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Posts Tagged ‘Emma’s Blog’

sadface

I’ve heard it from a few people now… stories of depressed friends going to their GP and at some stage being asked, “Are you, by any chance, an evangelical Christian?” Have you heard similar tales?

I’m not sure whether we’ve ended up on any official lists of “predisposing factors” but it certainly makes you think.

So let’s ask a tough question: Is there anything about evangelicalism (as opposed to other kinds of Christianity) that makes depression even harder? Or even, perhaps, more likely?

Is it worse to be an evangelical Christian when you’re depressed?

I can think of two reasons it shouldn’t be and two reasons it might be…

READ THE WHOLE POST ON EMMA’S BLOG

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job miserable comfortersI’ve just blogged over at A New Name (Cos, you know, the author and me. We Have A Thing.)

Anyway, it begins thus…

Here’s the story: Job loses his wealth, his health and his family in a series of extraordinary calamities. The reader is aware – though Job is not – that the whole thing began in heaven with a kind of wager between the LORD and Satan. The LORD is proud of His servant Job and so permits truly diabolical attacks which He knows Job will endure. But the suffering is intense. Job himself sits down in the ashes and wishes he was dead, his wife tells him to ‘curse God and die’ and his three friends – who are meant to be comforters – end up tormenting him in the most grotesque way imaginable.

Twenty times Job asks what we all ask when we suffer: “Why?”  Why me? Why now? Why this? In Job, the reader knows the answer – or at least, knows more than him.  But Job is in the dark and the why question remains conspicuously unanswered, even when the LORD shows up for an almighty happy ending. Apparently the question which Job asks most is one the LORD was content to ignore.

What do we learn? Let me give five observations…

Read more here…

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Emma and I have just done a seminar at Bible by the Beach. Emma told some of her story and I spoke about ‘The Big Story’ around pastoral care and addictions as well as ‘The Carer’s Story.’  Here are the notes I was working from:

A New Name Seminar 1

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Christ is our Identity

15 times “in Christ” in Ephesians. What a preposition: Can’t get closer than “IN”

You’ve died and gone to heaven. Ephesians 2:1…5-6.

“Seated in Christ” – nothing more to do – don’t need to move an inch.

What do we need? To know more of what we have: Ephesians 3:14ff

Don’t try to feel Christ in you – look to HIM.

To the degree you know yourself in Him, you will know Him in you.

Despite your feelings (or lack of them) it’s His relationship with the Father that’s central, not yours!  You can’t trust your feelings, you can’t even trust your faith.  Just know that Christ has faith for you.

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We’re All Addicts

People are not free, rational decision-makers

Ephesians 2:2-3: In pursuing the desires of our flesh we are enslaved to the devil.

You say “I’m not enslaved, I just do what I want.” Exactly – that’s your slavery. You keep feeding your foolish desires though they never actually give you what you want or need.

Human beings are not decision-making machines, calculating costs and benefits and acting rationally.  We’re foolish lovers who abandon ourselves to bad relationships that only enslave.

We’re not bound against our will. We choose what we choose. Nonetheless, we are trapped.

Addictions to substances or behaviours (like exercise or starvation) are obvious manifestations of this truth. But we’re all addicts. Ephesians 4:17-20

Both sufferers and carers need to know that the sufferer is not deciding to be unhealthy to spite everyone. Neither are they able to choose their way out of this. If you don’t understand the nature of their slavery you’ll only end up hating them. You’ll spend your whole time resenting them for their wilful rebellion and/or beating them with the will-power-stick to make them better.  If you don’t believe that we’re all addicts, you cannot love people through their self-destructive behaviours.

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Suffering is not a detour, it’s the way

We naturally think that the ultimate Christian life is one free from suffering and struggle. Of course we have to forget all about Jesus to believe that.

It’s not that God’s up there and we ascend through our strength.

Christ comes down because we have no strength of our own.

