A Call to Action: Grace and Mental Health

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I have to say it. I, for one, am so excited to see the open window for mental health in our culture and in our churches, recently. I see more and more posts on mental health care on the web, our church synod has a task force for domestic violence and abuse, there are conferences and committees to address support and care in many denominations.

This, my friends, is a long time in coming. Two years ago, at a conference, I heard a speaker call mental health the “mission field of the 21st Century” and I could not agree more. It is time. The silence has lasted long enough. The darkness of despair and anxiety and struggle has been overcome by the blood of the Lamb. He waits with healing and grace. We can be that voice of grace for those around us.

But how does that work? What does grace look like when it’s living and active and poured out, particularly in the realm of mental health? Here are some suggestions for churches, church workers, and any one of us ready to answer the call to Grace for the hurting.

John 1:16 tells us that we have all received grace upon grace.

Praise be to God that we can let that grace roll out onto all of those around us!

Find out more

It’s easy to assume that we know. We’ve read a few blog articles about depression, so we “get” mental health. But the needs in mental health are so much broader and wider. Here is just a tiny list of struggles that can be addressed in grace:

anxiety (an estimated 10-18% of the population identifies a diagnosable struggle with anxiety, myself included!)

depression – including seasonal, major depressive episodes, and postpartum

Autism Spectrum and other sensory processing

learning disabilities

sexual abuse and assault

domestic violence

trauma of all sorts

Bipolar

Schizophrenia

addictions

eating disorders

This list is not meant to be exclusive. I could go on and on. What struggle knocks on the door of your heart? Find out more, ask questions, use appropriate terminology and language. Educate others on the issue and just be mindful that these are not random and rare issues in people’s lives. They are much more common than we think, for those inside the Church, as well as those disconnected from the Church.

Grace – reaching out by learning and growing.

Offer community

Mental health can be one of the loneliest places on earth. Whether the stigma is real or imagined or both, it’s not something we talk about in our culture and our churches. Burst open the door! Make your church, your home, your small group a place where it is talked about, prayed for, and actively reaching out. We, as a church, have the amazing opportunity to be a family to those who feel lonely, distressed, and even tormented. It is time to bury the idea that we are unsafe around people with diagnoses. Those with severe and persistent diagnoses need us even more! Research shows that community and social support is one of the largest indicators of success in mental health treatment. People take needed medicines when they have loving friends who check in on them and ask hard questions. People can break the chains of addiction when there are people who do not give up on them.

Grace – offering community, even when it’s hard.

Speak Forgiveness and Life and God’s constant pursuit of us

Psalm 103:4 – “who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy…”

Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Luke 19:10 – “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus forgives anything we have done or left undone. So many people need to hear these words from the mouth of a living and breathing person. They need to know that God does not give up on them, that He pursues and pursues. That He runs down the road with His robes flying about, waiting to embrace us. Many people that struggle with mental health wonder about their worthiness. It is easy for even anxiety to ostracize people from the love God is trying to pour into them. Individuals often feel afraid to admit that they are afraid when well meaning people cite Scripture that tells us not to be afraid! Share verses that share Who God is, rather than what people should do.

Grace – for the weary soul.

Love, Love, and More Love

Some people are hard to love. Some people are worried that they are hard to love. Some people have a hard time loving. We can let God fill us with His love and then we can share it, even when it gets hard. What does love look like? Sometimes it looks like pouring out affection and time and energy, and sometimes it looks like hard boundaries spoken firmly, but kindly.

Grace – speaking the Truth in love.

Be Faithful

Loyalty is hard when relationships so often disappoint us. People will never be perfect, they will never love perfect or talk perfect or follow through perfect. We have the same Grace that we get to offer others. Often times, people want to give up, both those struggling with mental health issues and those supporting them. Families of those with mental health struggles perhaps need the most support and encouragement. We can love by being true to our promises and not giving up. We can give grace by being someone’s personal encourager and sounding board and safe place. When the going gets tough, the tough pour on more Grace. 

What an awesome season the Lord has before us! We as a church stand in the midst of a perfect time to be real and in tune with the needs of those around us.

Bring on the Grace church! Bring on the Grace.

