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Ten Resolutions for Mental Health

Clyde Kilby’s Resolutions for Mental Health and for Staying Alive to God in This World

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Holding the substantial

 

  1. Once a day I will look at the sky and remember that I am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.
  2. I will suppose the universe is guided by an intelligence.
  3. I will not fall into the lie that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding 24 hours, but rather a unique event, filled with wonderful potential.
  4. I will prefer reality to abstractions.
  5. I will not demean my own uniqueness by envying others. I will mostly forget about myself and do my work.
  6. I will open my eyes and ears by at least once a day simply staring at a tree, a flower, a cloud or a person. I will simply be glad that they are what they are.
  7. I will often remember back to when I was a child and think about my dreaming eyes of wonder.
  8. I will frequently turn to things like a good book and good music.
  9. I will enjoy each moment, not always worrying about what the decade before me will demand from me.
  10. I will bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic but rather acknowlege that each day strokes are made on the cosmic canvas that in due course I will understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

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Clyde S. Kilby, 1902-1986
Clyde S. Kilby, 1902-1986

” Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.”

Proverbs 1:2

 Clyde Kilby, who is now with the Lord in heaven, was my teacher in English Literature at Wheaton. He did as much as any other teacher I have had to open my eyes to the ministry of God in the skies. 

       – Pastor John Piper, DesiringGod.org

 

 

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Singing Like a Canary

Scripture is completely saturated with singing.  There a whole a lot of people who think the Bible is full of sin, wrath and judgement.  But that is not a fair assessment.  It’s misguided, and side tracks many.

And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
    belong to the one sitting on the throne
    and to the Lamb forever and ever.”

 Revelation 5:13, NLT

The culmination of the total history of mankind, ends up in this song.  All of the history books, and college lectures and symposiums are merely setting up for this massive choir.  It is what we are all about.

In the Old Testament, it seems everyone sings.  One finds melody everywhere.   Moses sings, the Children of Israel sing.  Miriam sings, Deborah sings. David sings, the Levites in the temple sings.  Most of the Psalms sing. Mary sings, the angels sing. And when the curtain falls on history, everyone sings.  (God’s people are quite melodic it seems.)

“Next to theology I give to music the highest place and honor. And we see how David and all the saints have wrought their godly thoughts into verse, rhyme, and song.”

Martin Luther

But where does this take you and I?  A common denominator is when one comes to a revelation of God.  With a deeper understanding there is a wider capacity to sing.  Another commonality is responding to a miraculous deliverance, from sin or enemies.  These are just a couple of the reasons we should “join the choir.”

“Then I will hold my head high
    above my enemies who surround me.
 At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy,
    singing and praising the Lord with music.”

Psalm 27:6

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”

Col. 3:16, NLT

So sing. Sing alone or in a group. It’s the will of God, that pleases Him immensely.

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He Knows Where I’m Going

“I go east, but he is not there.
    I go west, but I cannot find him.
I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden.
    I look to the south, but he is concealed.

10 “But he knows where I am going.
    And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
11 For I have stayed on God’s paths;
    I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”

Job 23:10-11, NLT

Job is not sure where God is exactly. He can’t be pinpointed to Job’s satisfaction. But Job knows one thing very well. The outcome will be golden (v. 10).

Especially thinking of these last two verses, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t be switched (verse 11 changing places with verse 10.)  But I most certainly won’t try to edit the Book of Job.  I guess I’m just looking for an ‘enhanced grip’ on these verses.

Job explains his confidence, “He knows…where I am going.”  That most exceptional understanding gives him an awareness and a sensitivity toward the presence of God.  “He knows, where I am going.”

Verse 10 will be my trumpet blast.  Testing me, is His full intention.  He intends to make me golden. As I think of this, I first should understand that it is “He” making me.  It’s the Father’s work; it is not by my efforts.  Nevertheless, it will happen!

His intention is to put us in His crucible.  He ‘cooks’ us until we are gleaming, shiny and pure.  Just understanding this process, brings us into a huge, new dimension.  We now understand why we have discipleship.Under_construction

Verse 11 now injects us with this concept of discipleship.  There is an “Under Construction” sign that hangs over us, we are being worked on. Because Job is thrown in the crucible, his faith is transformed into a solid walk.

Job loves because he has been deeply loved. Job claims this understanding.  “For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”  Some might suggest ‘hubris,’ or pride and overconfidence.  But just maybe it was the truth.  And could it be– that he has been changed by the crucible?  Changed and altered by the “heat?”  This intensity is of the Holy Spirit, and sovereignly using our various trials, completes us.  I suppose that this process is what we call—  sanctification.

“The same Jesus Who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.”

Adrian Rogers

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The Two-Minute Bible School

Found this recently and felt it might bless you.  It is almost a Bible survey course, and as about as brief as you can go without losing any kind of comprehension at all.  I so hope  you like this, if just for the novelty of it. I wish I could attribute it to someone. I have no idea.

