Birthing My Book: Cultivating the Soil

The years 2009-2011 are pretty much a blur for me. I was on a high dose of psychotropics. I was still recuperating from the effects of E.C.T.. I was dealing with deep depression due in large part to a lack of purpose since going on disability.

After my first attempt to write a spiritual memoir was rejected by publishers, I stuffed it in a dresser drawer and quit writing altogether. I tried some gardening, wheeling aging veterans to worship, painting dairy barns, cleaning furnaces — anything to be somewhat productive and stay out of the pit.

Nothing helped. At least not much. In December of 2010 I enrolled in a partial hospitalization treatment program and was introduced to a relatively new therapeutic approach that was proving successful among bipolar patients. It was called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).

I was less than impressed.  I found DBT to be a rather basic blend of pop psychology and generic eastern philosophy.  While I benefited from the support of group therapy and met many compassionate caregivers, I left the program feeling it had fallen short, eager for something more in-depth and, if possible, rooted in my own Christian tradition.

Thanks to the advocacy of a family minister, we discovered a program called Shepherd’s Fold. Originally designed as a re-integration program for prisoners adjusting back to family life, it had become more a discipleship center where men could study deeply the Scriptures, receive Christian counsel, and develop work and personal habits that might carry over for them to become better husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers in Christ.

I enrolled at Shepherd’s Fold in September of 2011 and immediately began to adopt the schedule, the tasks, and habits they had carefully designed to promote spiritual well-being. While I struggled with the structure, and my pace at work and in chores was particularly slow, I found my overall mental health improved. Most importantly, I was able to read and reflect on God’s Word for hours each day.

I began to write again.  My letters home to my wife were often 30 pages and up (and sometimes I wrote 2 or 3 a week). I began a correspondence with a former colleague in ministry who sent me his sermons and I would respond with lengthy replies. In addition to daily journal entries from Scripture readings, I did a number of research papers on issues with which I had been dealing. After eight months in treatment, I was asked to write a “spiritual autobiography” and I filled over 125 hand-written pages. My writer’s voice was returning.

Sadly, my time at Shepherd’s Fold came to an end in August, 2012 as I left the program early.  God only knows the complete story of why it didn’t work out as we had hoped — to promote family reconciliation.  But it is clear that though the soil seemed barren, there was much cultivation.

Cultivating

Reaching Out with “Delight in Disorder”

When I first conceived writing a spiritual memoir about my faith journey battling bipolar disorder, I had no idea where it would lead.  It took almost four years for the seed to really germinate.  In March of this year, after the suicide of Matthew Warren, I sensed a greater urgency that God was calling me to share the hope of Christ with my brothers and sisters who wrestle with mental illness and foster greater compassion among my brothers and sisters in the faith community towards those of us with “disordered minds.”

When God gives direction, He also paves the way for us to follow.  God guided me to Leanne Sype who first helped shape my disordered devotions into a marvelous house of meditations.  From March – July, Leanne helped me craft a second and third draft.  Once we felt we had a good working draft, Leanne helped me write a query and synopsis to see if a conventional publisher might pick us up. August and September was a “pruning season,” as God snipped away at branches that would not bear fruit.

In late September, after much thought and prayer, we came to the conviction that God was leading us toward self-publication and that the best path would be to recruit a team of gifted specialists to see that the final product was more “delightful” than “disordered.”  Lyn came on as a prayer captain. Nicole was brought in to design the cover and produce the video. Kevin has served as music consultant.

Friday night, I unleashed my Facebook Author Page, which already has 104 “likes.”

Sunday night, we unveiled our mission campaign on indiegogo – Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission which, as of this writing, has attracted 149 views, has 10 followers, and 5 funders for a total of $300 (towards a goal the $2,000 goal).