 

Rising up from the dust

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Day 5 – Rising up from the dust

 
When I was a sophomore in high school my parents took me out of class to go to the 10AM Ash Wednesday service at church. I can’t remember the reason, but something prohibited us from going in the evening and this was how my parents rolled.
 
I came back to school about lunchtime, completely unaware of the cross blazed across my forehead. But instantly one of my male classmates, who shall remain nameless, walked up to me and stammered, “What’s on your face?” and proceeded to rub my head vigorously to remove the cross.
I stood in shock, all systems shut down from the basic humiliation, turned on my heel, walked to the bathroom, entered a stall, and promptly burst into tears. I didn’t know what to think. At that space in my life, I couldn’t recognize the spiritual significance of what had happened to me. All I knew was that something about his actions rocked me deep in my core.
 
I said a prayer of empowerment, gathered myself, and walked out of the bathroom stall, directly to unnamed classmate and said quietly, “You may not touch my personhood again. You may not defame what I hold dear. His name is Jesus and you should probably get to know Him.”
 
This girls, was a Holy Spirit moment, if there ever was one.
 
In my youth, I dutifully followed the religion of my parents, I embraced Lutheranism head on, not because I believed it at that point, but because I needed it to reign me in. Sophomore year was my worst and my moral compass was all over the place, laced with feminism, hedonism, and many other -isms thrown in for good measure. I knew Jesus because He called me in my baptism, but I didn’t trust Him enough to include Him in my life and I surely, at this point, wasn’t introducing anyone else to Him.
 
All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20
 
Dust and ashes on my forehead were what woke me up from a youthful spiritual stupor. I started searching for Jesus with everything I had, to find out that He had found me long before and my heart was alighted with just how shockingly deep the Father’s Love is.
 
Dust isn’t our whole story, but it certainly is a huge component of it. Ecclesiastes shares the message that dust reminds us where we come from and where we are going (Ecc. 3:19-21, Ecclesiastes 12:1-8). The writer of Ecclesiastes, I’m sure, was just as wowed by God’s full plan, when He saw Jesus for the first time in heaven, as we are when we read it in His Word. Let’s take a minute to be wowed, sisters.
 
Let’s follow the trail of God’s dust from creation to purposeful destruction, to resurrection and on to restoration.

Everything is beautiful in its time. This is what our study, if anything, has taught us.
 
First – Creation…
Let’s read Genesis 2:5-7
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 
 
Formed from the dust, by the hands of our Creator. Our first breath, His breath. I wonder at the conversation between the persons of the Trinity at this moment. Matthew Henry tells us that the Hebrew noun for Creator in Ecclesiastes 12:1 below, is plural. How beautiful is that!
 
 
Second – Purposeful Destruction
Genesis 3:17-19
 And to Adam he said,
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
 
Underline or circle every reference to the ground or dust above. Sin brought destruction to our world, but God would use it for His purposes. Even this, He will make beautiful. You could also look at the Babylonian captivity to see God’s work in purposeful destruction, of His temple, of His people, of the way people thought it would be forever…all to lead us to Him. (Check out Isaiah 17 or Daniel 9.)
 
 
Third – Christ in the dust.
Christ is born among the dust of animal feed (Luke 2:7). He bends down into the dust to lift up weary souls burdened with the weight of sin, oppression, and judgement during His time on earth (Psalm 113:7, John 8). He let His face be ground into the dust as He took our sins on Himself and bore our iniquities (Matthew 26). And He was eventually laid in a dusty tomb, carved out of the rock (John 19:41-42).

Fourth – Christ is risen from the dust.
Let’s read it fresh…Matthew 28:1-7 –
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

Verse 6 proclaims beauty from the ashes, beauty out of the dust…
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.
Come, see the place where he lay.
 
See where he lay. He’s not there. He did what He said. Thank you, Jesus.
 
Fifth – Restoration from the dust.
Whether we’re talking about personal restoration or the restoration of the whole of creation, Jesus is surely faithful.
 
Isaiah 61:1-3
he Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
 
A beautiful headdress instead of ashes. Comfort, freedom, praise.
 
