Thursday, July 21, 2016

Review: Darkness is my Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness by the Rev. Dr. Kathryn Green-McCreight

I've spent a lot of time around mental illness. Whether learning about depression because of family history and the symptoms of the thyroid condition I was diagnosed with when I was 18, or from people I care about walking in the valley of the shadow of death, it's not a topic that is alien to me. So, when I asked for this book from Brazos, I was desperate for Greene-McCreight to help me make sense of some things.

But I put most of it off. Until Germany. And what a read. Greene-McCreight herself suffers from mental illness. But her Prayerbook-obedient, hymn-riddles, expose of life with illness is filled with beauty and a conviction of the beauty of God's gospel and Word. She lets you into the stream of consciousness of her experience, the needs from the community (laity, clergy, etc.), and the process of seeming treatment (including medication, therapy, and hospitalization).

Greene-McCreight is an Episcopal priest. She is intensely orthodox, in love with the Gospel of Jesus, and I think her book proves to be an invaluable tool for the care and cure of souls (and perhaps self-care) for all ministers. For those with mental illnesses, there is grace and understanding of the experience that offers much comfort. She candidly addresses her personal journey, with an openness that is very healing and instructive  Pastors, read this book. Learn. Deal gently with the ones who suffer from illness.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

When the Anglican leads Pentecostal prayer meetings....

I make no secret about my Pentecostal background and continuing Pentecostal convictions. I've long regarded it as a blessing and critical part of how I know God. I pray in tongues. I expect miraculous healing. I've received prophecies, words of knowledge, and I've operated with discernment of spirits and exorcism. I'm also an Anglican. I pray the daily office. I follow a lectionary. I attend Sunday Eucharist. One of my favorite prayer practices is the Great Litany.

I recently took an assessment from the book Sacred Pathways.  This rightly identified me as a "traditionalist"--I relate to God through Christian traditions. Second, it said I prefer sensate experiences (also true). But shockingly, tied with sensate, was "contemplative." I--for all my activity and experiential spirituality that are so external to myself--am ultimately crafted by God to be someone who is content in being present with God.  It's been a corrective and helpful thing for my self understanding and learning to lead well from my strengths in the traditions I've been formed in.

This morning in Hamburg, I led the CPx team in "equipping prayer." We gathered in groups to pray together and confess sin, experience God's forgiveness, be clothed by God (Eph. 6:10-20). We submitted to the Holy Spirit, ask for God to reveal his will and empower us according to the needs of our calls, and above all that we would understand more of the love of God in Christ.  It was powerful, and I experienced healing and God's delight in a fresh way.

I learned the model of this prayer used from a godly Anglican bishop. Half the participants in this prayer time are Anglicans. Tonight, we'll say the liturgical prayers and celebrate Communion. And the Spirit will move in power then too.

And I love every bit of it.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

You're Home

So I'm writing from Germany. I'm here with four other men from my parish. As well as a group of other men and women from around the world. We're doing CPx--Church Planting Experience--and serving some of the least, the last, and the lost in Hamburg. Because God is really doing something new in Germany and it's exciting.

I love missions. I thought church planting would basically end my capacity to participate in them but apparently that's not God's intention at all. In fact, as I've been listening to God since my arrival, most of what He has been saying sounds a lot like "You're home."

You're home. I heard these words before--when I went to Jos. And when I left there I was sure I wanted to spend a few years there. It's possible that door has closed. I don't know. But I also heard it coming to Hamburg. And I'm more than comfortable here, too. Much as I was in Jos. It's a strange and scary thing, but I'm as comfortable (and sometimes more) abroad as I am in my own home.

My ears perk up at every opportunity abroad: a position for clergy in expat churches in the UAE or Germany, a new mission in Nigeria, a friend wanting to reopen a cathedral in Somaliland if he can find the right priest. It makes me want to jump right in.

But I have a mission and call: the Village Church. There's a church to plant there. And no, I won't be here for ever. But I've got plans and another sense of call (two actually). So I shove these visions to the back of my mind. But what if? What about it? What am I missing?

I don't know yet. But I'm here till July 29. And at least until then, I'm home.