Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Read my book online

My publisher, Wood Lake Books told me yesterday that if you go to their website and do a search for my book, Riding the Roller Coaster, you will be able to read 20% of the book online. You won't be able to download it, but reading it online will give you a good idea of what the book is like. It's also possible to order the book there, directly from them. Hope you will take a look.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Steadfast love

Yesterday our pastor Don Dyck ended his sermon by talking about a beautiful Hebrew word for which there is no single English word. "Hesed" can be variously translated as "loving kindness", "steadfast love", "loyal devotion", "mercy." Hesed is descriptive of God's relationship with his people as well as relationships among people. God's steadfast love (hesed) towards people places them in a new relationship with each other shaped by the same love they have experienced from God. Hesed is Christ-like love.

Micah 6:8 says "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy ("hesed") and to walk humbly with your God."

God calls us to live a life that exceeds the requirements that the law, social standards - and even God - places on us. He calls us to walk humbly with God and to reflect God's character. Hesed is both and attitude and the action that grows out of that attitude. It describes God's love for his people. Out of that hesed, God says "no matter who you are or what you do, I'm going to love you anyway, I'm going to redeem you anyway." It's unconditional love.

Pastor Don's notes say that "ordinary people become part of something bigger than themselves as they live faithfully by this standard."

I have a good friend who lives a lifestyle marked by hesed. She works wonders in the lives of people she touches. She has worked wonders in my life. In treating me with God's steadfast love, she has taught me what Christ's love is truly like. She and the spirit of God within her have inspired me to try and live likewise.

God's spirit has been within me since I became a Christian, but I have not always responded to his promptings to the extent I could have. My friend has been a mentor to me, helping me live with more abundant hesed. And this has changed me.

...and my mental health has never been as stable. I have never felt as fulfilled. I'm doing the work God made me to do - and it all came from my God-given lifestyle of hesed. Thank God for what he's done for me and where he's brought me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Living Room website now online

Just a quick post to let you know that Living Room's new website is now online. Check out

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Cornelius and Jeannette of Matchbox Creative for the superb job they did of putting this together. I did not know there was so much to think of when creating a website, but Cornelius knew just what was needed for a truly excellent site. He patiently helped me come up with all the information I needed to provide. Jeannette is responsible for making the site look attractive. It's a place where people will want to spend some time.

Tonight I rest because tomorrow is the big day when 100 Huntley Street will be interviewing me and taping a session of Living Room. Please remember me in your prayers tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why the stigma?

Why don't people within the church feel comfortable discussing mental health issues?

I think a major reason is that people don't understand mental illness enough to be able to talk about it. They need education. The problem is, they often don't want to be educated. Often it is fear. People fear what they don't understand and they can't get beyond the block that creates.

In churches and in Christian writing the reason for emotional problems has frequently - very frequently - been attributed to spiritual problems. A person attending a Living Room group recently told us of how - when she told her pastor that she was being treated for depression - he told her to "praise the Lord and you will feel better." Instead of receiving compassion, he gave her the message that all she needed to do was to turn to God. In other words, if her relationship with God was better, she would not be depressed. It was as though he was blaming her for the depression.

Illnesses like depression are too often not recognized as the diseases they are. If the problem is emotional it is believed that it is within our own power to change. If the problem is within our mind, it is believed it is our own fault. People have trouble understanding that the brain is an organ and, like any other organ of our body, something can go wrong with it. This affects our feelings, our thinking, and our behavior. This is what people - especially Christians - need to understand.

How are we going to change this faulty thinking?

I think that what would help would be for church congregations to hear testimonies from people with mental illness. They need to hear stories that illustrate the medical nature of their disease. They need to hear that people can be good Christians while, at the same time, dealing with mental health issues.

Stigma within the church is the most damaging, more so than stigma within secular society. This is because a person's faith in God comes into question. When a person is struggling with mental illness, the worst thing for him to hear is that his relationship with God is at fault or that it's the devil causing the emotional turmoil.

The church, as the body of Christ with its message of His unconditional love, is in the best position to help people with mental illness. Christians are in the best position to give Christ-like support. This is the kind of support we who suffer expect from them. This kind of support will help us keep the faith we so badly need. But Christians need to educate themselves; they need to learn to understand; they need to be compassionate and not judge.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why my better emotional health?

