Ministry and Mental Illness: 8 Thoughts to Help Hurting People

By Toni Ridgaway -July 30, 2021

Ministry and Mental Illness: 8 Thoughts to Help Hurting People

Back when I heard that Pastor Rick Warren had lost a son to mental illness, my heart broke, and I literally cried sitting in my car. I don’t know Pastor Warren personally, nor could I fully understand the certainly unending work that went into his son’s treatment. But I do feel a kindred spirit to his pain. As did Pastor Warren’s son, I spent much of my life battling mental illness—mine was diagnosed as major depressive disorder (commonly known as “depression”), and I know what it is to believe death is more tolerable than the illness. Yet when it comes to ministry and mental illness, there is abundant hope!

The National Institute of Mental Health says major depression afflicts more than six percent of the U.S. population, almost 15 million adults. The World Health Organization says clinical depression was the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people ages 15–44. For every two homicides committed in the U.S., there are three suicides. Even with the best of intentions and attempts by the most loving of people, some patients will not recover and will take their own lives, as was the sad case for Pastor Warren’s son Matthew. It is a serious and dangerous disorder.

Depression has spiritually troubling symptoms: overwhelming feelings of sadness lasting two weeks or more, trouble eating and sleeping, decreased motivation, and decreased interest in activity (even activities the sufferer used to enjoy). It also can encompass and overwhelm everything in a person’s life, not just one situation or issue. The most severe cases deprive people of cognitive ability, hindering their concentration to where they can no longer form or hold a coherent thought.

I began my journey with Christ in unspeakable emotional darkness. It immobilized me like a cognitive assassin, poisoning my best intentions and expectations. In the deepest throes of the illness, I honestly believed that God wasted His time creating me and that the unbearable pain and sadness I felt all the time would never subside. My expectations of my abilities and my actual abilities were irreconcilable; I found it nearly impossible to hold a thought steady in my head. The idea that God valued me, just the way I was, was utterly ridiculous. In retrospect I often tell people, to their shock, that I understand how mothers suffering from postpartum depression can consider killing their children: They see it as a protective act. They honestly and truly believe their children would be better off dead than suffering through life with them for a mother.

One Sunday evening my husband, despondent and bitter as he helplessly tried to deal with me, put me in the car and drove to a prayer meeting at a local church. We walked in to a group of deeply committed Christians praying for wayward children, church budget concerns, ministry opportunities, employment possibilities and the like. When my turn came, I couldn’t speak at first; but after a moment, I burst into uncontrolled crying and begged for someone—anyone—to help me. After I finished, they all just stared at me for a moment, even the pastoral staff, and I considered bolting for the door. But then a pastor began to pray: “Father, I have no idea what’s wrong with this poor woman. Just heal her. She’s clearly in so much pain, so much…” His tears made him stutter at this point. “Just put Your hands on her and heal her, Lord. Right now. Please, Father…” The others chimed in at this point and began to lay their hands on me gently with genuine concern. 

In retrospect, God had led me to that place of . Even though the church didn’t know exactly how to help at first with respect to ministry and mental illness, with their loving support my husband and I researched physicians and treatment plans that would work for me. Over a long period of time and by His grace, my worst spiritual crisis became a victory in the Name of a Father who is “mighty to save, takes great delight in you, quiets you with His love and rejoices over you with singing.”

As I continued in the long process of healing, I began to explore others’ experiences of ministry and mental illness while suffering depression in their faith communities. To my horror, many of these experiences resulted not in spiritual victory but in rejection and confusion. Delving deeper, I discovered that church leadership often sympathizes with the suffering person but when it came to ministry and mental illness they weren’t aware that the illness may not heal the way other spiritual struggles commonly do.

Clinically depressed people often struggle spiritually because they cannot perceive God’s goodness or see past the depth of the painful, unrelenting sadness. They often approach their pastors as I did, desperate to alleviate the dark feelings that overwhelm them and steal their joy for the things they once loved. But church leaders are often at a loss to deal with illnesses like depression that defy the typical methods of spiritual growth and healing. As a result, leaders may give their best advice of “repent,” “pray more,” “read more Scripture” or “grow in the disciplines.” After all, increased discipline brings people closer to God, and a Fruit of the Spirit is joy, right? Some have been even known to say, with the best intentions, “Christians don’t get depressed. How could they if they fully understood the redemptive value of the Cross?”

