Monday, April 29, 2013


My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.
                           Psalm 51:17

Have you ever felt really bad about something you've done or the way you've behaved? It happens to everyone at times. But when our moods aren't stable, we are especially susceptible to feelings of guilt. Sometimes well-founded; sometimes - when we're thinking irrationally - not so. We are often "brokenhearted." 
I've found that praying Psalm 51 offers great comfort when I'm hurting. David wrote it after he realized how wrong he'd been to have committed adultery with Bathsheba and to have her husband killed. David tells God that he has a "contrite [or repentant] heart," having a desire for forgiveness, a desire to change and become the kind of person God wants him to be. When I read David's words over and over, I too am able to express my deep regret and pain. I draw closer to God as well.
Good things come from humbly going to God with a broken and repentant heart. Scripture has shown how it can help make us into people God is able to use. There's David, for example, as portrayed in Psalm 51: Although great sin had led David to write this prayer, he became a person the Bible referred to as "a man after God's own heart." And then there's the apostle Peter in the New Testament: After he denied knowing Jesus three times before His crucifixion, Luke 22:61-62 reports how he "went outside and wept bitterly." The agony he must have suffered, realizing how he had turned his back on his Lord! He, too, had a broken heart. It was a heart that was ready to change, ready to obey God. The rest of Peter's story shows him to be a transformed man - a humble, but bold and dynamic speaker. He became a man who gave his all to Jesus.
If David and Peter were brought closer to God in their brokenness, able to be used by Him, could we not as well?  
PS: Glenda de Vries, the co-facilitator of the Living Room group at Rouge Valley Mennonite Church in Markham, Ontario, had an article published in the Christian Courier last week. The title of the piece: GOD LOVES THE BROKENHEARTED. You can access it by going to Congratulations Glenda, and thank you for helping raise much-needed awareness. We're proud of you.
(If you would like to receive reflections on Scripture like this one - written with people with mental health problems in mind - go to the Living Room website and subscribe on the homepage.)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

At the feet of Jesus

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Luke 7:37-38
Where did that weeping come from? I don't think it was simply sadness or joy. I think I can relate. Can you relate as well?
Her weeping reminds me of how I cried in church when I had just started following Jesus. Many times tears would flow inexplicably during the singing of the hymns. I could not hold them back. I was like a child who had been separated from her mother far too long and was newly returned to her. My tears released my pent-up emotions - relieving the stress of trying to do life on my own. Not knowing the love of Christ had been harder on me than I had realized. I was embarrassed to break down like this in church, yet it felt good to let it all out. The tears cleansed my soul.
How this woman must have loved Jesus! Other people, like the Pharisee, treated her with disdain. But Jesus saw her as a person He could accept and love, in spite of her sins. What a relief it must have been for her.
I've heard from many people who have such emotions surface during worship...not only new believers. Tears in church are not uncommon at all. But imagine if we could have the physical presence of Jesus right there with us. Imagine if we could, like that woman, kneel at His feet when the tears come rolling down.
...Maybe we could do the next best thing. Next time we feel the tears surfacing, we could close our eyes and picture Jesus with us. We too could worship at His feet, knowing that we don't have to struggle on our own. We too are loved. We too are forgiven.
(If you would like to receive reflections on scripture similar to this, written with people with mood disorders in mind, go to to subscribe.)

Monday, April 01, 2013

Pockets of heaven on earth

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, "...he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, 'This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations...'" (Luke 24:45-47)
Preaching "repentance and forgiveness" - that is indeed what has happened ever since Jesus died and rose again.
I've been reading about the Easter story and am thinking more about what happened after, the resurrection that we celebrated yesterday. What a wonderful story it is!
The world has changed so much since then. The most common way of living before Jesus's ministry was one of pride and retaliation. Jesus's dying and rising ushered in a new way of living for those who followed Him. It ushered in God's reign - God's way - the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven as some parts of the Bible call it). The way of love and reconciliation and healing and hope has been preached ever since.
In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray "...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10) God's will is being done on earth today. Don't you see pockets of heaven all around you? I know, there's a lot of pain and struggle and ugliness. But there are also little pockets of heaven in our community and - indeed - the whole world. People are helping the poor and the sick. They are working to protect the environment. We can all help to make such pockets of heaven happen. We can help build God's kingdom - little by little, each of us in our own way, as we are led by God.
I can see God's kingdom happening for people living with mental illnesses, at least in part. Although there is still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, as there is for a lot of other things, there has been improvement. When my book Riding the Roller Coaster was published, there were few people with mental health issues telling their story. Today there are many books out by those who live with mental illness. More positive stories are being covered in newspapers and magazines and on TV. And look at the Living Room ministry. That is definitely a kingdom builder. Can't you see how God's reign is getting stronger all the time?
Today I'm looking out on a sunny day. So happy for it, because in our part of the world we haven't had much sun this year. Our garden isn't looking too great yet. There's a lot of cleaning up to do after the winter. But we have two or three pockets of heaven happening here: We have daffodils - my favourite colour - yellow. I experience God when I thank Him for them. I worship God when I photograph them.

I pray you will find many pockets of heaven in your life, in your work and play...and in your neighbourhood.

Happy Easter!...Jesus Christ has risen! God's kingdom has come.

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