Allan Josephson: Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 5: Narcissism & Relationships @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

Dealing with the narcissists in our lives is never easy, but there is hope for improving these difficult relationships, says Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow AllanJosephson, M.D.

Narcissism develops out of early relationships and is sustained by subsequent ones, so it’s important to nip the problem in the bud. How one does that depends on the nature of the relationship. In this article, we’ll deal with three kinds of relationships: parent/child, husband/wife, and employer/employee. …

You can read more about  narcissism and relationships at The High Calling.

Tom Davis: ‘A Legacy of Madness’ @NJShorePatch

Jersey Shore Patch Regional Editor Tom Davis, a Point Pleasant Boro native who is appearing at a Manasquan bookstore, talks about recovering himself and his family from generations of mental illness.

Tom Davis is not only regional editor of Jersey Shore Patch and an adjunct professor of journalism at Rutgers University, he is author of the poignant new memoir, A Legacy of Madness: Recovering My Family from Generations of Mental Illness.

Davis, a Point Boro native, was a recipient of a Rosylnn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism and received a ringing endorsement for the book from the former First Lady.

“A Legacy of Madness breaks down the barriers of silence that shroud mental illnesses within families for generations,” Carter wrote. “By sharing the story of his family history and his own personal journey, Tom Davis provides hope and inspiration to others.”

Tom Davis will be signing copies of Legacy of Madness at 7 p.m., Friday, October 6 at Booktowne, 171 Main Street in Manasquan, and at 11 a.m., Sunday, October 9 at Barnes & Noble at Brick Plaza in Brick.

I sat down with Davis for a forthright interview about what it was like to grow up with his mother’s undiagnosed mental illness and what he did to change the course of history in his family. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

To read the interview, go to Manasquan Patch.

Allan Josephson: Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 4: Work & the Self @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

Eric had leadership written all over him. Intelligence, good looks, and interpersonal drive had led to an MBA at a major university. When his first business venture failed, he was on to another that succeeded. Several other business successes followed, as did personal leadership projects undertaken at church and in his community.

He was politically active both locally and nationally. His wife and children were also achievers,  but a sense of balance was missing from his life.. He suffered two major depressions in his adult life and another as retirement age approached and he was confronted with financial difficulties and the interpersonal consequences of chronic over-extension. His retirement was forced and he was emotionally adrift.

Disordered Thinking 
“The driver for many who lack balance in their lives is disordered thinking about the relationship of work to self and God,” Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D. says.

Although he recognizes that striving for a balance between personal and professional domains facilitates development in both, Josephson has something else in mind when he considers this kind of disordered thinking. …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 3: Narcissism @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

It goes without saying that narcissists have an inflated view of themselves, one that frequently masks a hidden sense of emptiness and inferiority. What’s not so obvious, according to Laity Leadership Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D., is that those who are in relationship with a narcissist “by definition become depleted or depressed, because life always has to reflect the grandeur, the beauty, the intelligence of the narcissist.”

The key hallmark of narcissism is a lack of empathy, Josephson said. Empathy is when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes as much as is humanly possible and try to understand what their world is like. Good parents empathize with their children, and spouses in healthy marriages empathize with each other.

“Narcissists can’t do it. It’s like they have a mirror in front of their face.  At this extreme, the narcissist’s view is all that matters. ‘It’s all about them,’” he said.

Predictably, relationships for narcissists, both personal and professional, tend to be short lived. …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 2: Scriptural Principles for Growing Healthy Children @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

Parenting is hard, and not just because we struggle to balance work and family. The stakes are high. We parents all raise our children, hoping they will become spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthy adults. We look for answers from pastors, pediatricians, and parenting “experts,” but we should not neglect the wisdom of mental health professionals.

Healthy child development reflects God’s character and purposes, says Laity Leadership Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D., and Scripture provides guidelines that children desperately need.

In his 1994 paper, “A Clinical Theology of the Developmental Process: A Child Psychologist’s Perspective,” Josephson outlines eight areas of child development that not only illustrate his theology, but also offer sound parenting principles.

To learn more about these principles, go to The High Calling.

Allan Josephson: Integrating Faith & Psychiatry, Part 1 @TheHighCalling

On the Way to Gettysburg 2

When Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Allan Josephson, M.D. decided to study psychiatry 30 years ago, persons of faith often wondered how he would fare as a Christian in the field. The influence of Sigmund Freud’s atheism has waned, Josephson said, but it was pervasive then.