Unfortunately, spiritual discipline alone cannot heal a person with a major depressive disorder. Now don’t get me wrong: Naturally the value of increased prayer, Bible-study, meditation, etc. in a person’s life cannot be overestimated. And certainly issues of impurity, unacknowledged sin, lack of spiritual discipline, etc. can cause feelings of sadness and separation from God in a healthy person. But in a depressed person, these feelings can also stem from a biological source and therefore may not respond easily to discipline. In short, focused spiritual discipline requires a level of concentration that just isn’t possible when you’re clinically depressed. As such, telling a depressed person to “read more Scripture” or “pray more” is much like trying to turn on a lamp in your house as usual, but the bulb is burned out and will not light no matter how many times you bang on the switch.

In ministry and mental illness, the improper handling of the clinically depressed has direct spiritual implications. Depressed people often hide their struggle from the faith community because they cannot explain it any better than their well-meaning leaders can identify it. A depressed person may work feverishly at spiritual discipline in an attempt to become “holy” enough or “spiritual” enough to alleviate their own suffering, often to no avail. Some faith communities even dismiss the person from their congregation, saying they can no longer help them if they will not “help themselves” or wholeheartedly work the methods offered. In the worst cases (and this is the true spiritual danger), sufferers leave the faith altogether, either because they feel guilty for failing to “work through” their pain, or they blame the spiritual organization (or even God) for a lack of mercy, understanding or interest in them. Some never return to Christ again, assuming that even He cannot (or doesn’t want to) help them.

I have personally experienced how a merciful church community can support the healing process, and I hope you will consider the following practical suggestions:

Ministry and Mental Illness:

1. Care for the depressed person’s physical needs.

In 1 Kings, Elijah sat down under a tree after a significant spiritual victory and told God he was ready to die. God answered Elijah by first providing for his immediate physical needs: hunger, thirst and exhaustion. Mother Teresa lived her life fulfilling the physically needy so she could reach their souls with the love of Jesus.

A depressed person may have no physical resources to deal with the struggle they’re facing because of their symptoms (poor eating habits, lack of sleep, etc.). Encourage an active lifestyle; tell them it will be difficult to maintain but can help ward off a serious episode. Make sure someone around them can account for them physically from day to day.

2. Help them pray, and pray for them.

Depressed people often cannot manage praying for themselves, and although the Spirit will intercede for them in their inexpressible groaning (Romans 8:26–27), the intercession of the Body will be vital to put a voice to the suffering. Encourage others to intercede who care for the person and can protect his/her confidentiality. Intercessory prayer will also allow the Body to express their compassion and desire to help their hurting brother or sister when the healing process seems long.

3. Encourage or assist them to accurately assess their issues.

When spiritual discipline does not alleviate the person’s symptoms, and you can confirm the person’s wholehearted attempt, encourage the sufferer to see a qualified physician, not just a general practitioner but someone trained to recognize mental illness. Assure them that clinical depression is very common; nearly 80 percent of the American population will experience at least one clinical depressive episode during their lifetime. Relieve them from the responsibility of analyzing their lives until a real diagnosis can be achieved. If a physician uncovers an actual issue, re-focus your efforts appropriately. Then encourage them to maintain their clinical treatment options as you work with them spiritually.

4. Assure them of God’s truth.

Depressed people can forget what joy feels like. Their unmet expectations and what they see as personal failures can immobilize them with guilt. Make sure they know the truth of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness; accurately depict His power and holiness and correct any wrong perceptions. Show them how God sees them: wiped clean by Christ’s sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him as beloved children. Remind the person that these truths are independent of perception, i.e., the truth is such not because of who hears it, but because of Who declares it! Amen!

5. Give them specific spiritual steps to follow when a serious episode strikes.

Quality of life for the depressed can be cyclical, with good days and bad days. Bad days can occur unexpectedly and harshly. Give them a written list of spiritual activities in which to engage when their symptoms threaten their well-being. These activities might include reading specific Scripture passages, statements to populate their prayers, reminders of God’s truths, names and phone numbers of people to call, etc. Emphasize perseverance rather than achievement in these activities. Writing the list down will be crucial; a piece of paper in front of them will help them focus when their minds cannot do it alone, and holding it in their hands will tangibly remind them that someone cares and solutions exist.

6.Minister to those who care for them.

The families and loved ones of the mentally ill often suffer as much as the patient themselves, particularly if they have no experience with mental illness. They may feel out of control, angry, bitter, burdened, worried or depressed themselves. Offer to speak to relatives separately from the depressed person, and minister to their unique spiritual needs as you uncover them.