It’s not “There’s light at the end of the tunnel, here’s the 17 point plan for how you can get there in the end.”

It’s: “You’re dead in transgressions and sins. Utterly helpless.  And Christ joins you in the mess.”

If you find yourself in this kind of mess: Know that RIGHT HERE is where Christ is at work.  This isn’t a detour, it’s the way.

The Lord knows how to redeem the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25).  Maybe you’ll be able to comfort others with the comfort you’ve received in your affliction (2 Corinthians 1:4).  But whatever happens, Christ is IN the situation.

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Redemption is Forward-Looking

When a loved one is suffering, it’s very natural to want to say “We just need to get the old Emma back.”  It’s very natural to look backwards.

I’m not so sure this is wise.  It seems to me that redemption works differently.  In Ephesians we get saved out of the pit and raised to a new height.  Salvation moves us onwards. In Exodus, the Israelites were brought out of Egypt and taken to the promised land.  In the wilderness they yearned for Egypt with its decent food and shelter.  But the Lord doesn’t take them back to the old place.  He takes them through the desert to a new place.  Their true home is ahead – a spacious land they haven’t yet seen.  This is the whole pattern of God’s dealings with us – from a garden but onto a city.

I think it’s a mistake to try to return to the way things were. It’s very possible that the way things were got you into this mess in the first place.  As you go through a wilderness time, the goal is a transformed you ahead (not the old you which you left behind.

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A New Name Seminar 2.

Church Comes First

Ephesians 4 comes before Ephesians 5!

We belong to each other in baptism before we belong to our spouses in marriage – or even to our children in families. Modern understandings of “coupledom” are very destructive.  We’re taught to cosy up to each other with a meal for two and a boxed set and we sing that old song from the 60’s “We’ll build a world of our own, which no-one else can share…”  But church has a claim on us before even our spouse does.

So quickly crazy can become normal when you try to manage by yourselves.  Far too often I coddled Emma in the darkness when I should have been moving her into the light of community.  That’s a hard judgement call when she becomes afraid of others and when she needs to know you’re safe.  But you need to be committed to life in community and to moving in that direction.

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One Flesh Gets Twisted

FLESH: Ephesians 2:3 5:31.  Those who deal with addictions will tell you that most addicts have an enabler somewhere in their life.

There are all sorts of dynamics that come into play when destructive behaviours flare up and if you’re close to the sufferer then it’s quite possible that you are some part of the problem.

Giving an addict what they want is not love. FEEDING HALF TON HUBBY is a chilling example of how an enabler can give the addict everything they want in the name of love.  It was the story of Patrick Deuel who weighed half a ton and his wife who could bring herself to stop feeding him. He was in hospital on nil by mouth and his wife would smuggle pizzas into the hospital. Why?  She said “Because I love him and it’s what he wants. I can’t say no to him if that’s what he wants.”  This kind of “love” can kill.

When Emma and I got married I basically thought that love meant saying “Yes” to my wife, no matter what.  If she wanted poison… well, what’s a loving husband to do but give her poison?  That’s a stupid analogy but only because it highlights the stupidity of what I was doing.  I took no lead in casting a vision for what healthy desires and directions might look like in our marriage.  In the absence of this Emma demanded more and more of her own way and I conceded more and more to drives which were ultimately self-destructive.

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You Need to Change

Ephesians 4:14-15 – we’re all being told lies every day.  We need “truthing in love” in church family to fight the lies. And that means that the carer needs to repent too.

This is hard to hear, but it’s vital. BOTH of you need to repent.  Can I suggest talking to a trusted Christian friend about the details of how you’re handling all this?  Don’t just get your friends to tell you There, there it must be so difficult – of course its difficult and of course you need sympathy and care.  But give friends permission to speak the truth in love: to challenge you on how you’re handling things.