My husband says that - in the 42 years he has known me - he has never seen me so emotionally stable. This has been a very good year for me, with only two months of true depression. This depression was relatively mild. I continued to function and Living Room was not interrupted in any way. There were some minor glitches, but I overcame all of those in short order.

Over the past while I've been asking myself why that is. Why this increased stability? Why this normalcy for a person who is still thoroughly bipolar? I think there are a number of factors that are helping me stay so well:
  1. The medication cocktail I'm presently taking is a good one for me. How fortunate I am! I take my pills religiously.
  2. I continue to look after my physical health, exercising as much as I can and trying to eat healthy.
  3. The writing I've been doing has been very therapeutic - both my latest book and my blog. (also my numerous emails to friends) What has been especially healing is the opportunity to talk about my faith in God. There's something about sharing my testimony that makes me feel closer to God and that gives me a sense of peace and wholeness.
  4. I'm wonderfully supported by my church friends, including my pastor. I feel secure knowing that I'm loved and that they will help care for my emotional needs.
  5. Living Room has made me into a supporter, taking me out of the victim role. My current concerns are much more about how to look after others than about how to look after me. I feel fulfilled looking after other people.
  6. At each meeting of Living Room I have an opportunity to talk a bit about how our faith can help make us whole. I love this teaching - always wanted to be a teacher.
  7. Having opportunities to share God's love with people gives me a lot of joy. I wrote my books with love for the people I wrote for, but those were faceless people - people I couldn't see. Now they're sitting around the table with me, in flesh and blood. It's good to be close to them and to truly get to know them.
  8. I have found a purpose for my life: helping to support those with mental illness and helping churches learn how to support people with mental illness. I want to reduce the stigma within the church. I want to educate. This work is God-given. I know because of the joy and fulfillment it brings me. I have found meaning in my life with bipolar disorder.
  9. Through all the above, I've learned to be confident and hopeful about my ability to be well.
  10. I get up early and have at least two hours of quiet time each morning: time to meditate, journal, read my Bible, pray. It is my time with God.
  11. I've learned not to try to do everything on my own, instead allowing God to lead me. It's God's work I'm doing. I'm only doing the legwork - I'm his servant. (I often forget and try to carry it under my own power, getting stressed by it. But I try hard to remember to lean on God.)
  12. I trust God and have Jesus Christ as my Savior. I try my best to be a follower of Christ, remembering him as an example of the unconditional love I should have for others. And it's amazing how giving that kind of love brings joy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Understanding article

An article I wrote went online yesterday. I had blogged about it a while ago. I wrote it for people with mental health issues. The purpose is to build understanding, to build bridges, and to help all people reduce stigma.

Unfortunately one person must have misunderstood where I was coming from, because the editor and I received a scathing email from him. He called me unethical and unchristian. Needless to say, I feel sick about it.

Please have a look at it. Am I really off base with this article? I know this is a new way of looking at the problem of stigma. But I believe that my approach is valid. What do you think?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

TV interview coming

I'm excited, but a bit worried too, about an upcoming interview I'm doing with the national Christian TV show, 100 Huntley Street. They approached me a while back about discussing my life and my ministry with them. The reporter found me through the articles I had published on Doing this is like a dream come true. I had always thought I would like to be on that show. Such an excellent venue to talk about faith and mental illness. I had thought I would approach them once my new book is out. But amazingly they approached me.

The reason I'm a bit worried is because in recent days, when talking about Living Room, my mouth hasn't worked too well. I've found it hard to express what I want to say.

Perhaps I've been too steeped in all this work lately. My son and his wife are creating a Living Room website, a job that requires a lot of input from me. A new Living Room has started in Abbotsford and another is looking into starting up in that same city. I've been working on devotional samples as well. And then there was the book proposal I sent to an agency recently. Also I get quite a few phone calls from people needing support. Altogether, I've been doing a lot of mental health work. (So you can see why I've slowed down so much on my blogging.)

I must do some work around the house. Start trying to cook some decent meals again. Balance my life out a bit.