7. Be patient.

Depression is treatable, but it can be a long, complex road. Remedies are varied and must work for the individual. Treatment methods can take time to implement. Despite its high treatment success rate, two-thirds of people with depression do not seek treatment at all, and half of depressed people can be tempted to give up when they must wait for relief, especially since the illness can affect their level of motivation. They can also get frustrated if their first treatment method fails or needs adjustment.

Assure them that no matter how difficult it gets, you will always be willing to accompany them on their journey to wholeness. Don’t tire of doing good on their behalf, but reiterate the truth as they lose it in their personal darkness. As you persevere, so will they, and you’ll uncover all kinds of opportunities for spiritual growth.

8. Refer the severely ill.

Some clinical cases will be beyond your assistance. The best, most loving act in this instance is a referral to someone who truly can help them. Investigate local psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and therapists in your area; take the time to call them and ask how they approach spiritual questions from patients. Keep names of appropriate professionals handy for reference, and direct lay leadership to refer mental illness issues to you.

When depression can be controlled, a spiritual light can result that burns brighter and longer than ever before; it’s a holy deliverance from a very personal sort of pain. John Ortberg said once, “Often it is the people closest to suffering who have the most powerful joy.” Truly, it is only when we experience profound darkness that we can fully revel in the light of Christ.

(This important article on ministry and mental illness originally appeared in 2018.)

Do You Defuse or Feed Into?

By Rev. Paul N. Papas II
1 November 2010

If you are alive you have conflict.

We all make choices which may please ourselves or others. When we make a choice it is usually because we have weighed the options. While weighing the options we found good and bad reasons for each possible solution.

A New York lawyer went duck hunting in the mountains of East Tennessee recently. He shot and dropped a bird, but it fell into a farmer’s field on the other side of the fence. As the lawyer climbed over the fence, an elderly farmer drove up on his tractor and asked him what he was doing.

“I shot this duck, and it fell in this field, and now I’m going in to retrieve it.”

“This is my property,” the old farmer replied. “And you are not coming over here.”

“I’m one of the best trial lawyers in New York,” said the lawyer. “And if you don’t let me get that duck, I’ll sue you and take everything you own.”

“Apparently, you don’t know how we do things in these parts of Tennessee,” said the farmer. “We settle disagreements like this with the Tennessee three-kick rule.”

“And just what is the Tennessee three-kick rule?”

“Well, first I kick you three times, and then you kick me three times, and so on, back and forth, until someone gives up.”

The attorney quickly thought about the proposed contest and decided that he could easily take the old-timer. He agreed to the local custom. The old farmer slowly climbed down from the tractor and walked up to the city slicker. His first kick planted the steel toe of his heavy work boot in the lawyer’s shin. The man fell to his knees. His second kick nearly put a hole in the man’s stomach. The old man then quickly delivered the third kick to the side of the attorney’s head. Slowly, the disoriented lawyer managed to get to his feet.

“OK, you old codger,” he said, “Now it’s my turn.”

The farmer smiled and said “Naw, I give up. You can have the duck”

I certainly don’t condone violence to settle a dispute, but the above example shows how the farmer chose to end the conflict by giving up and walking away.

This conflict could have continued until both were battered and bruised or one ended up dead.

There are a variety of things that could impair a person’s thought process. We hear a lot about how drugs and alcohol affect and impair vision and the ability to thing clearly. Drugs and alcohol impairment can wear off with the passing of time. The choices made during that period of impairment may have lasting or permanent consequences, such as a drunk driver causing a fatal accident.

The impairment of thinking is caused by the chemicals in the brain which are associated with thinking being altered by the alcohol or drugs.

Unfortunately, there are people who through no fault of there own have an impairment in thinking because of a chemical imbalance within their brain caused by a medical condition of a Mental Illness. This type of impairment could manifest itself in many ways that others could find disagreeable. If you can imagine having an impaired thought process all the time, then you might have a better understanding how some people live with a medical condition of a Mental Illness.

A medical condition of a Mental Illness is treatable to a degree that many live happy, fulfilled, and productive lives.

Unfortunately, just like the New York trial Attorney, many people misjudge others who don’t fit into their mold or perception of how the world should be. When this misperception of others happens because someone even suggests that someone may have a medical condition of a Mental Illness that is the stigma that is hard to overcome.