When I did this in Christian community, I started to see a pattern emerging…

IMAGE: Dancefloor – Emma edging towards the dark edges, I would follow to coddle her from behind.  I should have spun her around and danced her into the light.  (It would mean kicking and screaming and tears and accusations – and that would mean I’d have to repent of my need to be “Mr Nice Guy”.  But that’s ok – I need to repent, and we both need community).

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Prayer is Warfare

Ephesians 6:10ff

Headship means being a prayer warrior.  This one’s for husbands but it has implications for others…  There are few other things I’d articulate as implications of headship, but it seems to me that prayer is top of the list. The LORD thunders at the head of His people (Joel 2:11) and husbands make war at the head of their wives.  When I’m prayerless Emma suffers.

And remember community. Some of the most powerful help we ever received as Emma was at her worst was going to another Christian couple’s house and praying on a Monday evening. They didn’t know much about eating disorders. Emma was able to talk about her struggles, talk about what the NHS were doing, talk about what was hard and we took those requests to God. It’s incredibly powerful to open up your needs before God and before church family.  It’s a total reversal of the condition actually.  The condition is about solitary, self-sufficiency. Praying with others is about a corporate expression of dependence and community.  Very powerful!

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It’s now on Youtube:

Here’s our response to the numbers of thumbs-down given!

I should probably point out that Emma’s is the most thumbed-UP video too. Which is nice. She did great!

 

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Pressed down but pressing in

Healing of the Woman

I know they’re all corkers, but Emma’s latest is one of the corkingest…

You hosed down the bad self, but the good one drowned too.  You untethered your life and watched as it sank.  You self-harmed to stop feeling but that worked too well. So you self-harmed to break the numbness; to feel something instead.

Read it.

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wedding cake topper

Click for source

On Thursday I wrote a piece on Emma’s blog about how I coped through her illness.  I hope it might help others too.  Here are the headings…

The Priesthood of Christ is vital for you both

You are their vicarious hope-r

You must believe in the bondage of the will…  

A theology of the cross is vital…

A theology of the cross is not the same thing as “Misery loves Company”…

The goal is not getting back to how things were…

That feeling of impotence is inevitable, it’s good and it’s bad…

You will need to change…

Giving an addict what they want is not love…

Firm, buoyant love is the tone to strike…

Don’t do it alone…

Headship means being a prayer warrior…

This is not a distraction from real life, this is it…

Read the whole thing…

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Just guest-blogged on A New Name.  Here’s the opening…

Picture an evangelist.  What are you imagining?  Perhaps a motor-mouth with the enthusiasm of a labrador pup, the skin of a rhinoceros’s hide, the social skills of a barge pole and the patter of a “Phones 4 U” sales rep.

Now picture a pastoral carer.  What are the images now?  Surely it’s endless cups of tea, frowns of concern, shoulders squeezed and pained benedictions: “Aw bless” they say with an empathy perilously close to patronising.

In the popular Christian imagination, these are two different species.  One of them we’re very happy to send off to “The Mission Field.”  Then, with the wild-eyed enthusiasts out of the way, the pastoral people can settle down to their head-cocked expressions of condolence.  And never the twain shall meet, right?

Read the whole thing…

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No?

Seriously, why not!?

It’s not just her hubby, check out any of these reviews.

Mark Meynell

Anita Mathias

Ruth Field

Kath Cunningham

Admiral Creedy

Emily Paterson

 Matthew Currey

Not to mention the latest by Steve Jeffery.  It finishes like this:

A New Name is subtitled Grace and healing for anorexia. But it’s about far more than that. It’s for anyone who wants to know how broken people tick – regardless of exactly where the breakage is – and how, by God’s grace, they can be put back together again.

This book is not only for anorexics and dieticians, or even just for “counsellors.” It’s for anyone who cares about badly messed-up people and is willing to live through a tiny taste of the pain they experience in order to help them deal with problems far too big for them to handle alone. It’s for anyone who thinks they might not be a perfect friend or parent or sibling or Pastor, and who wants to avoid making some potentially life-wrecking mistakes (other people’s lives, as well as their own) before it’s too late.

