You Don’t Need to Die Today

I don’t know who you are. Today you’ve been reading posts I wrote about friends who died by suicide and ways to stay alive when you want to die by suicide and the few, very inadequate church ministries that exist to help people with mental health issues.

Whoever you are, whatever is driving you, you don’t need to die today.

You can call one of the hotlines that I keep programmed into my phone just in case — the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects with a network of trained volunteers all over the country. Call 1-800-273-8255. f you don’t want to use your voice, you can text someone at

If you don’t want to use your voice, you can text someone at crisistextline — Text 741741 to chat with someone who really understands.

Do whatever it takes. Because sometime in the next weeks or months, someone will be relieved that you did. You matter. Even to a blogger like me who can never know you, but can tell you’re looking for help.

I’m praying for you right now.


Bipolar View: Steady is as Steady Does

Sure, sometimes you wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

You probably can’t imagine what it feels like to wake up not knowing that there is a world beyond the thick blackness of the blankets pulled up over your eyes.

And some days you’re excited. It’s the first day of a vacation trip. It’s Christmas morning.

You probably can’t imagine waking up five or six times that enthusiastic, without any reason at all.

Having bipolar disorder means that steady is as steady does. Because the feelings are almost random.

When blackness enfolds, I \write down a list of tasks — even tasks as mundane as “wash the dishes” — and work through them. Otherwise nothing happens. At all.


When enthusiasm overwhelms, I have to choose to write down a list of tasks — especially tasks as mundane as “wash the dishes.” Because otherwise I’ll enthuse in 10 or 12 or 20 different directions, almost simultaneously. At the end of the burst, I’ll find myself surrounded by a clutter of unfinished projects and the clutter of an untended life.

I stay steady by trying to focus on what I need to do. And I stay steady by remembering that the way I feel today is not likely to be the way I feel in three or four weeks.


Female surfboarder

Not me!

I ride my feelings like surf: the enthusiasm powers forward movement; the blackness cannot be allowed to fuel anything bleaker than anticipation. Happily, God has promised a future that is extraordinarily bright, and allows that I live this life in the brilliance of God’s presence, even when God is invisible through the envolding darkness.

Steady is as steady does. No one is more steady than God.

Today’s  Five Minute Friday writing prompt is “Steady.”


Mindfulness: A Path to Madness?

You don’t need to be a conservative Christian anxious about Eastern religion to have reservations about the widespread use of mindfulness meditation. Yet another study finds negative impacts for as many as 88% of those who attempted mindfulness meditation practices.

The most common negative impact: increases in fear, anxiety, panic, and paranoia, reported by 82% of practitioners in the study, “The Varieties of Contemplative Experience,” published in PLOS ONE and reported last week by Zenobia Morrill.

MeditatingOver the last couple of decades, mindfulness meditation has become standard in many therapy practices, as well as schools and prisons. How can the people who believe in “evidence-based practices” keep ignoring the real evidence that these practices are very often harmful?

Remember, traditional Christian contemplation of our unchanging God, God’s character and virtues, and God’s Word is entirely different from a mindfulness practice that seeks to “moor” a person in this ever-changing world or in their own internal reality.Serious Contemplation

What Not to Say When Your Friend’s Child Dies by Suicide

Here in Maine, many of us are grieving the suicide death last month of a 13-year-old middle school student. It can be hard to know what to say and what not to say in the face of such family tragedy. Female supportAnie Graham was described by friends as bubbly, friendly, and talented in math. Her parents saw a different picture.

They say that after they moved to a new school district, their daughter’s behavior changed in ways that concerned them. She kept telling them she wanted to die, and she began to cut herself.

Her father, Matt Graham, has told local media that the family reached out to mental health services and the school, but failed to receive effective assistance. He and his wife Rose also acknowledge that they only saw the cruel bullying on Anie’s social media accounts after her death. Continue reading

How ‘The Average of 5’ Undermines Christian Discipleship


A few weeks ago, a church leader I know encouraged the flock to be careful about their relationships. “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with, you know,” he said. It’s important to surround yourself with people who build you up, he urged.

