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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Fire or Blackberries?

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In some odd way, our lives seem to be always getting interrupted by God. And it can happen a lot. We need to see the invisible. When we can, it can be quite amazing. Our night sky here in Alaska is wonderful. (And I’m a “sky guy”, it means I’m always looking up.) But the most phenomenal night skies were in Mexico, while camping on the beach. As I laid there I looked and the Milky Way was on full display. It really was as good as it could be. It seemed there was 10x more stars than ever before.

Once as I gazed up, a weird sort of fear gripped me, it was almost a panic. I started to tremble and shake. I got up and ran to our tent. I just couldn’t handle the incredible universe with no buffer. I was completely undone, and reduced a quivering speck of dust. I tried to tell my wife Lynn what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t. I was too scrambled. I couldn’t speak.

Reflecting on this, I realize now what I had experienced was “awe.” It was something much more common a few generations ago. There is a kind of existential crisis which we side-step in these more modern times. We rarely contemplate the night sky. We seldom, if ever, have seen fire in a bush.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It seems we have traded our awareness of an Almighty God, and in turn we get to pick all blackberries we can haul. We reason it out, and we feel that we have made a better bargain. But when we extricate this from our souls, don’t be surprised if we suddenly find that we have become spiritual paupers.

Maybe we should learn to see through things; each of us have the opportunity now to see the spiritual world that swirls around us. Why wait for heaven? Ask our Father to reveal His glory now in this present moment. Learn to see that which can’t be seen, but by faith.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made.”

Psalms 19:1, NCV

Crane Song and Common Grace

They sing to God

“And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.  The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” 

Hebrews 1:2-3, NLT

There is an idea of an existance of a ‘common grace’ that touches every person on this rock called Earth.  What is suggested with this, is that every person has access to grace; at least on a basic level, such as nature, government, medical, education and judicial.  We all are sharing in common grace whether we are saved or not.

Common grace explains a great deal, He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45) They both benefit from His care, whether they believe or disbelieve.

On the other pole, lies ‘special grace.’  It is different.  It is grace that is given to those who put their trust in the promises for salvation, deliverance and healing.  These promises can only be enjoyed by a Christian believer.  Special grace is grace that God gives to each one who is in a covenant relationship with Himself.

I got up early the other morning, with a cup of coffee in hand and went to sit out on my steps.  I have to tell you that mornings are truly delightful here in Alaska.  As I sat looking at the trees and watching the clouds,  the sun was caught by the trees and they began to glow.  (I always think of the burning bush of Moses and secretly wonder if trees don’t remember and try to emulate their ancestor so long ago.)  I hear the cranes from the lake.  And all of this touches me.

Just as I physically awoke 20 minutes ago, I now awaken spiritually. Common grace makes this all possible.  When I first became a believing Christian, I was quite amazed at how blue the sky was. The grass seemed greener. I remember feeling amazed that I hadn’t noticed these things before. I guess I was full of joy over the special grace that I had just been given.crane1

Common grace curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.”

–Louis Berkof, Christian theologian

I love common grace.  It makes it possible to enjoy my coffee in the sunshine on the deck.  Common grace allows me to hear the crane’s special song.  People everywhere are drawing from the common well of common grace. “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.” (John 1:4)

 

 

 

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Traveling Mercies, [The Journey]

Things can get pretty grim just living life.  But add a disability, and suddenly blam! It gets worse.  A mental illness intensifies life, and the weird concoction of symptoms and hospitals, therapists and medications and family/friends is a bit daunting for anyone. Imagine, that it’s a bit like running through the wilderness slathered in ‘bacon grease,’ trying to stay ahead from the bears (I’m writing this from Alaska, hence the bear imagery, lol.)

My walk with Jesus has extreme variations (at least, on my part.)  I’m up, and then I’m down.  I’m on fire and then I’m cold.  I struggle to attempt at least a modicum of consistency, wishing I could just put two ‘good days’ together.  I am ashamed by this volatility.  The apostle Peter, or David are probably the only guys in scripture I can really understand.