More than the numbers, however, God is reaching out through the mission campaign to share hope with those battling mental illness and promote compassion within the faith community.  Here are two testimonies that have already been shared –

 I just spent the morning getting to know a gal who is in the trenches of a heavy spiritual battle at this very moment. She’s fresh out of drug rehabilitation, looking at incarceration from past choices that she’s trying to clear up, and going to counseling with her non-medicated bipolar husband, all while FULLY knowing the Lord and clinging desperately to his promises and his will for her life… I was actually able to mention Delight in Disorder to her and share a little bit about the book and the mission. I showed her just the video on the campaign page and she started to cry. It’s already touching lives, my dear.

I appreciate what you’re doing with this ministry you’ve started. We have a son who has battled depression on and off since late elementary and sadly the church has sometimes been the last place we wanted to talk about it!  Keep up the good work—the church needs your message as much as the “disordered”!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

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For more information on our mission campaign, click on –

Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission

Stereotypes Suck

Reblogged from Writings and Ruminations:

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Bear with me while I have a moment…

I had an interesting conversation with someone very close to me who said, “The thing about stereotypes is they exist because more often than not, they’re true.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

The problem is, where does that leave the people who don’t fit the stereotypes? The people in the minority. Or even those in the minority of the majority?

Read more… 830 more words

Leanne marvelously battles the stigma of mental illness not with the sharp spears of political debate, but with the smooth stone of story. Thanks, Leanne!

“Troubled Minds” Author Endorses “Delight in Disorder”

I’ve been on quite a roller-coaster ride as we move closer to the indiegogo campaign (very soon) and publication (March, 2014) of my spiritual memoir Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission.   Last night I was telling my sister I had been cycling emotionally as well as craving alcohol.  By God’s grace and with prayer from friends and family, I’ve managed to stay safe, clean, and sober.  Yet, I’ve been fretting over many things, fearing that all I and others are investing in the mission might come to naught.

This morning when I checked my in-box, I noticed there was a message from Amy Simpson.

In 2012, Intervarsity Press published Simpson’s book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission in which she shares the story of her mother, who has schizophrenia and the Church failed to respond to her needs or the needs of the family.  Troubled Minds offers a ray of hope in the end, highlighting a few church ministries across the country where there is some openness to folks with mental illnesses, but largely Simpson’s voice is a prophetic one — the Church is called in Christ to do more.

After reading Troubled Minds, I was inspired to write to Ms. Simpson first to thank her for sharing her story.  She very thoughtfully responded.  I then boldly asked if she might read my manuscript and consider offering an endorsement.  She graciously accepted.

Today, I received her response, with the following endorsement attached –

Delight in Disorder is a resource we have long needed. We all need to hear from people who have struggled with mental illness and have found, indeed, that nothing can separate us from God’s great and redeeming love. This book is honest about the experience of living with bipolar disorder, and it’s full of compassion toward the many people whose own moods betray them so treacherously. It’s also full of hope—not the cheap kind we use to varnish over the truth about ourselves and about this life we live. But the only kind of hope that can stand when everything else falls: hope in Christ and his grace.  

Yes, it has been a roller-coaster ride.  A delightful one.  And it’s only just begun.

I thank you, Ms. Simpson.  And I praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Sharing Delight in Disorder

Delight

Over four years in the making, my spiritual memoir – Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission has finally grown legs and is moving forward thanks in large part to an incredible team of young, creative, faithful artists I’m dubbing “Team Delight.”

Team Delight is comprised of….

Leanne came on board as editor back in March and has help shape a disordered collection of meditations into a delightful house of prayer.  She is now directing our indiegogo campaign to raise money for publishing costs and 100 advance copies.

Lyn has been a faithful reader and a strong supporter for many months.  She has recently become a prayer partner.  She will serve as the “prayer captain” for our Delight in Disorder mission.

Matthew  is a young Australian poet whose words both inspire and console.  He has contributed seven of his poems to Delight in Disorder.

