit and watch with no commitment. We’re content to let things just roll on by as we sit in our inertia and passiveness. This is the part of my BP that scares me the most (or at least it should.)

If you suddenly went up in flames I wouldn’t stir. Yes, it would get my attention, but I probably wouldn’t do anything, (I’d probably just take notes for my book.)

Inertia is not just a part of a mental illness. It effects normal people as well, and there are degrees of it. The average person it seems will avoid making a real decisive decision at all costs. Inertia can be encountered in any church (ask a pastor who tries to get volunteers) or workplace.

In his day, Elijah cried out for a decision from the Israelite people. I have to believe he was disturbed not only by the idolatry– but by the passiveness of the bystanders. Their neutrality was a big issue.

Joshua would call out to a passive people these words:

“But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:15

I know my own heart, and I know my own spiritual paralysis. Rather than commit myself, I would rather settle down on a sofa and just let things happen. I’m quick to point out how those in the arena are doing it all wrong. I’m ready to criticize, but unwilling to volunteer.

Mental illness is filled with ordinary things, but often in the wrong proportions. When we do things it is extreme or not at all. My own apathy is just a mirror of what happens in the hearts of normal people.

I may be excessive, but my own issues have made me aware of what is happening in others.

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

–Theodore Roosevelt

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Simple Discipleship, [Understanding]

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Each of us who are broken believers will take the following steps. This is simple discipleship. These four will be at the root of everything we do. Our mental illness may influence this walk, but it can’t derail the process. Because it is a supernatural one, everyone starts at the same spot— whether we’ve an illness or not. Each of us must take these four steps and engage them:

  1. Come to Me

  2. Learn of Me

  3. Follow Me

  4. Remain in Me

Disciples will build their lives on these. They are solidly basic but extrapolated out into different unique variations. Each one will be uniquely yours.


COME TO ME:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28, ESV

The source is Jesus, and his presence is sought. Our heavy issues are relieved by his nearness.

 

LEARN OF ME:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

Jesus shares his yoke with every disciple. We are to learn at his feet, and it’s there we learn of his humility. Rest is your evidence of his proximity.

 

FOLLOW ME:

 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

A cross awaits every disciple. Self-denial is critical for every believing disciple. Jesus will show us how it’s to be done.

 

REMAIN IN ME:

“Remain [abide] in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

This involves drawing and extracting life from him. We are a branch that pulls its life essence from its core, he is our vitality and our strength.

“Whatsoever one would understand what he hears must hasten to put into practice what he has heard.” –Gregory the Great

 

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Real Prayer for “Real” People

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“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

Psalm 145:18

I don’t want to pretend anymore. It’s been a little more than six months ago since I prayed this simple prayer: “Lord, may it be the real me who comes to the real you.”

‘Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.’

Psalm 25:5

I have never had a prayer answered so quickly. I moved from delusion and darkness into truth and light in a brief moment. Thirty years of “christian living” had left me a little befuddled, and I was no longer possessed a vibrant faith. What it t seemed was I was worn and tired, and perhaps even disillusioned. I guess I had absorbed a lot of lies. I started to walk carelessly, as if my faith didn’t really matter anymore.

“Lord, may it be the real me who comes to the real you.” This prayer– (more like a heart’s “scream”)– came out of nowhere. As I started to pray I felt a tearing of something inside me, like when the veil was rent in the temple, just like when Jesus died. A desperate cry for truth wrapped itself around my heart. I furiously began to reach for God. I knew I hit something.

I wanted his truth, and no more theology about him. I sought his doctrine well, but not his face. I wanted the real Bryan to come in fellowship with God, and no more masquerades. No more silly pretense. Just the real me, meeting the real God. In a short time things were broken and dislodged within me; years of complacency and cynicism were uprooted. It was kind of like a flash flood in a desert ravine.

Thomas Merton carried this prayer inside him. It should bless:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am  going
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

–Thomas Merton

You must find your own; locate your heart’s cry. Vocalize that with the Holy Spirits direction. Merton’s prayer can become an example of an almost brutal honesty, but it has to become from your own heart. David’s prayers in Psalms can fuel your search.

Where I found truth, there found I my God, who is the truth itself.”

    Augustine

I want to encourage you, but you may have to “shut down the circus.” You must get honest for the truth is waiting,

“Lord, may it be the real me who comes to the real you.”

“Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.”

Psalm 86:11

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