The impulsivity of my mental illness has driven me to turn my credit cards over to Lynn.  I try to avoid liquor stores, porn sites, and urges to strip off my clothes and run down Pioneer Avenue.  I definitely try to go to Church, read the Bible and pray.  But I have been known to hallucinate, I hear things, and get awfully paranoid.  I’m always, it seems just one step ahead of my psychiatrist in avoiding the hospital.  (And I want to keep it that way.) And suicidality is an almost real monster– always lurking for me under my bed.

But I have also learned many other things from being a mentally ill believer:

  • When its really dark, His love always comes through. He understands me. He intentionally ‘looks’ for me. He’ll never quit on me.
  • My discipleship is not about the externals of my theology, but it’s about romance from my heart.
  • In my pathetic brokenness, He is my strength and my shield. Always.
  • Worship and prayer are more like invasive “medical procedures” that keep me alive.
  • Love. I’m learning to be kinder and more aware of others then ever before.
  • I want to live in the Light and respond to others in Christlike way. Never out of my fallen sinfulness.

I suppose I could add more, if I thought about it.  Ultimately, it all comes down to the presence of Jesus Christ coming to meet me, to forgive me and to change me.  This simple blog is saturated with posts that other Brokenbelievers can wade through, and some just might help, lol.

The title of this post alludes to a quote I found. I’ve gently modified it. Not sure where I found it. But it gives the explanation for all that I’ve said:

“Life should NOT be a journey to heaven with the
intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well
preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways,
with bruises and band-aids, and some tears as well, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming… “WOO HOO what a ride!”

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She Makes the Difference, [Lynn]

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Thank You, Sweetheart!

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:

If they fall down,
they can help each other up.
But pity those who fall
and have no one to help them up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I wish the very best to my single brothers and sisters, and only hope you’ll find the joy of a God-given marriage that will most certainly enhance your present life. When you discover your mate, there will come an awareness that exceeds all that you can work out. I want to exhort you to “trust, and obey.” But I have to insist that there be three strands, not two.

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Riding the Underground, [with Jesus]

“And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.’

Mark 6:31, ESV

Our Savior would never drive us to do things with a whip.  He is not a taskmaster, and he will not insist or impose his will over us.  Nothing about him is brutal or demanding. (He could, really– if he wanted to.)  But no, we learn how to serve him from our loving hearts.

It is interesting that it was Jesus that was very careful, and aware of his disciples needs.  No one suggested a break from the work, but Jesus initiated the break from the massive press of the crowds. He knew intensely what his disciples needed.

 “Crowds of people were coming and going so that Jesus and his followers did not even have time to eat. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves, and we will go to a lonely place to get some rest.”

Mark 6:31, NCV

Underground-SymbolThe presence of so many people had put the disciples in a very hard place.  The NCV describes the crowds, as “coming and going.”  If you have ever been on the London Underground you will understand just the sheer number.  Everyday, 2.93 million people ride the trains.  I remember travelling from the backwoods of  Alaska, with just a backpack, and hitting the crowds on “the tube” in London, UK.

The intense masses were way beyond anything I ever imagined.  Talk about a “culture shock!  I saw more people in just 3 minutes than in an entire year of living in Alaska.  It was like an amazing giant ant-hill; I would stop, and just stare. Nothing prepared me for this. But I knew His presence was with me.

Jesus is more concerned about the living freshness of his disciples.  He shuts things down in order to rest with his followers.  Often the tendency will be the opposite, especially when the leader is weak and immature.  “Work harder, and even more hours!”  Jesus did not have the need to be available 24/7.  And he certainly didn’t expect his disciples to.  His heart is committed to his followers.

He “orders” his disciples, come apart and let’s rest!

“But so many people were coming and going that Jesus and the apostles did not even have a chance to eat. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go to a place where we can be alone and get some rest.”

