embracing those who struggle ... and a recommendation for Marcia Webb's "Toward a Theology of Mental Illness"

Yesterday at a funeral for a former student, who for time--temporarily--lost the battle with cancer but who for eternity--forever--embraced the welcome of Jesus, Pastor Dan Brooks of Heritage Bible Church spoke on the death of Lazarus. He pointed out Jesus' great love and intentional working to bring mourners to belief. 
One of the outstanding pieces of truth Pastor Brooks shared was this: 
We so often ask Jesus to write a story of healing and happily ever after, like the disciples and sisters of Lazarus. But sometimes He doesn't write it the way we had hoped. That's only because He is writing a way more amazing story than we can ever dream of. The crises are greater than we wanted to deal with. And the climaxes don't come at the expected times--sometimes they come way earlier and hit way harder; other times, they seem delayed. Yet He writes. And His story, in the end, is worth the struggle of reading ... of living through ... because He is God. He is the Author, and we can trust where He's going. 

Certain struggles are fought together, the Body of Christ embracing the sufferer. Others, though, in our conservative Christian culture, are too often ignored, misunderstood, shut out, or even demonized. 

I just finished reading "Toward a Theology of Mental Illness" by Marcia Webb, and I am convinced that we as Christians--and perhaps especially as conservative Christians--need to read and digest this information, making necessary changes to our conceptualization and response to those of our brothers and sisters "in Christ" who are legitimately struggling--and I use that word intentionally, not lightly, because it is an ongoing struggle--with mental illness.
Dr. Marcia Webb,
photo courtesy of SPU

Seattle Pacific University's Marcia Webb (MDiv & PhD) brings together a personal relationship with Jesus (our suffering Savior), a professional background in psychotherapy, and an amazing amount of research in both history and the Word, to present HOPE to those in our Christian communities who are truly suffering through the agonizing journey of mental illness. 

If mentally ill persons find themselves estranged--abandoned by the community around them, distressed, and struggling with their God--perhaps the Scriptural testimony is that in this estrangement they are, paradoxically, not alone. In the person of Christ, God has taken a seat with the estranged. Christ is, for the mentally ill person, and for all of humanity, truly Immanuel, "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). (page 65)

Please take the time to read Marcia's lecture. It is just under 70 pages, so it will take a bit of time. But it is worth our time and consideration. Pray through the passages and determine to understand with an earnest desire toward exercising grace one to another within the Church. 

(I will note that I would like to see a clearer stand on creationism, and a passing reference to Muslim/imams seems like it broadens the scope to religious beyond Christian at a couple of brief points. But, though important, for this topic, they are perhaps more like the couple of pieces of coffee grounds that can be left at the bottom of a cup of coffee that you have to admit is phenomenal.)

Then let us embrace our brothers and sisters along their purposeful journey through which they are agonizing. 

I have no doubt that we have much to learn from those who are struggling. After all, there is a link between those who are highly gifted and those who struggle with mental illness. 
And, after all, we are as the Body of Christ to be intricately connecting, growing together, sharing in one another's burdens, for His glory. 

I would love to hear your feedback on Marcia's lecture once you've read through it. 

Grace and peace, 
with love, 


pen-dropping providence: seeing God in the small things

It was one of those times when I was so tempted just to leave the shopping cart out in the parking lot to be blown by the wind into someone else's car. And I just might have ... except that the toddler was crying, "Boo pen, boo pen." 

I had given him a blue pen to draw on the Hepatitis A Vaccine Info Sheet we'd gotten at the doctor's office the other day, that vaccine that he accepted without even crying ... and then gave the nurse a hug. And he had just entertained himself quite nicely writing his name or some chicken scratch that he claimed was his name while I finished shopping and checked out. 

So I unloaded the cart, locked the van, and went back to return the cart and retrieve the "boo pen." 

Just as I got to the entrance of the store and picked up the blue pen, I turned around to see a dear grieving sister in Christ who has just recently lost her brother through a traumatic turn of events. She and her mom were headed in to find a suitable black dress for the funeral this weekend. I hadn't seen her in ages. I'd heard of her family's heartache though, and I've been praying. But that greeting, those hugs--they were providential. 

