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On Being A Sad Good News Shepherd (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

A recent suicide by a US pastor whose ongoing struggles with his mental health were part of his public ministry has produced a lot of commentary on the subject of ministry, chronic depression, and how sufferers can live with both.

Connor Gwin writes from the perspective of his own life dealing with both of these areas, and how the church can stray into two unhelpful directions, both of which marginalise a situation that is anything but marginal.

Often, the Church floats between two extremes when it comes to mental health. On one side you have the folks that believe that mental health is a purely spiritual matter; that depression is a sign of spiritual weakness and the solution is prayer. On the other side, you have people that believe that mental illness is a purely physical issue caused by improper brain function and cured through therapy and medicine.
What both sides share is a firm commitment to silence. If your mental illness is a spiritual problem, you will (most likely) not discuss it in church. If your mental illness is only a physical problem, you will talk with your therapist but not your faith community.
What we are left with is a church that never speaks of mental illness. The problem is that mental illness affects everyone in our churches, including our pastors.

The deeper question Gwin wants to interact with is whether there is a place in pastoral ministry for those who suffer.

The mental health of the pastor can make or break a church when the pastor is the focus of the church, not Christ. Too often pastors are seen as “professional Christians” or moral exemplars that set the bar for the congregation.
Of course, there is some truth to this. A pastor should be a Christian on the path, but the thing about being on the Christian path is that you will stumble. You will fall into sin. You will miss the mark. You will be selfish and make bad choices. You will not have it all together. This is all true of pastors as well.
Should people with mental illness be disqualified from ministry? Perhaps some should, but this question raises the deeper question:
Who is qualified for ministry?
If scripture is our guide, we see that God has a special way of using the most broken for His purposes.

Read the rest of the post at Mockingbird.


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Friday Night Done Right

I have this ongoing weight-control program.
This is part-break and part-reward from some recent fine tuning I’ve been doing on that program.
I’m not eating alone, but I’m also not saying who else is here.
But (one of) my daughters is getting very proficient with her grazing platter skills.


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If The Doctor Asks You… (via Kathryn Butler at Desiring God)

Last Saturday night I participated in a phone conversation that dealt with directions about various medical treatment choices that may or may not be needed for someone who is not capable of making those choices themselves.
I found this article by Kathryn Butler at Desiring God covered a lot of the considerations that were being put before us, and approaches how those options can be thought of from a biblical perspective.
It is more positive to have given some thought to this beforehand, and to have even discussed them with those for whom you may end up making choices (or who may be making them on your behalf).
Butler is/was a trauma and critical care surgeon, her reflections do not come from a place of pure theory.
Well worth a read:

Making life-or-death decisions for loved ones cripples many with feelings of guilt and doubt that persist for years, and which can progress to depression, complicated grief, chronic anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
So how do we make compassionate, Christ-honoring decisions about our loved ones’ care when the unthinkable happens? How do we discern the right path when time to reflect is nonexistent, and when the mind balks at the ramifications of our choices?

Read the whole post at Desiring God.


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Anger Management When The Anger Is With God (via Bonnie Zahl)

Anger with God is not unbelief.
It is an aspect of faith that has reached its current limitations.
Bonnie Zahl writes about the various ways in which a relationship with God will sometimes find us in pain and wrestling with him.
Being in relationship with other Christians we need to grow together in grace and patience to bear one another through these dark seasons.

In my many years of speaking with people who are angry at God, I have never met a person who told me that what they needed was a reminder of how to think correctly about their situation. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest the opposite: studies show that if people are made to feel judged, ashamed, or guilty about feeling angry at God, they are more likely to continue feeling angry at God, to reject God, and to use alcohol and other substances to cope. In contrast, people who said they were supported when they disclosed their anger reported greater engagement in their spiritual life and more spiritual growth as a result of the difficult experience.

Read the whole article at Mockingbird.


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Healthy Consumption Of A Digital Diet (via Harvard Business Review)

This article is measured and seeks to propose that the health effects of a digital overload need to be recognized and strategies developed to deal constructively with a problem that will not go away.
Though referenced in US terms, it would seem that Australia is not far removed from its central points:

Historians and clinicians may someday call this moment “peak content.” American adults now spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media—sometimes longer. That’s more time than we spend eating and sleeping. From YouTube videos to viral tweets, we are ingesting a huge volume of media, and it has consequences.
Out of this cloud of mood-altering material emerges a new set of health challenges. One in five Americans is clinically depressed. Tens of millions more suffer from mild to moderate anxiety and other mood disorders. But current research doesn’t yet support a clear and causal link. More work is required to understand the complex relationship between media diets and depression–mood disorders are not a new phenomenon, even if suicide rates appear to be increasing. The technologies fueling our media consumption are outpacing the rate of scientific inquiry, making real or verifiable effects hard to understand and perhaps harder study appropriately.
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Now is the moment to pursue a three-pronged approach to all digital encounters: literacy, hygiene, and labeling. We have the opportunity of a lifetime to re-shape our still primitive and often unruly digital culture into a safer, healthier, more rewarding domain.

Read the whole post at Harvard Business Review.


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God Moves In A Mysterious Way – The Legacy Hymn Of William Cowper

Scott Hubbard writes about William Cowper, who on New Year’s Day 1773 was about to slip into a depression that would remain for the rest of his life.
Anticipating that descending darkness Cowper wrote the hymn God Moves In A Mysterious Way.
From Hubbard’s article:

… before night fell on Cowper’s soul, he sat in the light of his remaining sanity, took up his pen, and wrote a hymn that has strengthened generations of staggering saints through their various shadows.
Take Courage
Cowper’s hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” is a song for every saint who sits on the edge. It is a guide for all who do not see fresh hopes rising over the horizon of the new year. It is a confession of faith in the face of darkness — one that flickers with enough light to carry us through whatever midnights this year brings.
At the heart of the hymn is a simple exhortation: “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take.” Take courage. Take courage when the clouds come thundering toward you. Take courage when the coming days seem covered in shadow. Take courage when you cannot understand God’s ways.
But why, we ask in the valley, should we take courage? Throughout the rest of the hymn, Cowper gives his reasons.

Read the rest of the post at Desiring God.

Here’s Nathan Tasker’s rendition of the hymn.
I wanted a version that has the lyrics to the forefront.


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Ten Bible Passages For Severe Illness (via Kathryn Butler)

This article by Kathryn Butler at Desiring God features ten Bible verses/passages that speak of the presence of God’s love to those who are suffering.
It is helpful in encouraging Christians to remember these verses for their own encouragement, and also, of course, to share with others.
It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a helpful start.
Five are from Psalms and five are from the New Testament.

PSALM 46:1–3
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”
2 CORINTHIANS 4:16–18
“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Read the whole article here.