Nicole was recommended by Leanne as a graphic artist who could design our book cover.  Working diligently and faithfully, she has conceived and produced a visual representation of Delight in Disorder that is riveting.  We have now contracted with her to produce a promotional video for our book.

David Zucker, a mental health advocate with University Presbyterian Church in Seattle has agreed to write the foreword.

Kevin – This past weekend, I had the pleasure of staying with Kevin and his lovely wife Megan.  We talked about Delight in Disorder.  On the drive home, I was inspired to contact Kevin and he has agreed to serve as musical consultant for our promotional video.  Kevin is also doing a beta-reading of my autobiographical prelude.

This is the current “starting six” for Team Delight.  There are others actively contributing to the mission, including –

– Pastor Andy, Gary G., Gary M are doing a “theological beta-reading” and serving as spiritual advisers.

Jen is doing a beta-reading.

I have also received offers to help from –

Katie of White Fence Media.

Iona of A Whispered Wind.

Chris from The Musings of C.p. Singleton42′s mind.

Rara of rarasaur

I have been tremendously blessed by this group of people.  I would encourage you to check out their websites and blogs.  If you pray, please pray for each of them.  I may be delusional (in fact, I have paperwork to prove it), but I also know there are very real “powers and principalities” at work preventing hope from reaching those struggling with mental illness.  Please pray for our mission – to share delight with those wrestling with disorder.

(image above from Hannah Zapf)

Going to a Family Baptism

We don’t choose the families into which we are born. In a spiritual sense, neither do we choose to be adopted into God’s family. God chooses to adopt us as His children through the prompting of the Holy Spirit within us and the prodding around us.  Yet, when we profess faith in Christ and receive Him in our hearts as our Lord and Savior, it is as if we are signing our name on the adoption papers. These papers give us a new lease on life. The waters of baptism show us that our sin, which leads to spiritual death, is washed away.

To read more, click on the title below…

“A Family Baptism”

Baptism...

Baptism… from Ana Pinto in What Makes Life

God as Our Mother Hen

We often use prayer as a last resort rather than a first line of defense. This is regrettable, and it must grieve God greatly. But only we only stop and ask directions when we are desperately lost.  We only seek God’s shelter when we’ve become trapped in a raging storm and have no other safe place to turn. The good news is, God understands this and doesn’t hold it against us. God welcomes everyone who turns to Him with a sincere desire to live in faith, embraced by the loving arms of a Creator who wants to protect us.

To read more, click on the title below —

“Like Baby Chicks Running to The Mother Hen”

magicalnaturetour:    Mother Hen protecting her babies :)

Finding Victory Through Surrender

Psalm 6 begins with a plea to God to bring relief from suffering. God, who is the Source of all things, is the first One we should turn to when we are in trouble. As the psalm progresses, we find the Psalmist near the point of breakdown.

6-7 I’m tired of all this—so tired. My bed
    has been floating forty days and nights
On the flood of my tears.
    My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears.
The sockets of my eyes are black holes;
    nearly blind, I squint and grope.  (Psalm 6:6-7, The Message)

To read more, click on the title below —

“Victory Through Surrender”

Spiritual warfare

“Spiritual warfare” from Lara W. in For Lara

Finding Freedom from Religion or Freedom for Religion?

Today (July 4), Americans celebrate our Declaration of Independence from “British tyranny” (as it was then perceived.)  It was primarily a declaration economic and political independence (a reaction against “taxation without representation.”)  My thoughts today, however, turn to the “religious freedom” our ancestors sought in the new land.  I am particular interested in those “founding fathers” who signed the Declaration of Independence 237 years ago today.  Were they seeking “freedom from religion” or “freedom for religion”? And if it was “for religion,” what was the nature of this religion?

To read more, click on the title below —

“Declaring Independence: Economically, Politically, and Spiritually”

A Declaration of Independence (from ED)

A Declaration of Independence (from ED) from Kaila Prins in “Skinny” Genes