Checking out NAMI, MHM and how they view faith

I recently had an episcopal priest recommend NAMI and Mental Health Ministries to me, and specifically to look into the following document they have available:

Mental Illness and Families of Faith: How Congregations Can Respond
Resource/Study Guide for Clergy and Communities of Faith

I haven’t read it list, but I’m putting it in my reading list for soon.  Is anyone familiar with this organization?  How would their goals line up with faithful Lutheranism?


Melancholy is the devil's bath


Melancholia balneum diaboli

I have been doing a peer review of a fantastic book by a 17th century theologian named Herberger. I pray that this volume will be published by CPH or someone else within the next year, because it is packed full of wisdom from God’s Word. Nearly every page seems to be full of gems like this one:

To have a sick heart is the greatest trouble on earth. Many may have not a single sick soul in the house, but in the breast there is a sickbed in which an ailing heart lies, letting out great groans. There laughter is stifled. Hence St. Paul calls it “Satan’s messenger”; for “the devil truly avails himself of the melancholy of the pious.” Melancholia balneum diaboli. He climbs on top of what is cast down, and pours out more onto what is already soaked, just like a true sadist. He turns a little infraction into a great, terrifying sin unto death. He has to do everything to the extreme: out of a speck of dust floating in the sunbeam he makes a huge mountain. He sharpens all thoughts into daggers and spits for the heart, making man to despair of bringing out the best of the situation.

We have certainly reflected long and hard here the relationship between physical depression and spiritual distress. Here Herberger seems to have an understanding of this hundreds of years ago. Depression is the playground or bath in which the devil loves to work. Depression turns us inward, makes us overfocus and blow every little setback so far out of proportion that is hardly recognizable. Depression can easily lead us to despair even of our very lives.

But Christ calls us back from peering over the edge. There is a sickness, but it is not unto death. There are problems, but they can be overcome. No matter what the difficulty you face, whether it is personal, financial, medical or spiritual, Christ is with you. He will see you through it.

Thanks, Doctor Herberger. Your words bring into focus how God can use these things to our benefit. We pray with you:

“O my dear Lord Jesus Christ, who said: ‘Pray, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you’; by virtue of this Your promise, O Lord, grant to me who pray not for gold or silver, but for a strong, firm faith. Let me find, for I seek not pleasure or worldly joy, but comfort and new life through Your blessed, comforting, wholesome word. Open unto me who knock. Nothing do I desire that the world counts great and high, for by such I am not made a hair’s breadth better before You: Instead, give me Your Holy Spirit to illumine my heart, strengthen and comfort me in my anguish and distress, preserve me in true faith and trust in Your grace until my end. Amen.”

His name is Emannuel

This has been a more eventful Advent and Christmastide than usual in the Peperkorn household. As you may have heard, we were (surprised and) overjoyed at the end of October to discover that Kathryn was pregnant. Our joy was turned to sorrow in mid-December as we learned that she had lost the baby.

It’s really hard to even describe this experience. The span of emotions, the sorrow, guilt, anger, frustration, and strange relief all rush together in one big glob of pain that is almost overwhelming. Miscarriages are so odd in our culture, because there is a sense where A) We shouldn’t talk about it; B) If we do talk about it, to try and minimize it; or C) To OVER engage the whole process, as though this is an opportunity to make some religious or political statement about abortion.

Kathryn and I lost a child (Nadia) four years ago, and so I thought this would ease the pain, or at least our understanding of the pain. But that is just not the case. Each grief is its own. Just as each child is different, so the loss of each child is different, even a child only eight weeks old.

Part of Kathryn’s fear I think is that I will fall into another depression. Nadia’s death was the beginning of a long downward slope for me last time, so that’s a pretty reasonable fear on her part. It is so easy in this life to take one tragic event and allow it to escalate into a holocaust.

But it does not have to be so. Past history does not guarantee future events. While it may be a decent predictor sometimes, it can also serve to create self-fulfilling prophecies. There are a lot of things different from four years ago for us:

1. We are much more aware of God’s mercy in taking are of our family. He has seen us through this and more.

2. We are both more aware of our medical needs, moods, and the “signs” when things aren’t going quite right.

3. Our support group(s) of family, friends, church, etc., has been wonderful. They were all good last time, too, but I think everyone is a little more aware of what’s happening now.

So be at peace, friends! The Lord is with you. I will be back in the swing of writing again soon.