Josephson not only survived, but flourished and became an agent of change. Today, he is Vice Chairman for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Services at the University of Louiseville School of Medicine in Louiseville, Kentucky, and author of three books. One of them is the Handbook of Spirituality and Worldview in Clinical Practice, a text he edited and contributed to that is used in psychiatric residency programs to help psychiatrists understand the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of their own and their patients’ worldviews. …

In this series we’re going to tap into Josephson’s wisdom to explore this theme as it relates to:

  • How healthy child development mirrors Scriptural principles.
  • What children need in the contemporary family for healthy development.
  • Why there is an increase in people, particularly children and adolescents, who exhibit narcissistic behavior, and what can be done about it.
  • The psychological effects of technology.
  • How work defines the self.

Both psychology and theology have much to say about these topics. We hope you’ll join us for the discussion.

You can read more about Dr. Josephson’s journey at The High Calling.

A Fitting Tribute

Opening Ceremony at The Overnight Walk, NYC, 6/4-5/11
Over the weekend, my niece and I joined 2000+ suicide survivors for the 18 mile Overnight Walk through New York City. A record $2.5 million was raised for suicide prevention, research, and survivor support services. Our team contributed more than $5000 to the pot.

Lumaire dedicated to Gabe at The Overnight Walk, NYC, June 4-5/11

People assume, I think, that I write about Gabriel’s suicide and raise money for causes related to it, because doing so aides in my healing, or redeems the horrific reality, or brings meaning to my life. In reality, exposing this wound exacts an emotional toll that I’m increasingly unwilling to pay.

I shouldn’t be writing about my son killing himself; I should be writing about how he’s taking the world by storm with his many talents and passions.

What? by Gabriel G. Scheller

I’m sure Mariel Hemingway would rather talk about her grandfather’s literature than his suicide too. But there she was at the Overnight Walk speaking eloquently and tearfully to the crowd about her pain, and filming a documentary about suicide, because, I think, she recognizes the danger to the rest of her family (including her daughter) in not talking about its legacy of suicide.

She wants it to stop.

Mariel Hemingway and her daughter at The Overnight Walk, NYC, 6/4-5/11

In the last four years, with the help of both loved ones and strangers, I’ve raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 for causes related to Gabriel’s death, not because it’s fulfilling, but because I felt compelled to do something to stop the pain for others.

NF Endurance Team 2008

Now don’t hold me to this statement if I change my mind, but I think I’m done with public fundraising campaigns that draw attention to my loss. This means no more big events that require $1000 minimum fundraising goals in order to participate, unless I can afford to write a $1000 check myself. It was incredibly difficult, for example, to tell my neighbors that I was hosting a block party to raise money for suicide prevention because my son killed himself.

Overnight Walk Block Party 026

It was a great party, but I really hated exposing myself like that. I don’t want to do it again.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’ve given to one or more of my fundraising campaigns, I offer my sincere gratitude. Your money was well spent, so well spent in fact that I hope you’ll keep giving to The Children’s Tumor Foundation and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention until neurofibromatosis and mental illness no longer threaten the well being of those whose lives they touch.

However, instead of continuing to focus on Gabriel’s death, in my new position as News & Religion editor at, I’ll honor his life. He cared deeply about the issues Urban Faith reports on, so I think it’s a fitting, subtle tribute to work on these issues too.

I’ll be updating the site too frequently to post links to my articles as they’re published, but I’ll try to post a weekly update. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

There’s much more to come.

As you read my words at Urban Faith, it can be our little secret that they’re written for Gabe.

Out of the Darkness and Into the Light for Suicide Prevention @NJShorePatch

Remembering my son and walking off my grief with other survivors.

gabe art photoMonday, March 28 will mark the third anniversary of my son Gabriel’s death by suicide. Instead of wallowing in the grief that continues to haunt my life, I’ve decided to walk it off this year.

Not literally, of course, because one doesn’t shake this kind of loss, but in real ways that do me and others good I am walking off the stigma and ignorance that suicide inspires.

Right now I’m in training. Come June, I’ll join thousands of other suicide survivors to walk 18 miles from dusk until dawn at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s annual Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk.

