In my library I have a book of cartoons that deal with church life, faith, missionary activity, youth camp, and preaching entiled "It Came From Beneath the Pew" by Rob Suggs. It became a part of my library in late 1989 and seemed to be the one highlight in a long, tragic, and absymal year. We had lost our baby daughter that summer at the moment of her birth and, needless to say, it brought a great deal of tears, sorrow, and anxiety upon myself and my wife. The remainder of the year was a complete blur of grief. I do not recall how the book of cartoons came into my possession, but it was a great blessing in an otherwise horrid time. It got us to smile and laugh at some of the crazy things that go on in the lives and work of ministers, churches, families, and assorted scenes that helped to dry our tears and get us back on the road to some sense of normality.
One specific cartoon has stuck with me these past few decades. It shows a man sitting up in bed with his pillow over his head, eyes wide open and obviously nervous. On his nightstand there are a gathering of pixies, mythical creatures one might find in the land of Narnia or a companion for a Hobbit. One is whispering in the minister's ear, "And here's another great story..", "Oh, use this as an illustration!", "Here are some verses to use in your next point..". Another one is holding a notebook and pen (this was before laptops or tablets, kids..) advising the minister to write all of this down or he would most likely forget them in the morning. The caption at the bottom reads, "Another Visit from the Late Night Sermon Pixies".
So, why does that cartoon along with what my adult daughter has referred to as "an encyclopedia of timely and trivial knowledge" mean that much to me? The story begins like most, a long time ago. My Mom took me for my checkup on my second birthday and after examining and testing me, the pediatrician informed her and Dad that I would be an abstract thinker with multiple interests as I got older. My behavior and methods of coping with it would be different than other children would encounter in their developing years. Mom and Dad invested what money they could to buy me series of story books, especially the Bible, and as a result I was reading coherently by the time I turned three. When I entered first grade, I was tested later in the year and was found to be reading on a high-school level which should have been an obvious clue that I was not going to be the typical middle-class youngster and a lot of attention was going to have to be given to me to keep me focused.
The doctor's spot-on diagnosis showed my parents that I had not just a high IQ, but also the beginning stages of what is now known as bipolar disorder, or manic depression. As the years passed, my mood swings went from rapid thought and activity one minute to wishing I could crawl under a rock and be forgotten the next. I could go from estatic to moody in a second, and did so on numerous occasions. It got more frequent during my high school years but went untreated. I managed to graduate from high school, college, seminary, and my post-graduate studies and did my best to achieve a close and loving relationship with my wife and children but it had its challenges. My moods could change from bliss to rage with the slightest incident or word. I never brought any physical harm to anyone, thank God, but my family came close to leaving me because of the depression and its variances. Things had to change, and soon.
We moved to New Orleans in 1991, and recognized the necessity of professional counseling along a balanced regimen of medication that stabilized my moods tremendously and has been that way for almost two decades. If you're reading this and have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you no doubt know that getting the proper balance of medications and counsel can be a pharmecutical crap-shoot until you get everything under a sense of control and establish a routine that gets you on the path to improvement and recovery.
My wife has asked me when I discuss with her some beginning ideas for sermons or other activity, when my mind is working at a hundred miles a second, what the whole manic venture is like. The best explanation I have been able to give is that it is like watching numerous television screens and have to describe each detail of every program at the same time. I believe this is a suitable definition that I have lived with over the years. My mind still has times where it is difficulty shut down and have periods where sleep evades me, so I get up and write, read, or do something that will help to wind me down.
I will get numerous varities of ideas, topics, and series that could be developed into a series of sermons I could write and post on the websites to which I contribute, letting her know that the "Sermon Pixies" stopped by for a visit and consultation. That goofy book was a precious balm of God's healing grace to us and has been our comedic "running gag". It represents those times where I have quickly got out of bed in the middle of the night to write down not mere products of my imagination, but know that they from the Spirit of God, along with study, research, and prayer to help me communicate the truth of the Gospel through the internet and social media.
God created each of us as unique and original individuals, and not automotons lacking any free will or creativity. The most devout and stalwart of Christians throughout time have experienced everything from physical ailments to agonizing depression. No one is "practically perfect in every way", as if they were a real world version of Mary Poppins.
Paul taught the churches about the gifts and talents given by the LORD for the edification of the body of Christ, found in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 12. The Bible is filled with stories about patriarchs, prophets, kings, and commoners who thought that their quirks and traits could not be used by God. Surprise! His saving grace was on them as well as on you, my friend. You are not alone in this world.
The "Pixies" are old and welcome friends who have helped me be a better minister, a more thoughtful Christian, empathetic person, and help me understand the concept Jesus spoke of when He asked His followers to help "the least of these". Weird is wonderful, especially when you are in the will of our gracious God and I'm living proof. I just thought I'd share this with you and I pray it blesses all who stop by to check this site out. I need to wind this up now. The Pixies need to get on the road and head out to California. It seems that John MacArthur is due a visit. Just kidding.