And I need to do a lot of praying. I need a lot of prayer from my friends - including you. Please pray that my interview on October 26th (an all-day affair) goes well. Please pray that I will be able to speak clearly and express the passion I feel for this work.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Practicing God's presence

The church ladies' group I attend is examining prayer. We want to learn how to pray better. I know there's no right or wrong way to pray - after all, it's only talking to God. Being yourself with him is the most important thing. But I do have trouble, mostly staying focused. When I pray I so easily become distracted. My thoughts always turn elsewhere.

I wish I could be like Brother Lawrence, the monk who lived in the 1600's and became famous for how he was able to practice the presence of God throughout the day. I'm studying a book about him, hoping that I, too, will learn how to do that-a bit, anyway.

One thing I came up with, though, was that being continuously thankful to God - making a habit of that - will draw us closer to God. I've experienced many feelings of closeness to God when I take the time to thank him for things. Mark Buchanan, in his book, The Rest of God, talks about this.

Buchanan refers to C.S. Lewis's Narnia Chronicles and the wardrobe through which some children found themselves in a magical land:

"The best way I know to embody...Godward orientation is thankfulness. Thankfulness is a secret passageway into a room you can't find any other way. It is the wardrobe into Narnia. It allows us to discover the rest of God--those dimensions of God's world, God's presence, God's character that are hidden, always, from the thankless."

Buchanan goes on to say that the first orientation to finding God's rest " to practice, mostly through thankfulness, the presence of God until you are utterly convinced of his goodness and sovereignty, until he's bigger, and you find your rest in him alone."

The Bible says: "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Through thanksgiving-in all circumstances-we can find peace, rest, joy.

We talked about all this at Living Room yesterday. Then we took time to pray together, each of praying prayers of thanks. It was powerful. I came away from that meeting not feeling my usual tired joy; I felt a rested, peaceful joy.

Trouble is: now I just want to sit around and keep feeling that wonderful sense of peace. But I have work to do. Will I be able to keep praying as I work? That will be a challenge.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Back at last

I feel badly. I've been ignoring my blogging for so long - trapped in so many must-do's - mind like a mass of webs, not able to break loose and focus here. Don't get me wrong - I am well - just scattered into too many directions - not feeling free to slow down and spend some time with my blogging friends. And I'm feeling somewhat ashamed of it, because the blogging has always been important to me and the connections I've made here have always been important to me.

I don't have any great words of wisdom to share today. But I am happy to report that I've sent a proposal for my book to a Christian literary agency, hopeful that they might consider representing me. This getting up and doing something with my book is a big thing for me. It's been on the shelf for such a long time. For so long I felt too busy with stuff to even think about it.

Yeah, life is busy. Too many things I want to do. Do any of you bipolars ever feel like an octopus? I guess that's where I've been for a while. Though I need to stress, I am well - thankfully not too high and not too low.

I hope to give myself some time soon to catch up on everyone's blogs. If not today, tomorrow. And I hope to write more over the next while as well.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Rest with less caffeine

First of all, I want to thank Desiree and Terri for your very encouraging comments on my last post. They were so good to receive.

I feel bad that I haven't posted much lately. Nor have I visited others' sites. The reason is that I've been feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I've been into a space where I've been doubting myself, not able to see how I could possibly manage all the work I've taken on. I've felt like I might be on the brink of another depression.

My friends have comforted me with extra attention and support. They have been praying for me and with me. This has helped me not to be fearful, but hopeful, trusting that God will help me turn this around.

But a couple of days ago I discovered the source of my fatigue and slight depression. I'm quite sure that it's mostly due to sleep deprivation. The many cups of coffee I drink throughout the day, combined with the stimulant medication I take, has meant that I've only been getting six hours of sleep per night. For over three months I've been getting up by 5 am every morning. I never complained because I enjoy the early rising - such a wonderful opportunity for a long quiet time before I need to start the day. But maybe I need a lot more rest than I've been getting.

I took a friend's advice and started drinking mostly decaf coffee. After only one day of this, I'm already feeling a difference. I feel less tired and more able to do my work. I'm more relaxed - more calm. Amazing!

I think my prayers and the prayers of my friends have been answered.