As the name suggests, the walk is a fundraiser that seeks to bring the issue of suicide “out of the darkness and into the light.” This year, it will be held in New York City on June 4-5. If you’ve lost a loved one to suicide or just want to support efforts to prevent the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, I hope you’ll join me!

Here’s why …

To find out the answer, go to one of the NJ Shore Patch sites.

One Church Said Yes to Perinatal Wellness @NJShorePatch

Rachel McKibben’s experience with Postpartum Psychosis inspired her to accept help on behalf of others.

Regional Perinatal Consortium of Monmouth and Ocean Counties (RPCMOC) health educator Amy Goldberg mailed 600 fliers to local religious organizations offering her program on pregnancy related emotional wellness.

One person responded.

That person was Rachel McKibben, director of youth and family ministries at Trinity Episcopal Church in Red Bank. For McKibben, the flier didn’t just represent another ministry opportunity; it was a highly personal invitation to do something about an issue that has shaped her own life.

McKibben is one of a tiny percentage of women who have experienced Postpartum Psychosis.  Although she had no history of mental illness and no symptoms after her first pregnancy, she did have some risk factors for Postpartum Depression (PPD)….

To find out how Rachel dealt with this terrifying experience, and what the signs, symptoms, and solutions are for PPD, go here, or here, or here, or one of the other Jersey Shore sites.

Prosperity Gospel: Will Jesus Buy Me a Double Wide or What? @TheHuffingtonPost

I had a great time interviewing Karen Zacharias for this article. She’s not only a wonderful storyteller who writes about things that matter, she’s also feisty, generous, and smart. You should read her book; it’s engaging and thoughtful. I’m following it up with her memoir: After the Flag Has Been Folded: A Daughter Remembers the Father She Lost to War—and the Mother Who Held Her Family Together. Here we are, two incredulous faith-filled women, taking on the prosperity preachers:

In her new book, Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide? (‘Cause I Need More Room For My Plasma TV), veteran journalist Karen Spears Zacharias takes on prosperity gospel hucksters. What began as a humorous look at a troubling phenomenon took a serious turn when the U.S. economy tanked in 2008, and another when Zacharias lost her job. Prosperity preaching wasn’t just something to report on; it was a personal attack on her faith.

I know what that’s like. After Janet Jackson scandalized U.S. audiences by exposing her breast at the 2004 Superbowl, I wrote an essay on the indecency of Christian television. In it, I critiqued a married televangelist couple’s shows. A producer from one of those shows invited me to be a guest for what she thought would be a “lively discussion.” I politely declined. The host e-mailed me directly. She took me to task, saying my article was misleading and that I was pompous. Never mind that she had claimed gold was literally raining down in her studio in one of the episodes I examined. She wrote, “The bottom line is that you have a small theological box that you live in and it wouldn’t matter what I said because until you open your mind and heart to the supernatural things of God, you will be quite content writing your cynical judgmental articles and watching your public television station,” which her network was suing to purchase against its wishes.

In her trumped up thinking, the fourth estate is spiritually bankrupt. I don’t see that any more than I saw the gold on my TV screen. Instead, I see prosperity theology as truncated, deceptive and dangerous, as do many Christians and as does Zacharias. In the introduction to her collection of stories about how people view the relationship between God and money, she writes, “It’s a terrible theology for the poor and downtrodden. When hard times hit, it must mean that God is put out with us. We’ve been unfaithful or otherwise not measured up.” Her scope is broader than any particular denomination, however. “We Americans,” she writes, “want to believe that God loves us best of all and that all of our nation’s riches are the result of our faithfulness to God. … Entitlement theology may very well be the bastard-child born from the mating of Calvinism’s strong work ethic with Capitalism’s get-all-the-goods-you-can mentality.” Ouch!

Zacharias is a braver woman than I am. She did a 700 Club interview about her book with Pat Robertson’s son Gordon. As the interview unfolded, Robertson said, “In reading your book, I notice that you don’t particularly like TV preachers and I was trying hard not to take it personal, but you’re really starting to skewer some of my friends in here.” To which Zacharias retorted, “Some of your friends in there deserve to be skewered.” A friendly debate about Joel Osteen ensued and Zacharias concluded, “When you go before the masses and tell them that their ‘best life now‘ is tied up into the things that they own, the size of their garage or anything materially oriented, I think you’re missing it.” In the book, she says, “If there’s a secret to living your best life now, it’s this: Stop imagining all the ways in which the universe can serve you and start figuring out how you can serve others.”