Acts 3:18-21
But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the thingsabout which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
 
Restoration…everything beautiful in it’s time. In His time.
 
What does this mean for you? What has Jesus restored or what are you waiting for Him to restore?
 
How will all of creation look different in the Restoration? The Last Day isn’t just about judgement and terror. For Christians, it’s about the culmination of all time, being eagerly restored by a God we know intimately.
 
Praise be to Him, girls! That day in high school years ago, I had no idea why my forehead dust meant so much. Today, when I go to Him in prayer and worship, when my husband places the ashes on my forehead and proclaims, “From dust you came, From dust you shall arise!” I know. When I heartily reply, “He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!” this Sunday, I praise Him for using moments of humiliation, moments of destruction, moments of struggle, moments of joy, moments of peace, moments of confusion, moments of understanding.
 
Everything beautiful in His time. Every moment, all in Him.
 
Oh, I will miss you girls! Thank you for taking the last 9 weeks to study with me. I have learned and been stretched and I pray you have been too. 
 
Until next time, in Him, much love,
 
🙂 Heidi

A God who sews

*photo credit to Mrs. Emily Menz 🙂


Day 2 – A God who sews

I have orange pants. They may just be my favorite article of clothing. I feel like maybe I’ve talked about them before, so forgive me if you are like, “There she goes with the orange pants again!”
I love my orange pants. They are skinny corduroys. I love them so much that I brought them to Haiti with me…in August. Anyone who has had any experience in subtropical climates knows how ridiculous this is. But I love the pants and couldn’t bear to just leave them in a drawer at home. Ridiculous.

I have sewn the pants once. They got a weird tear by the zipper and they were easily fixed with a needle and some tough thread. Then there was a small rip in the bottom near the seam, so I stitched that up. After doing the laundry on Sunday, I noticed a new rip near the zipper, so now they are sitting in a prominent place on my dresser, as a reminder to “fix me.” Some pants are worth fixing, you know? Some things in life are worth sewing.

Our God is a God that recognizes the value of sewing. The value of mending.

The earliest act of sewing we find is in Genesis 3. Read verses 6-13:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her,and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Adam and Eve first sewed clothing for themselves out of fig leaves, to cover their shame. They had sinned against the God with whom they walked in the garden.
They had dishonored themselves, and all that He had given them, in their unbelief.
The serpent planted distrust, “Did God really say…” and they tossed aside who they knew Him to be, for who they let the devil tell them He was.

God responds with a whole host of discipline in the following verses, because we know that the Lord disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:12). He gives us a glimpse of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15. And then He pours the Gospel out onto His precious children in Genesis 3:21. Read that passage below:
And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

One of the earliest records of God’s actions for His people, in the first pages of the world’s story, is God sewing. It makes me tear up to think of a God who looks at Adam and Eve’s paltry cover for the shame of their sin and says, “Let me lift that. Let me cover you with my garment.” God, in His earliest acts of love takes off our garment of shame and replaces it with sacrifices for us. It astounds me. His love is unfathomable. Beautiful.
And God continues to weave this part of His character throughout His word –

Isaiah 61:10
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
    my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
    he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Psalm 30:10-12
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
    O Lord, be my helper!”
 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!


Jesus was stripped naked and put on a cross. He bore the utmost shame, to lift ours.

Let your head be lifted, friend. What did you put on today? We wear clothing – be it orange pants or maxi skirts, or socks of rags – because of sin. We cover the intimate places, because we all have darkness inside of us. But this is not where we live now. We are clothed by a Savior who loves us, who gives us his garments of righteousness and purity and holiness. He also gives us what we daily need, and sometimes that looks like really fun pants. Those pants can just be fun, but they can also remind us of Who He is – a God who loves us enough to cover us, lift us, and provide for us.

When you get dressed or undressed today, thank a God who sews. Thank a God who cares intimately about every little thing. Honor Him, love Him. He first loved you.

Discussion questions:
What is your favorite article of clothing that you currently own, or that you have ever owned?
Do you sew or no anyone who sews? Tell us about that.

What shame has God lifted from your life and bore for you? What has He replaced that shame with – forgiveness, joy, etc.? What burden has this lifted from you?