Many who have a medical condition of a Mental Illness have learned what the farmer in the above story knew which is how to deal with confrontation by defusing it and not encouraging or feeding into it. Instead of a negatively portraying a person who has a medical condition of a Mental Illness we should learn from their many examples and contributions. Some who gave us good examples to live by are famous such as President Abraham Lincoln.

You really can touch and it won’t rub off.

Vote NO on Stigma.

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/do-you-defuse-or-feed-into/


Seven Reasons Why Church Leaders Abuse People

By Dr. James Scott, Jr. -March 11, 2021

abuse

Seven Reasons Why Church Leaders Abuse People

It’s easy to throw stones at all the things that aren’t so good about the internet and social media, but we don’t nearly as often hear about the wonderful things that also come from using technology to connect with others.

Like, for example, being able to connect with some terrific people you otherwise would never meet!

Just recently, one of those terrific people I’ve recently met through social media reached out to me about the topic of why church leaders abuse people. This fellow is a devoted Christian, a sharp guy who has seen abuse happen by church leaders, and is concerned about it. He leads a ministry that has a popular website, and wanted to talk about why leaders abuse others and see how his website might be able to do something on the topic.

I pointed out to my friend that, like any other problem, it’s important to identify the root cause(s) of a problem in order to effectively address or resolve it. First, we started with this premise: When God calls a godly man, who meets His biblical standard, and follows the biblical model for church and ministry, then the fruit of that will not be someone who purposely hurts others. So our discussion turned to the question of why church leaders abuse other people, and here are seven key reasons we discussed:

1. The practice of sin; the presence of evil. Where there are patterns of abuse, there is the practice of sin.

2. Wrong people in the ministry. More than 1,700 pastors quit each month. We tend to automatically think it’s because these ministers have burned out, etc., but several of the pastors who quit should never have been ordained and in vocational ministry in the first place. That’s because some of them do not meet the biblical qualifications to be pastors; for others who do, many go into ministry inadequately equipped, some who even have never been personally discipled. New attention needs to be given to churches and denominations about their examination process for those they are ordaining into ministry.

3. Wrong method of how we structure a church. Many churches today are structured in such a way as to place all “power” into the hands of a single individual, usually a senior pastor. Instead of structuring a church by biblical example, with a plurality of elders, many churches are structured as if they are a pastor’s personal fiefdom. Instead of elders or deacons, we have “management teams” who serve at the whim of a charismatic or controlling pastor, with little to no accountability to others. This kind of power position is a breeding ground for abuse.

4. Corruption from a broad-based addiction to leadership. Leadership, leadership, leadership. That’s almost all you hear about in church leadership circles. What leadership books are you reading? What leadership conferences are you attending? How many new leaders are you developing? And sadly, much (most?) of what is written about leadership, and taught at church conferences as leadership, are business leadership models and principles, NOT biblical teaching about servant leadership. One outcome is many church leaders would rather spend their time with other church leaders than with the flock they’re supposed to be shepherding. When you adopt a worldly model, you’ll be working from the flesh, not walking, led, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. That’s why many of today’s leadership structures in the church are based on the pastor as CEO and leading an “organization,” not a structure of an under-shepherd serving the family of God. This corruption of leadership is also a breeding ground for abuse, as CEO pastors see church members as volunteers there to accomplish their vision. To get them to do that, manipulation, control, and other abuse can occur.

5. Pride. So many who “mentor” ministers teach church leaders to create their own platforms and promote it broadly and constantly. That makes “being a leader” about pursuing and achieving “success.” Using people to achieve that often results in abuse.

6. Sin. This isn’t the practice of sin, which was the first item mentioned, this is that occasional fall that any and all of us can have in our lives. A pastor can become so over-worked, under-rested, and under-appreciated he could snap at someone or otherwise exercise poor decision-making. This can be rectified quickly with confession and repentance, and usually isn’t an ongoing problem unless the minister fails to fix the things in his life that led him to this momentarily lapse in sin.

7. Mental health issues. Just like the general population, many ministers struggle with mental health issues, from things as simple as temperament weaknesses and dealing with stress, to working from patterns of irrational thinking or developing habits of cognitive distortions. These can lead to conflict and, if not handled properly, may lead to abuse. Also like the general population, a sizable percentage of ministers say they do suffer, or have suffered, from a diagnosed mental illness. These can include anything from narcissistic tendencies, depression, and chronic anxiety, to bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. If a minister doesn’t receive appropriate treatment for a mental illness, his illness could contribute to inappropriate treatment of others.