I talked to Zacharias as she was preparing to travel from her home in Oregon to Washington D.C. for board meetings of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation. She serves both organizations for good reason: her father was killed in Vietnam when she was just a girl. (She tells that story in her memoir, After the Flag Has Been Folded: A Daughter Remembers the Father She Lost to War — and the Mother Who Held Her Family Together.)

She said, “The thing I’m trying to address here is not just about money. It’s about saying to the 14-year-old girl whose father died in Vietnam that I didn’t measure up, that I wasn’t enough or that my mother wasn’t. [There is in prosperity theology] no taking into account that the Vietnam War had more to do with capitalism than it had to do with Christianity.”

She continued, “The problem with the whole formula of God’s faithfulness plus my obedience equals untold riches is that it’s a great formula as long as life’s going your way. …The moment it all comes crashing down, you don’t have a faith because that God doesn’t exist anymore.”

One of the many compelling stories Zacharias tells in Will Jesus Buy Me A Double-Wide? is about a friend of hers who she calls “the Redhead.” After the Redhead was diagnosed with cancer, her husband lost his job. She cleaned houses so they could afford to attend their child’s wedding in Australia. Zacharias grew up in a single-wide trailer and yet couldn’t imagine herself cleaning other people’s toilets, much less envision her elegant friend doing it. The Redhead told her that she prayed for her clients as she did her work. “It’s a kingdom choice to live with a grateful heart in the midst of all this,” she said. Zacharias reflects, “That’s not the power of positive thinking; it’s saying, ‘No matter what, I trust You.’ …That seems to me to be what faith is about.”

I’ve always thought that if I could have faith in light of other people’s suffering, then I best not second guess it in the face of my own. Zacharias and I have this in common. The television host and me, not so much; she closed her e-mail by saying she was content to let God judge between us and hold us accountable for our sins. I’m pretty sure that was a prayer for God to rain judgment down on me.

Check out what Huffington Post readers are saying here.

Cross-post from NF Endurance Team blog: Why Gabe Will Always Be My NF Hero

It’s a rare photo in which Gabe appears depressed. He was known for his boisterous, charismatic personality. But, from the time he left home for college, he struggled with depression. This photo was taken at my husband’s graduation from a pastoral training program in June 2004. Gabe would have just finished his freshman year at Wheaton College in Illinois.

I write about his depression because, as Endurance Team members, we are focused on overcoming and suicide seems like the antithesis of that. One thing I’d really like to accomplish through my involvement with the team is to help others overcome faulty ideas about depression and suicide. Ideas that I myself once held.

Not long before Gabriel died, I joined the CTF group on Facebook. A young woman posted a comment on the group wall about studies linking NF to psychiatric difficulties. I didn’t think much about it until after Gabe died. Then I began doing research and found one of the studies she may have been referring to. Here it is from PubMed:

Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is often associated with psychiatric disorders, which are more frequent in NF1 than in general population (33% of patients). Dysthymia is the most frequent diagnosis (21% of patients). There is also a high prevalence of depressive mood (7%), anxiety (1-6%), and personality (3%) disorders. The risk of suicide is four times greater than in the general population. Bipolar mood disorders or schizophrenia appear to be rare. The impaired quality of life associated with NF1 may play an important role in the development of psychiatric disorders. Quality of life assessments may help to identify a population at high risk.

Dysthymia can be defined as depression; despondency or a tendency to be despondent. It certainly describes Gabe at increasingly frequent intervals in the last year of his life. In another study, researchers found no link between the severity of familiar NF symptoms and the severity of psychiatric ones, indicating that something neurological might be going on rather than simple despair over the condition itself.

Since 2002, I have written for a magazine called Christianity Today. One of my articles was about Gabe and a couple others mentioned him. Because I had encountered a good deal of both ignorance and empathy after his suicide, I wrote about his death for the magazine. You can read that article here. It traces a bit of family history, does some education and poses the possibility that Gabe was suffering from bipolar disorder, which a couple of mental health professionals suggested after reading his suicide notes and journal entries. I’m ambivalent about this post-mortem analysis though, because the impulsivity that correlates with his attention deficit disorder combined with his undiagnosed dysthymia could be mistaken for bipolar.

