What Are the Treasures of the Church?

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An Archbishop was given an ultimatum by the Huns who surrounded his cathedral. “You have 24 hours to bring your wealth to these steps”, the war-leader declared. The next morning the Archbishop came out leading the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lunatics. “Where is your treasure? Why have you brought out these, people?” The Archbishop calmly replied, “These are the treasures of the Church— these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”

As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness: ADHD,  depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life. Physical illnesses like fibromyalgia, migraines, diabetes and epilepsy are denied. So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and our doctors appointments. We change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. The pressure to hide is very strong.

But I would suggest to you that it is perhaps we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and lostness, than whole people can. We understand we have needs; a sound mind, a healthy body and we know it. We have no illusions of wellness, nothing can convince us that we are well. We are not. We are broken and only our loving creator can mend us.

You might say that the Church needs us.

But I am afraid the the Western Church no longer sees its “treasures” like it should. In our pride and self-centeredness we have operated our churches like successful businesses. We value giftedness more than weakness. We definitely have no room for the desperately sick or weak. Maybe it’s time for the Church to begin to act like Jesus?

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church should be a verb.  Church is who you are. Church is the human out-working of the person of Jesus Christ. 

Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.

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For a Child Born Without Eyes

A Pastor’s Letter to the Parents of a Child Born Without Eyes

Dear John and Diane,

You are the child, and He is your father
You are the child, and He is your father

Last night, as I prayed with Noel, you were heavy on my mind. I said, “Lord, O Lord, please let me be a pastor who preaches and leads and loves in a way that makes the impossibilities of life possible for your people by a miracle of sustaining grace. Help me to know the weight and pain of this life and not to be breezy when the mountains have fallen into the sea. Help me to have the aroma of Christ’s sufferings about me. Prevent shallowness and callousness to pain. O Lord make me and my people a burden bearing  people.”

O John and Diane, I am so heavy with your child’s sightlessness!  God is visiting Bethlehem with such pain these days in the birth of broken children. Randy and Ann Erickson with their baby’s broken heart; Jan and Rob Barrett with their baby’s liver outside the body; and your precious little one! Is the Lord saying, “I have a gift for your community.” This is not one or two or three couples’ burden. This is a gift and call to the whole church. This word concerning the brokenness of this fallen age of futility. This is an invitation for you all to believe that here we have no lasting city (Hebrews 13:14).

This is an invitation for you to count every gain as loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7). This is a shocking test to see if you will “lose heart” when in fact God’s purpose is to show that his grace is sufficient to renew our inner person every day to deal with the “slight momentary affliction which is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

O Lord, open our eyes to your love in this pain. Open our eyes. Then Elisha prayed, and said, ‘O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). John and Diane, the mountains surrounding your lives are filled with the horses and chariots of God.

Only to the eyes of unbelief does the devil have the upper hand here. God is at work in ways and for years and generations and millions of people that we cannot now imagine.

 This is ours to believe and to bear, no matter the cost. This is ours for this short life. It seems to me that this life is a proving ground for the kingdom to come. Some are asked to devote forty or fifty years to caring for a handicapped child instead of breezing through life without pain. Others are asked to be blind all their lives… But only in this life – ONLY in this life some are . I want to be the kind person who makes that “ONLY” what it really is – very short. Prelude to the infinity of joy, joy, joy.

But not yet. Not entirely.

How will we ever cope with the burdens of this life if we believe this is all there is, or even the main act in this drama of reality? O Lord, give us your view of things. May God fill you with anticipated joy. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

I love you,

Pastor John Piper

 

The volunteer disability ministry blog for Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN.  This message can be found at:

Broken Believers Note:  Although this message has little to do with mental illness, I felt compelled to post it for the way it grips one’s normal way of thinking.  I felt as I read it that I saw a principle of living in a broken body, living in a broken world. If you didn’t benefit, my apologies.

ybic, Bryan

Out of Darkness: The Kelly Willard Interview

kelly-willard-blame-the-one by Maryann B. Hunsberger | CT, originally posted 8/27/2007 

After a long absence from making music, not to mention a series of tragedies—including a divorce and her daughter’s suicide—CCM veteran Kelly Willard is back on the scene.

Since the early days of the Jesus movement, Kelly Willard has been a part of Christian music, recording with many of names associated with the pioneers of CCM before releasing her 1978 debut at the age of 21. With nine albums to her credit, Willard has also been featured on more than two dozen worship projects from Integrity Hosanna!, Vineyard, and Maranatha! Music. Now with the release of her new CD Paga, Willard is finally back on the scene, though she’s never been totally absent. She spoke to us from her Florida home about the things occupying her time for the last 15 years: her family, her recording career, her ministry, and a series of tragedies in 2004.

Your last album was in 1990. What have you been up to all these years?

Kelly Willard It was a priority to be home with my husband and children, since I home-schooled both children. And although I stopped recording my own albums and touring to raise my children, I didn’t stop working in Christian music. I lived in Nashville, so I continued to do session work. I’ve done background vocals for artists, and I’ve done solos on praise-and-worship albums. I’ve always followed what was going on in Christian music, and I’ve continued to do as much music as I could.