Sounds like a well-meaning exhortation to keep good company, right? And God warns us that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33).

Avoid the Drainers and Complainers

Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn

What I heard — perhaps unintended — was a lot of the baggage that the “average of 5” phrase carries in the business world, where it originated about a decade ago with the late motivational speaker Jim Rohn. Avoid the drainers and complainers. They take too much out of you. Focus your relational time on people who help you reach your goals. If your goals this year are different from your goals last year, then shift your circle. It’s great that one circle helped you hit your target weight, but if you’re aiming for a half-marathon this year, you need a new focal five.

I can understand this kind of thinking if the issue is changing a gym membership or swapping the garden club for a course in landscaping. I can’t understand it as a description of life in Christ. It suggests relationship as exchange — even aspiration. If you can help me get ahead, then let’s hang out. If not, well, we won’t be seeing much of each other.

The problem is that when you start to do relationships as math, you stop living as the organic Body of Christ. When we say we want to average our circles up to “become more like Jesus,” it seems almost godly to exclude a chronic complainer, a man who is regularly angry at “the System,” a woman who is a painful partner because she consistently has a “better” idea.

But what does that say about these difficult people in relationship to God?

How to Train Spiritual Dragons

Well Intentioned DragonsTwo decades ago, Marshall Shelley offered a different kind of guidance for church leaders who struggled with what he called Well-Intentioned Dragons, the “problem people” that plague every pastorate. Shelley assumes that these people are well-meaning and create chaos and dissent without intending to undermine the church. And instead of urging pastors to isolate them, he urges an embrace, helping them to find God’s love and to become increasingly well-functioning parts of the Body.

Some contemporary psychological research suggests that Shelley (and the Bible!) offer a better way. Social exclusion — an academic word for shutting people out of the group — can cause people to behave in ways that are damaging to themselves. One research experiment found that people who were told they were likely to end up alone later in life took inappropriate risks, chose unhealthy behaviors, and procrastinated rather than work toward an immediate goal.

How to Make Spiritual Dragons More Destructive

That is to say, when you threaten or demonstrate your readiness to exclude “dragons” from your life, you may protect yourself from fire, but they themselves become more likely to burn to death.

When you exclude “dragons” from your life,
you may protect yourself from fire,
but they themselves become more likely to burn to death.

Aspirational relationship — choosing our friends for the benefits they bring us — is very American. A century ago, Sinclair Lewis satirized the tendency in his novel Babbitt, which depicted a midlife businessman whose life was full of booster club activity and empty of intimate relations.

How to Create a Booster Club Church

Babbitt book cover

The cover designer of this Bantam edition seems to imply the essential facelessness — or lack of personal identity — of Lewis’ protagonist.

In the 21st century, American evangelical churches are still living out, in some measure, a similar idea. Sometimes church can feel like a Jesus booster club. We’re exhorted to live our lives in such a way that it makes it clear that following Jesus is desirable. We’re encouraged to attain lofty goals so we can influence people who value high achievement. And most recently, we’re urged, like those in secular culture, to excise from our life those people who fail to elevate us.

That’s not how God says the Body of Christ is built. When we try to rid our lives of “below average” Christians, aren’t we ignoring God’s instruction to recognize the “weaker” parts of the Body as “indispensable”? God tells us that the parts that are “less honorable” are treated with “special honor” and even that God has a purpose for this paradoxical arrangement:

“… God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:24-26).

Those “below average” people are, in fact, dragging down the entire Body of Christ, God says. And God’s answer is not to excise them but to encourage them. As long as they struggle, the entire Body is weakened. Excluding them isn’t even an option. They are, by God’s spiritual definition, included in the Body and essential to it.

dragon training

Dragon-fighting is a dangerous spiritual discipline. Dragon-training is more time-consuming, but creates truly powerful allies.

Which spiritual dragon is dragging down your “average of 5” today? How can you and God elevate them? What’s getting in your way?