Long before I had a thought about any of this, I wrote about Gabe’s NF in Christianity Today. That article was an investigation into human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. Through it, I met my friend and NF Endurance Team partner David Brick. David is an hESC researcher at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, CA. When we were training for the Long Beach Half Marathon last year, David did some reading of his own on NF. He found something about the involvement of mast cells in NF. Mast cells are also indicated in asthma and allergies. This got me wondering if Gabe’s severe asthma might also have been a function of his NF. Instead of suffering from three separate diseases—NF, asthma and depression—was he really only suffering symptoms of one nasty disorder? I’d like to know the answer to this question.

The point of my writing about this here is both to alert CTF to these possibilities and to say that Gabe was for all of his life a true NF Hero. He overcame challenges that many of us will never face. The father from whom he inherited neurofibromatosis never acknowledged him and chose not to be a part of his life. He dealt with race issues as well, and was frequently sick and isolated with asthma. NF was always in the background as a concern. And yet, Gabe was incredibly accomplished. You can read about his many accomplishments here.

In one of his suicide notes, he wrote that as much as he kept trying to “pull himself up into the world of real people,” he felt dead inside. That feeling is not failure or a lack of courage; it’s a symptom of clinical depression. A symptom that he did not recognize had a treatment. A symptom he hid well in his lifelong habit of being an overcomer. A symptom I did not understand.

For the sake of others suffering such symptoms, I want to challenge the NF Endurance Team and its members to recognize that our message shouldn’t exclude those suffering from mental illness. Death by suicide is a preventable tragedy, not a lack of character. While we want to be careful not to romanticize or idealize those who die by suicide, we also want to remember that the vast majority of people who take their own lives die from mental illness that is no fault of their own.

So, here’s to my NF Hero, Gabriel Gifford Scheller!

Update: The NYC Half Marathon is just 10 days away and I’ve only raised $350 of my $1000 goal. If you’d like to help me answer the question posed in this post, you can support my efforts here, or you can send a check to: The Children’s Tumor Foundation 95 Pine Street, 16th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10005.

Speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.


I spend a good deal of time defending evangelicals, both in the real world and in the virtual one. I’ve begun to realize, however, that I’m often defending aspects of evangelicalism that I don’t care for myself. For example, in a discussion that followed my Her.meneutics post on “Hooking Up,” I defended followers of Bill Gothard against some rabid criticism, even though I deplore the sort of legalism Gothard represents. And last year, at Brandeis University, as one of two evangelicals amidst a dozen or more religion journalists doing a fellowship on Judaism, I repeatedly defended evangelicals against negative stereotypes that I myself have pondered in print.

I bring this up because, now that I’m home, I don’t fit easily in some of my old evangelical circles. Not that I ever did, but it’s been a while since I’ve been immersed in certain of our popular religious practices. I find myself shocked at things I once gave ne’er a thought to. I had hoped, for instance, that attending a Bible study led by a dear friend and wonderful teacher would bring me comfort. Unfortunately, I don’t care for the Bible study material we are using. It wants to turn the Bible into a self-help manual and its characters into heroes, and I don’t. I’m also tired of studying the Bible to extrapolate every last ounce of possible meaning out of it. It follows then that I don’t want to rip it into shreds and remake it in my own image. I mostly just want to read it for the comfort and correction I find in it.  So, there’s that and then the study group is composed of women from both sides of two church splits I lived through. There’s nothing awkward in this, except that I get a clear picture of where I’ve been and see pretty clearly that I no longer belong there.  I love and appreciate those places, but rarely find comfort in their forms of worship, whereas I always find comfort in the Anglican liturgy. Always. Never once in my three years as an Anglican has it failed to do its work on me. I live for Sunday worship because Sunday worship imbues me with the power and peace I need to live. (Worship is about God, but it gives back.)

I mention this because it relates to the topic at hand. That topic is pain. Deep, abiding psychic, spiritual, emotional pain that sometimes lasts for days on end.

Last night I was in that kind of pain, and so I picked up Nancy Guthrie’s book, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow. I’m skeptical, not of Nancy mind you, but of my evangelical tribe’s tendency toward weak tea. I began reading nonetheless.