Mark 6:31, CEV

I don’t know if you can grasp the sensitivity, or see the nuances of Jesus shepherding his disciples.  He has a deep awareness of them; he doesn’t get lost by people pressing in from every side.  He loves the world of men and women, but his followers are his “specialty.”

He tunes in on their frequency, and knows our spiritual capacity.

What gives his followers strength, is to be close with Jesus, and to separate from the needs that were densely surrounding them.  We can be flattered by being needed, but that can be very corrosive or destructive.  I’m guessing but I believe that a few of the disciples may have been annoyed by this break in the action. They found it hard to remove themselves from the action.  Some may have been frustrated, perhaps maybe even slightly irritated by “Jesus’ retreat.”

When you are pouring out, you will find there is only a certain capacity before you run dry.  You may think this is “noble and praiseworthy” but it is nothing of the sort.  It is a form of arrogance and pride.  In order to really mature as a believer, we must shake this off and not to entertain our seeming indispensability to the cause.

We must keep on following Jesus into the quiet places.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28, MSG

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My Mental Breakdown, [Kyrie Eleison]

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Lord, Have Mercy

Quite a few years ago, I was terribly manic. I had found my way somehow from Alaska to Cambridge, England. It was there I wandered the streets  talking to myself, lost and disoriented. It was 2002 and I had just gotten out of a mental hospital in Alaska, and was very medicated. I was by myself in a country I had never visited before. I realize I was behaving very strange. I kept noticing the stares and the whispers.

On one occasion I wandered into the English version of a Walmart– I was in a daze, but I clearly “heard” a 12 foot tree call out to me as I walked by. My heart surged with mercy. I would save it! I grabbed it and headed to the cashier. I slid it along, the tree was heavy and the check-out line was very long. It was a very weird experience. How I was getting it back to Alaska was never a consideration. What can I say, I was “gonzo-manic” now listening to talking trees.

Somewhere, somehow, I had gotten this CD and I slipped it in my Walkman. Sanity would slowly return and this CD, by Nick and Anita Haigh really brought me healing words and a Celtic melody. I love this song. I love the lyrics. The Holy Spirit used it to calm me.

I would meltdown several times after this. And there would be 3-4 more visits to a psych ward for my manic depression, but none would be as severe as my collapse in England .

“Kyrie Eleison” = Greek, “Lord Have Mercy”

Celtic-worship

Kyrie Eleison

Verse 1
Empty broken here I stand,
Kyrie eleison,
Touch me with Your healing hand,
Kyrie eleison,
Take my arrogance and pride,
Kyrie eleison,
wash me in Your mercy’s tide,
Kyrie eleison.

Chorus
Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison,

Verse 2
When my faith is all but gone,
Kyrie eleison,
Give me strength to carry on,
Kyrie eleison,
when my dreams have turned to dust,
Kyrie eleison,
In You O Lord I put my trust,
Kyrie eleison.

Chorus:
Kyrie eleison,
Christe eleison,
Kyrie eleison,

Verse 3
When my heart is cold as ice,
Kyrie eleison,
Your love speaks of sacrifice,
Kyrie eleison,
Love that sets the captives free,
Kyrie eleison,
O pour compassion down on me,
Kyrie eleison.

Repeat Chorus

Verse 4
You’re the voice that calms my fears,
Kyrie eleison,
You’re the laughter dries my tears,
Kyrie eleison,
You’re the music, my refrain,
Kyrie eleison,
Help me sing my song again,
Kyrie eleison.

Repeat Chorus

Verse 5
Humble heart of holiness,
Kyrie eleison,
Kiss me with Your tenderness,
Kyrie eleison,
Jesus, faithful Friend and true,
Kyrie eleison,
All I am I give to You,
Kyrie eleison.

Repeat Chorus (x2)

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Hear a version of this on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYAvDY5Fjj0

Download Kyrie Eleison (Love Have Mercy) 320kbps mp3

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