 

 

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“Darkness is My Only Companion”

“Lord Jesus Christ, you are for me medicine when I am sick; you are my strength when I need help; you are life itself when I fear death; you are the way when I long for heaven; you are light when all is dark; you are my food when I need nourishment.”

—Ambrose of Milan (340-397)

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Our theology makes all the difference in fighting depression, writes Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Author of “Darkness, Is My Only Companion” and Episcopal priest. Here is an excerpt where she introduces the depression of Christians.

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In his Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis says that suffering is uniquely difficult for the Christian, for the one who believes in a good God. If there were no good God to factor into the equation, suffering would still be painful, but ultimately meaningless, because random.

For the Christian, who believes in the crucified and risen Messiah, suffering is always meaningful. It is meaningful because of the one in whose suffering we participate, Jesus. This is neither to say, of course, that suffering will be pleasant, nor that it should be sought. Rather, in the personal suffering of the Christian, one finds a correlate in Christ’s suffering, which gathers up our tears and calms our sorrows and points us toward his resurrection.

In the midst of a major mental illness, we are often unable to sense the presence of God at all. Sometimes all we can feel is the complete absence of God, utter abandonment by God, the sheer ridiculousness of the very notion of a loving and merciful God. This cuts to the very heart of the Christian and challenges everything we believe about the world and ourselves.

I have a chronic mental illness, a brain disorder that used to be called manic depression, but now is less offensively called bipolar disorder. I have sought help from psychiatrists, social workers, and mental health professionals; one is a Christian, but most of my helpers are not. I have been in active therapy with a succession of therapists over many years, and have been prescribed many psychiatric medications, most of which brought quite unpleasant side effects, and only a few of which relieved my symptoms. I have been hospitalized during the worst times and given electroconvulsive therapy treatments.

All of this has helped, I must say, despite my disinclination toward medicine and hospitals. They have helped me to rebuild some of “myself,” so that I can continue to be the kind of mother, priest, and writer I believe God wants me to be.

During these bouts of illness, I would often ask myself: How could I, as a faithful Christian, be undergoing such torture of the soul? And how could I say that such torture has nothing to do with God? This is, of course, the assumption of the psychiatric guild in general, where faith in God is often viewed at best as a crutch, and at worst as a symptom of disease.

bad-times-333-300x250How could I, as a Christian, indeed as a theologian of the church, understand anything in my life as though it were separate from God? This is clearly impossible. And yet how could I confess my faith in that God who was “an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1) when I felt entirely abandoned by that God? And if this torture did have something to do with God, was it punishment, wrath, or chastisement? Was I, to use a phrase of Jonathan Edwards’s, simply a “sinner in the hands of an angry God”?

I started my journey into the world of mental illness with a postpartum depression after the birth of our second child. News outlets are rife with stories of women who destroy their own children soon after giving birth. It is absolutely tragic. Usually every instinct in the mother pushes toward preserving the life of the infant. Most mothers would give their own lives to protect their babies. But in postpartum depression, reality is so bent that that instinct is blocked. Women who would otherwise be loving mothers have their confidence shaken by painful thoughts and feelings.

Depression is not just sadness or sorrow. Depression is not just negative thinking. Depression is not just being “down.” It’s walking barefoot on broken glass; the weight of one’s body grinds the glass in further with every movement. So, the weight of my very existence grinds the shards of grief deeper into my soul. When I am depressed, every thought, every breath, every conscious moment hurts.

And often the opposite is the case when I am hypomanic: I am scintillating both to myself, and, in my imagination, to the whole world. But mania is more than speeding mentally, more than euphoria, more than creative genius at work. Sometimes, when it tips into full-blown psychosis, it can be terrifying. The sick individual cannot simply shrug it off or pull out of it: there is no pulling oneself “up by the bootstraps.”

And yet the Christian faith has a word of real hope, especially for those who suffer mentally. Hope is found in the risen Christ. Suffering is not eliminated by his resurrection, but transformed by it. Christ’s resurrection kills even the power of death, and promises that God will wipe away every tear on that final day.

But we still have tears in the present. We still die. In God’s future, however, death itself will die. The tree from which Adam and Eve took the fruit of their sin and death becomes the cross that gives us life.

The hope of the Resurrection is not just optimism, but keeps the Christian facing ever toward the future, not merely dwelling in the present. But the Christian hope is not only for the individual Christian, nor for the church itself, but for all of Creation, bound in decay by that first sin: Cursed is the ground because of you … It will produce thorns and thistles for you …” (Gen. 3:17-18).

This curse of the very ground and its increase will be turned around at the Resurrection. All Creation will be redeemed from pain and woe. In my bouts with mental illness, this understanding of Christian hope gives comfort and encouragement, even if no relief from symptoms. Sorrowing and sighing will be no more. Tears will be wiped away. Even fractious [unruly, irritable] brains will be restored.