In chapter 3, she deals with those who would suggest that our children ( hers, and mine by inference) who died would have been healed if only we (or they) had had more faith. Nancy chose the story of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1: 40-42 as her text for dealing with this issue. She came across the passage in the months after her daughter Hope died and says it hurt her feelings to think that Jesus was not willing to heal her child. I know exactly what she means. On the morning Gabe died, I said something to God that I don’t recall ever saying to Him before. I lay in my bed, and said, “God, if I were honest, I’d tell you I don’t think you love me anymore. How could you let my children …” A little while later, I said something harsh to Gabe about him wearing a dirty, smelly shirt to work again, and then went for a long prayer walk so that I could get my thoughts back in line with the truth of God’s word and affirm my trust in His love for me and my children. Before the day was done, my son was dead.

Nancy’s implicit trust in God led her to dig deeper into the Scripture to find out what Jesus was really communicating through his miracles (particularly the healing miracles). She came to the conclusion that if Jesus’s healing ministry had been mostly about healing physical sickness, it would have been more pervasive and central to his focus. Also, physical healing is by nature temporary and God didn’t come to earth for a temporary fix. In John 20: 30-31, we learn that the purpose of Jesus’s miracles is that we might believe, and believing, “have life by the power of his name.” Jesus’s priority was our deliverance from the ultimate source of our suffering and that is the sin that separates us from God. About the fall, Nancy writes:

Into the purity of the world God created, sin brought a poison that penetrated everything. And into the relationship we enjoyed with God, sin built a barrier. We went from being at peace with God to feeling threatened by him. Guilt and fear took over where innocence and openness had once ruled.

Ever been there? I have, at least once in the past 24 hours. And yet, she reminds us,

There is a day coming when death and disease will be healed for good. That is our sure hope in the midst of sorrow.

The passage that penetrated my pain last night is this one:

When Jesus said, “I am willing. Be healed!” to the leper, he was saying that he wants to cleanse us from the pervasive sin that will prove eternally fatal without his healing touch.

And now I realize that Jesus turns toward me when I call out to him for healing. Now I can hear him lovingly responding to me, saying, “I am willing. Be healed.” He is at work in my life, bringing healing to the wounded places where sin has left its ugly mark. He certainly isn’t finished yet, but I know the day is coming when his work in me will be complete.

I’ve also come to peace realizing that Jesus did not withhold his healing touch from Hope or Gabe. He has taken them to himself and will, at the resurrection, give them glorious bodies (Philippians 3:21). And this is no get-God-off-the-hook cop-out. It is everything we would ask for and long for.

It is the last paragraph that stuck with me as I went into today. I don’t want get-God-off-the-hook cop-outs. I want the truth. And the truth is that Gabe’s brain was sick from neurofibromatosis, from years of asthma-related oxygen deprivation, from inordinate guilt emanating from suicidal depression, from … The truth is his resurrected body will be tumor-free. The truth is the impulsivity and feelings of aggression that are common to both NF patients and suicide victims will be gone forever. The truth is he will breathe easy and never again have to say no to an invitation because of a household pet. The truth is he now knows and will for all eternity know that he is loved and lovable and lovely. The truth is it’s not my fault.

I didn’t process all of that last night. I simply held the last paragraph in my mind and went to sleep. This morning, I was still in pain.  At church, neither the opening hymns nor the visiting priest bade well for healing, and yet heal the liturgy did. I took note when the priest used alternate phrasing in the prayer we say before taking communion. Phrasing that echoes what Nancy wrote about from Mark 1. It is a sentence that I silently add every week and keep wishing our rector would use instead of the other. It is a piece of the reason why the liturgy never fails to do its work on me. There is power in the prayer:

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.

He is willing, and so I am healed when I take his body and blood into my own in faith. There is power in the blood. One mustn’t forget that. Afterwards, we echoed these sentiments again as we sang the African-American Spiritual, There is a Balm in Gilead. It goes:

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say, “He died for all.”

There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. …

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work has been in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. I cannot preach like Peter; I grapple with too many negative triggers and questions. I cannot pray like Paul; I don’t know how anymore, except in the most general terms. I can tell the love of Jesus though, and say, “He died for all.” For all the broken, battered and bruised. For all the sin-sick lonely souls. For all the high and mighty liars. For all the orphaned, starving children. For me. For you. For Nancy. For her Gabe. For mine. For evangelicals and our critics.  For every tribe—past, present and future. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.

Notice, if you will, that the day’s healing was found in drinking from deep evangelical wells.