It sounds like life has been busy.

Willard Very busy. My mother had Alzheimer’s, so we took her in and cared for her for ten years. I was responsible for her health while my children were growing up. I was home-schooling and doing studio session singing while caring for my mother. I haven’t done much since 2004 because of what life has been like since then.

What happened that year?

Willard It was the worst year of my life. On Valentine’s Day, my father died of pulmonary fibrosis. Later, in March, my 29-year marriage fell apart. I worked so hard on the marriage, even going to counseling. But the marriage fell out from under me because the spiritual foundation of the home fell short. My parents were divorced when I was 13, and I said I’d never divorce. It was so traumatic, because my marriage and family were my life. It’s been hard for me to accept.

Then my 18-year-old daughter Haylie fell through the cracks—on August 29, she committed suicide. She had severe depression and she stopped taking her medication. The divorce was a huge factor in her death. It’s the saddest thing ever. Whenever I sang locally in Nashville, Haylie would sing with me, and mher. And in October, my mother died from Alzheimer’s. So, it really was the worst year ever y son Bryan would play bass. She wrote songs and loved the Lord. Too much sadness just overcame for me.

Did you struggle with feelings of failure during this time?

Willard Totally and completely. For your child to check out of life is just horrific. It’s unthinkable, unspeakable pain.

Does depression run in your family, since it is usually a hereditary illness?

Willard Yes. In 1987, when we had just released Message from a King, my fourth album, I was diagnosed with manic-depressive illness. The medication back then affected me badly, so I stopped taking it. In 2002, the diagnosis was reconfirmed, but with a new name: bipolar disorder. I got on a newer medication and it has worked well. It helped me get through the trauma of the last few years. I believe my mother also had bipolar disorder, but it went undiagnosed.

 How did your son handle everything?

Willard Bryan was out of the house already. He had gotten an apartment when he was 18 with his friend Phil LaRue and a couple other guys—he played bass with the group LaRue. Then he began to court his wife Liz and they married. So they now live in Nashville and have a daughter Ariel. He’s 24 now and such a strong Christian—a singer, writer, and worship leader, traveling and playing bass for Jason Upton’s band.

What have the last three years been like for you?

Willard It’s been a time of healing. It’s a slow process and it has taken time, but it is happening.  I moved to Jacksonville Beach, Florida for support from Beaches Chapel, a church that took me in and helped me move on after my life fell apart. Haylie and I had sung there in 2002 and they had a real burden for me. When things got bad, Pastor Steve McCoy could see how fragile I was. He would call me in Nashville. He asked me to come down for six months, so I did. I went into weekly grief therapy with a Christian grief counselor for 18 months. I also began taking classes at church. The accountability to my pastor and my grief therapist and Jamie kept me alive, as there were times that I honestly didn’t want to live. But, God hung onto me, even when I felt like I couldn’t hang on.

I read a lot of books about heaven, and I get really excited, because reading them helps me live the reality of what our faith is all about. Also, I met Jamie Wellington at church and he became a friend who stood by me. Eventually, he and I got married and I still live in Florida today. God gave me a brand new start in every way.

Which at last brings you back to recording a new album.

Willard I began working on it seven years ago. I thought I’d never record another solo album, but the Holy Spirit impressed on me to involve my kids in making an album with me. That’s my son Bryan rocking on the bass when he was barely 18. His buddies Miles McPherson and Rob Hawkins also played on it. Haylie, who was 15 at the time, sang a duet with me on “Beautiful Jesus.”

Your daughter had a beautiful voice. Is it hard listening to that song?

Willard I made myself listen to it once, just the other day. I saw her on the other side when I heard that.

Where does the title for Paga come from?

Willard I listened to a teaching tape by Jim Goll called “From Prayer to His Presence.” He explained how the Old Testament priests would take incense behind the curtain and burn it as an atonement. This is called “paga” in Hebrew and it means “to make intercession.” When Jesus became our sacrifice, he made the way for our prayers, praises, and worship to become like that incense to the Lord. I wanted this album to draw people to the Lord and take part in that intercession.

I like your cover of “Charity.”

Willard As far as I know, nobody has recorded that song since Jamie Owens Collins recorded it for her first solo album in the ’70s. Which is bizarre, as it’s a great song.

What changes have you seen in the Christian music world since the Jesus movement music in the ’70s?

Willard The ’70s brought a surge of Christian music with Love Song and all the groups from California. It was a great movement of music. But about 20 years ago, I remember Christian radio changing and sounding just like secular radio with DJs trying to act and talk cool, trying to be hip. A lot of the music seemed to lose something. Then, a little more than ten years ago, I saw a revival begin. Very fresh worship and praise music was coming out. Artists like Delirious, Jars of Clay, and Matt Redman were singing about relationships with the Lord again. It was encouraging to see a turn back to simple relationships with Jesus. That’s what everyone loved about early Christian music when people just sang about what Jesus was doing in their lives and they invited others to come along. It’s gotten back to that in much of Christian music.

For more information about Kelly, her music, or concerts:  http://www.kellywillard.com/index.html

 

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