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“Darkness: My Only Companion”

Kathryn Greene-McCreight is assistant priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church in New Haven, Connecticut, and author of Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness (Brazos Press, 2006).

On the web:  http://www.hopeandhealing.org/contentPage.aspx?resource_id=311

 

 

 

 

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For This Thing is From Me

 “Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the LORD, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD.”  

 1 Kings 12:24, KJV

You can never accuse the Lord of being cold and distant and aloof.  He doesn’t detach Himself from the needs of His people.  He doesn’t ever disconnect and isolate Himself.  On the contrary, He is constantly thinking and acting on our behalf.  He is a proactive God.  That is most impressive.

Some say, that at the beginning of creation, God wound up the universe like a clock.  Now He watches as everything just winds down.  He makes no intervention, or attempt to regulate.  We call this “Deism.”  It may be understood philosophically, but not theologically–or biblically.  The God of the Bible is always intensively involved in the affairs and concerns of His covenant people.

“For this thing is from Me.”  God directs a confused king who has significant issues.  God decides that civil war between Judah and Israel is wrong.  He sends His prophet Shemaiah to stand before the king of Judah, and speak out a word to the nation.  The Lord is involved, and it is He who is actively enmeshed into this issue.

“For this thing is from Me.”  There is something here that can mystify and perplex the best of us.  He begins to weave and guide His active presence into the confusing issues of that time.  He is not a “landlord God,”  but He is intensely involved in our affairs.  He initiates and directs the very things that concern us.

“For this thing is from Me.”  The text clearly opens up this ugly situation.  In the midst of this bizarre issue, God has assumed control.  His prophet Shemaiah carries this Word into  a room of explosive personalities.  Now the arrogance of the king can be a tenacious thing.  But He moves wherever He wills.  Kings are never an issue, when God enters in.

Dear one, He is deeply involved in your affairs.  He draws very close, and He has engaged Himself to be intricately involved.  “For this thing is from Me.”  and that truth opens up His purposes to our desperate poverty.  We may try very hard to try to maintain control and direction.  But God directs and superintends.  He is big enough to touch and direct my small heart.  We will only come into confusion if we try to sidestep His lordship.

 “The Lord can control a king’s mind as he controls a river;  he can direct it as he pleases.” 

Proverbs 21:1

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Pivoting on Astonishing Grace

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

― Brennan Manning

Perhaps there are a few things we need to more fully grasp. There is a real and definite, ‘life of grace.’ And it’s a whole lot more than a polished niceness or even an agreeable congeniality.  It is Grace, and when you do connect with it, it’s like touching a bare wire. The first time— don’t be surprised if it throws across the room– figuratively speaking.

There is a special perception of grace.  We must locate it and then live off its fatness. One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott wrote,

“I do not understand the mystery of grace –” only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

After just several sentences of writing this post, I simply come to this same place.  I know precisely what grace is (but I can’t tell you.) I would like to, very very much. It simply is beyond a definition, and yet, I can tell you it is real. When you reach out and grab it, you suddenly realize that you have been ‘taken apart,’ and then reassembled in a changed way.

Manning talks about “acknowledging my whole life story.” There are very dark times, times when we promoted, and revelled in our personal evil. I can tell you of many things in my own behavior that would curl your hair, or demand justice be done.

But the ‘light-part’ needs to be recognized.  It does exist. But unquestionably I have done much more evil than good. On my knees recently, I’ve realized I have committed more sin as a believer— than I ever did in my darkness, before Christ. I was completely overwhelmed.

As I get familiar with my evil, it really schools me. It drops me into God’s classroom of grace. He tutors me, over and over. I learn of mercy, and grace, love and kindness. All which can only be decrypted by one simple word, “undeserved.” If you know that single word, heaven itself will open up like a golden sardine can.

But all of it pivots on grace.  Grace was the total reason it all happened like it did.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9, ESV

“You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor and we became rich.”  Message

Sometimes we need a dramatic change in our perception of the truth. What I mean is this. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we’re often drawn to more systematic and theological specifics. We want to read all about—

  • End Times,
  • the Trinity,
  • the doctrine of healing/tongues,
  • the proper formula to speak at baptism,
  • women in ministry, and the like.

This is all well and good. We need to understand the fundamentals. Doctrine is important.

But just maybe what we really should do is think about—

  • forgiveness,
  • kindness,
  • servanthood,
  • faithfulness,
  • evangelism,
  • prayer

We often make small things big, and big things small.  We really should understand the ‘density’ of things spiritual. Let’s put our discipleship into perspective. To study something out isn’t the same as seeking God’s face, and grace.

Grace is one of those things for us; it is quite “amazing.” In it is such beauty and perfection— men could never, ever dream it up. It’s like an ocean where a child can splash, and yet it’s depths are still unfathomed and unexplored. God’s grace, in its truest sense, is eternally profound.

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