I’ve read a few books on different “personal and pastoral issues” – depression and bulimia and bereavement and so on. Some of them have been pretty helpful. But none of them come close to this. Brutally honest, theologically acute and astonishingly insightful. Alternately heartrending and hilarious. And (for what it’s worth – though frankly it seems almost trivial to mention it) some of the most stylish prose I’ve read in years. Buy two copies, because by the time you’ve finished it you’ll have thought of at least one person who needs it, and yours will be so dog-eared and tear-stained that you’ll be embarrassed to let it be seen in public.

I can’t think of another book so consistently and lavishly praised as A New Name.  Get it!

Buy from IVPamazon.co.uk or amazon.com

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I guest posted for Emma on headship and submission and all that.

Stuff like…

The Father is the Head, His Son is the Body (1 Corinthians 11:3)…

Christ is the Head, His Church is the Body (Ephesians 5:21-33)…

Ephesians 5 says that  Head and Body roles are taken on by husbands and wives…so it seems clear that there is a place for roles.  But what place?

If you only study Christ on earth, you might see a passive Father and an active Son.  If you only study Christ exalted to God’s right hand, you might see a busy Father and a resting Son.  If you only look at Christ in Gethsemane you might see a sweating Saviour and a sleeping church.  If you only look at the worship of heaven, you might see worshipping servants and a seated Lord.

Freeze-frame a marriage at any one point and either spouse might look like the active partner, either spouse might look like they are ‘taking a lead’.  And that’s a good and healthy thing.  It’s the nature of a proper relationship which thrives on give-and-take.

The thing is – and finally I’m getting to my point – we just can’t insist on one kind of action for one member of the relationship. In fact, to worry about specifics is a big mistake.  Roles is about an overall shape to the relationship in which the Head serves in love and the Body encourages and receives that serving love.  And when this shape is even approximated in human marriages, something wonderful happens.  Suddenly the  caricature of marriage is over-turned.  You know the picture – rightly derided in our culture: there’s a  good-for-nothing husband, half-man, half-sofa, watching Top Gear repeats on Dave while his embittered wife taps her foot and nags him into submission.

The gospel redeems this shadow of marriage as partners embody the true roles of Head and Body.  Where Adam was silent and Eve grasped, now husbands step forward and wives receive.  It’s a beautiful thing when true roles are played out.

But… resolving to take on these roles is not where the revolution lies.  The roles are an expression of the revolution, not the cause.

The gospel is the cause and Ephesians 5 (the passage on roles) couldn’t be clearer about it….

Read the whole thing here.  And perhaps if you want to comment, do so there to keep them all together.

 

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Emma’s book is coming out this week.  It’s a phenomenal read.  Brilliantly written, brutally honest, incisive, touching and hopeful.  You’ll be hooked from the first sentence.

Emma has struggled with anorexia both as a teenager and as an adult. This book tells her story, but more than this, testifies to the grace of Jesus who met her in the darkness and brought her out.

This book is not just for sufferers and those who care for them – although it will be vitally helpful for them.  It’s a testimony to Jesus.  It’s a meditation on the gospel and how it addresses a deadly mental illness, so emblematic of our culture’s struggles with food, body, performance and identity.  It’s one of the most compelling and vivid accounts you’ll ever read of the lies that can enslave a person and how the truth sets them free.

In your families, in your congregations and among your friends, there are people struggling deeply with food issues, body issues, OCD, burn-out, anxiety disorders and depression, to name just a few.  The body of Christ with the word of Christ has medicine.  I don’t say “the solution” because “solution”-thinking is a hair’s-breadth away from the philosophy behind much of these issues.  But we do have gospel balm that the world knows nothing of.  Yet Christians are often too scared to get close to these issues.

