Just arrived at a milestone which I honestly never imagined. Brokenbelievers.com has just had its 2000th hit! Thank you everyone for making this possible. I have a real pumped feeling about this [if you couldn’t tell already] and God is good.
FYI. Photo is of Vernon Mickey– First Baseman for the Washington Senators and the Indians, Red Sox, Braves and Pirates.
“Religious people love to hide behind religion. They love the rules of religion more than they love Jesus. With practice, Condemners let rules become more important than the spiritual life. ”
— Michael Yaconelli
“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. … That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed.”
–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
People with mental illnesses, for the most part, have been diverted underground. We have been pushed into hiding our true identity; we can come out into the open, but only if we agree to play according to the rules—their rules. We are expected to censor ourselves, and say appropriate things at the right time. Pharasees [who are alive and well] insist on a level of purity that all must maintain. [I am not picking on anyone, just a generality.]
If I say that I am depressed, paranoid, manic or desperate I will upset the apple cart and muddle up everything. “Truth? You can’t handle the truth?”, [a line from some movie.] But if we use our shortcomings as credentials, we have the ability to speak about grace, love and of self-acceptance, with authority.
Christians with mental illnesses, have been given a gift that we are to share with the Church. The Holy Spirit has sprinkled us into each fellowship of believers. He places us as we are suffering into strategic places. Our “gifts” are to speak to the Body, spiritually about a lot of things, but especially grace.
If our fellowships become religious, it is usually because we in our weaknesses, we have allowed ourselves to be silenced into submission by the “interpreters” of scripture. If we don’t like the rules, we are told to go elsewhere. We are not welcome.
But don’t you see, that is our moment to shine! Our “unsightly” presence shouts out to the “wonderful” people, proclaiming grace in weakness. Those who receive us, receive Him. Those who turn from us, muffling us, are doing that to Jesus. Frightening, isn’t it? It’s interesting to note the those who do not believe yet have often used “legalism” as the touchstone for their evaluation.
I would strongly suggest that we take our illnesses into the open. That we become transparent toward others. As we do this, we can oh-so-gently guide our fellowships into true grace and love. They look at me and they see Jesus. And that is our ministry as mentally ill people to the Church.
9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So because of Christ, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (HCSB)
“The gospel is either radical, or it is nothing” — Me
My name is Bryan Lowe and I guide this blog, BrokenBelievers.com. I’m also aChristian 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!
Here are some more, I hope that they bless you somehow. All were painted out of a long season of deep depression. Painting these (and a lot of others) was the only thing that kept me sliding off the edge. Some might ask, how can you create these out of your Bipolar Disorder? To be honest, I am just as mystified as you.
“An artist has been defined as a neurotic who continually cures himself with his art.” (Lee Simonson)
All of these paintings have been given to various non-profit organizations, for the handicapped and the mentally ill. To me, that is the place they belong.
“If you have two loaves of bread, keep one to nourish the body, but sell the other to buy hyacinths for the soul.” (Herodotus)
Doing my best, and feeling my worst. I make no pretense to being an “artist” so if you don’t care for these paintings I will understand. But for me one painting is worth 20 Zoloft.
Holding on, with a makeshift easel…it doesn’t matter
May God’s presence come near to you today and may you understand his outlandish love for you.
“Artists are just as important as doctors and nurses. People need nourishing of their souls as well as their bodies; in Navajo culture the word for ‘medicine man’ and the ‘artist’ are one and the same.” (Marni California)
We have a built-in a deep, voracious hunger for God and nothing can change that fact. You will never find anything that will satisfy this craving. My lovely wife loves chocolate, and I love my lattes. But they absolutely pale in the light of Him; there is no comparison. Fact #1, we were made to walk with God.
“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”–Blaise Pascal
Life unfolds before you, and your life has a definite purpose. Fact #2, God wants to connect you to himself. In the Garden-of-Eden days, Adam and Eve had this incredible relationship with him. The Bible tells us that God desired to “walking in the garden in the the cool of the day.” He has not changed. He wants to go hiking with you!
C.S. Lewis once said, “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
Some of us who are reading this suffer from mental issues. Others struggle with broken relationships and divorce. There are those who deperately live out of their physical difficulties, illnesses and addictions.
I invite you to consider a life with God through Jesus. Fact #3, your load will not be any lighter nor your path less challenging. But walking with God will fufill your dreams of purpose and meaning. His love and forgiveness can surround you and give you a new life. It would be a honor to help you make this step.