I turned to pick the toddler up out of the cart, and looked in his glad-to-have-his-pen-back eyes, and said, "You know, buddy, sometimes when you drop your pen, it's because of God."

So often, we think of little things as just that, little things. Or worse, we see a dropped pen as an inconvenience or even an evil. We do well to remind ourselves that even those little things are part of God's plan. 

And we do well to keep our eyes open throughout our day, to see which sister needs a hug, which toddler needs his nose wiped, which middle schooler needs math explained, which unbeliever needs the love of Jesus .... 

We do well to give credit where credit is due. God is not just the God of the big things. He's big enough to be God of the small things too. 

What small thing have you seen God providentially work through recently?

Grace and peace, 
with love, 


life touching life: not fast, but deep

Mint and chamomile infused water
and homemade whole wheat bread
with rosemary and garlic
(c) vineandshoots

Earlier this week, a dear friend brought me two beautiful plants of mint. She uses the leaves to flavor her drinking water, admitting that she rarely takes the time to make hot tea with it. And it got me thinking. 

You know the old tea bag illustration: be careful what's inside because when the temp gets turned up, what's inside will come out. 

Well, it's not just hot water that draws out the contents of a tea bag. Sometimes it's time. 

Try it. Stick an herbal tea bag in your drinking water. Or throw in a piece of mint. The flavor infusion won't be immediate, but it will happen in time. 

This morning I was privileged to attend a "Celebrate Moms" event at Hampton Park Baptist Church. Our speaker for the occassion was business professional and pastor's wife Vicki Peek of Grace Baptist Fellowship (a sister church here in the Upstate). God opened our hearts to hear His message of life touching life as Vicki spoke about the importance of reaching beyond ourselves into others life in an intentional and relational manner. 

"Life on life impacts is sourced in the Holy Spirit."

We have to remember where the power and effectiveness comes from. This worthy walk that Jesus called us to is not one that we can fake or make up on our own. No, effective Christian living, just like true salvation, is a gift from God that we embrace.

Vicki challenged us to look outside ourselves, into our communities.

"Broaden your circle. Don't close your circle; keep it open."

Look across the generational lines--both directions. We almost naturally think of ministering to those younger than ourselves, but we shouldn't negate the possibility that God could use us to encourage someone older than us too. 

"And it's not just the big things." 

We must be "intentional" about living the Christian life, but we must also realize that "much of the impact is indirect, rather than direct." It comes when we're just serving Jesus and others see and are encouraged to glorify God. Sounds like Matthew 5:16, right? 

"Let your light so shine among men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which in Heaven."

Her final point, and the one that links in with the infused tea in even cold water illustration above, is that this kind of living is "relational." 

"Not fast, but deep."

It takes place over time, sometimes over a very long period of time.

"One life at a time."

Who's life is your walk with God impacting today? Who lives with you? What are you infusing into their lives? 

This is a challenge that steeps strong. God's been working its intense flavor into my heart this week. 

With Mother's Day tomorrow, it's gotten me thinking about the impact of a mom on her kids. There are times when I am very aware that that particular thought or opinion or way of doing something came from my mom. In the end, I'm sure her life has impacted mine way more than I even realize. 

The question then is raised: How am I impacting my kids? What's their cup of life being flavored with? Mint and chamomile--calming and refreshing? Or ... ?  

But it doesn't stop there. Going back to the cross-generational idea, I know my kids have impacted my life too. I think tomorrow, instead of just letting them pamper me, I'm going to figure out how to tell them what a joy it is to be their mom, how much they teach me, how much I love them back.

Still further, it's not just familial in a biological sense. Who else does my life intersect? Whose life do I touch? Who touches my life? How are we impacting one another for mutual growth in the grace and knowledge of God? Who are we encouraging to glorify God?

Thoughts to think on, I know. Believe me, I know. But even more importantly, these are thoughts to act on. I'm glad we're in this together. Let's keep stiving to live our lives reaching out to others for the glory of God, remembering that the starting point is a real and growing relationship with God Himself. Thank you for impacting my life, too, as you make comments and stay in touch in a variety of ways. I love hearing from you.

Happy Mother's Day! 

Grace and peace, 
with love,