Too often we palm “problem people” off to medical and psychiatric professionals, expecting them to fix it.  Medical and psychiatric help can often be crucial, but A) it’s by no means certain you’ll find such help – many of these services are incredibly over-stretched, and B) your friendship, prayers and words of grace are absolutely critical alongside professional help.

Emma and I have seen too many people struggling alone with deep problems because their churches have no idea how to help.  Christians feel out of their depth and too easily abdicate pastoral responsibilities to the world.

I hope Emma’s book makes people see, “Yes we are out of our depth here.  But that’s precisely where Jesus works – out of our depth.”  I pray it will equip God’s people to see that we have a gospel big enough to handle the biggest issues.  And that churches will start to be the places where these problems aren’t hidden or exacerbated, but addressed and healed.

Read commendations here.

Pre-order the book here.

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If you don’t know about my wife’s wonderful blog and ministry – check it out now.

Here’s the opening to her latest article for the Church of England newspaper:

If you’d met me seven years ago, here’s what you’d have seen:  a ‘successful’ Christian, newly married to a vicar in training. Leader of a thriving children’s ministry. A talented student with a bright future ahead. Someone who seemed to have it all together.

But there’s one part you might have missed: a young woman gripped by an eating disorder that would nearly take her life…

Read the whole article here

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Nothing very profound, but Emma and I write about childlessness here after thinking about my sermon on Hannah here. Basically some more thoughts on 1 Samuel 1.

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Shame and Strength by Emma

Do you ever feel ashamed?

Not embarrassed.  Not ‘oh dear, that was awkward’.  Not discomfort. Shame.  The sort of word you lift out of the vocab box with kid gloves.   The real deal.  That deep, burning in the pit of your stomach, I want to turn myself inside-out and climb into the wardrobe and cover myself in coats and put my hands on my head and then screw my eyes tightly closed and shrink a bit more.

Shame is one of those feelings that can’t possibly apply to anyone but you. It stalks the weak and the weird.  Normal people can shake it off with the raindrops. But for those with something to hide, it sticks and it grows and it whispers and bit by bit it eats your strength until you’re too tired to fight it and you lie down and say, yes.  You’re right.  That’s me.  I am that thing…. read more

 

Subscribe to Emma’s blog here.

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Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Justifying Our Lives Away by David Zahl

…Self-justification, therefore, is not only about protecting high self-esteem; it’s also about protecting low self-esteem if that is how a person sees himself.

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Emma’s got a great post up contrasting Amy Winehouse and Anders Breivik:

One person couldn’t cope with fame.  The other couldn’t cope with ignominy.  One person’s life was out of control.  The other was extremely disciplined.  One was full of self-doubt.  The other was certain he was right.  One revealed her problems to the world (“I told you I was trouble!”).  The other kept it all inside.  One took it out on herself.  The other took it out on everyone else.

Is it too far to suggest that these two (obviously extreme cases) represent the apogee of female and male anger?

And if not, what kind of pathologies develop when an angry man (i.e. a man) marries an angry woman (i.e. a woman)?

 

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Eyes to see

When you go shopping do you see it?

Intense, bowed young women, pacing the lanes. Picking up lettuce and putting it down. Desperately scanning the shelves, searching the labels like fortune tellers reading tea-leaves. The furtive, sudden movements. Emaciated arms, hugging the empty basket.

If you know what to look for you’ll see it everywhere.

Read the whole of Emma’s painful descriptions.

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Emma on bonkers beauty treatments.

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If as a church, we don’t respond to brokenness and mess, then here’s what we’re preaching:

‘Our God is too small.  And your problems are too big’.

So begins one of Emma’s best posts…

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One of Emma’s finest angry comic confessionals…

The reality looks more like this.  A gradual, painful retreat,  from friends, loved ones and perhaps from your own growing sense that this is getting out of control. You see, that eating disorder doesn’t want to share.  She wants all of you.

Read the whole thing

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