There are other reasons why church leaders abuse people, these are some of the primary reasons. When you identify a root cause to a problem, you can then identify some of the ways to fix a problem. For the issues shared above, some things to do to fix some of these issues include:

  • The personal holiness of those who claim to be called to church leadership of any kind. Have they been discipled, trained, and equipped? Is their covenant relationship with Jesus Christ authentic and mature enough to move into ministry?
  • So the assessment process for licensure or ordination of ministerial candidates must be explored and addressed.
  • How churches are structured must be explored and addressed.
  • How to address falls (not a practice) of sin must be learned.
  • The plight of leadership addiction must be addressed in the church. We must change what it means to be a leader in the church.
  • Whether there are mental health issues or illness needs to be identified and treated.
  • All Christians need to be discipled to spiritual maturity.

Just as there are other causes for church leaders abusing people, there is more to be done to resolve such issues as well. Abuse of any kind, by anyone, anywhere is not acceptable, but it certainly must never be tolerated in the church among church leaders. We need to look closely at why some church leaders abuse people, and take every necessary action to stop the abuse, see to healing of the abused, aim for restoration and discipleship of the leader, and be proactive in preventing any opportunity for abuse to occur in the church by its leaders.

This article originally appeared here.

Dr. James Scott, Jr., is a minister, former church planter, Christian clinical therapist, certified Personal Trainer, and author. He currently serves as Founder and President of Scott Free Clinic, an international parachurch ministry. Follow him at ScottFreeClinic.org.

VIDEO “Shadow Puppets” by Melissa

October 25, 2020

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Below is a violent, firsthand account of child abuse — most particularly physical abuse.

Distressing accounts can be found for every category of abuse, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or neglect.  Thousands of children are murdered worldwide before they can ever tell their harrowing stories.  

The victims of child abuse prefer not to read such accounts.  We have scars enough to attest to the reality of abuse. 

But those who still think child abuse is an insignificant issue — a subject exaggerated by the press — should make a point of reading this account.  Two things will stand out:  the enormous courage of these children; and the enormous compassion of the author (“Melissa”), now an adult.

While “Melissa” did her very best to protect herself and her brothers against their father’s neglect and their mother’s rage, I cannot agree with her conclusion that abuse is simply a matter of mental illness.

Mental illness is real.  Evil is, also, however, real.  The distinction rests in the capacity to tell right from wrong.  Mental illness involves a compromised understanding of the world and/or a compromised ability to control one’s actions. 

Evil involves a deliberate choice.

“The way that the shadows played under the door, I could see that my favorite tree was gracefully dancing in the wind. The sunlight shot like a laser beam into the closet.  ‘Hey, lets play shadow puppets.’ I whispered to my little brother.  ‘Okay,’ he said.

This time, his lips only turned a small shade of blue.  My brother faced his head towards me and I made myself look into his eyes, holding my own grief so I could contain his.  I remember looking at my mother and wondering if this time was it, would she kill him? She would always stop -before she would suffocate him.

Mom had bad days.  Her children were the face of every single person that day that had hurt her, that had let her down, a family member, an argument with my Dad.  My brother and I never knew when our turn was going to be for mom to release her anger.  I always wondered when it would begin.  Would we be able to have the comfort of the closet, would we be able to see the closet this time around?  That was always my hope.  Mom would always begin with me.  I would lay down on the sofa and she would put a pillow over my face.  She would then sit on top of me and she proceeded to suffocate me. I always turned my head to the wall facing away because I knew that my little brother was there in the hallway.  I never wanted him to see my face. I never wanted him to see the fear and sometimes even the hope – that maybe I would die…”

[Continued at:  https://livinginjmj.com/2020/03/26/the/ ]

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: http://www.alawyersprayers.com


VIDEO ‘TRUTH’ With RFK, Jr. and Vera Sharav: Protecting Medical Rights

In the latest episode of our second season of “TRUTH” with RFK, Jr., Kennedy interviewed Holocaust survivor and founder of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, Vera Sharav

By Children’s Health Defense Team

In the latest episode of our second season of “TRUTH” with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Kennedy interviewed Holocaust survivor and medical freedom pioneer Vera Sharav. Their fascinating conversation focused on how medical systems can be led astray from the intent of the Hippocratic Oath, allowing “greater good” to trump the rights of individuals with disabilities.

Highlights of the discussion include: 

  • How treatment decisions made on behalf of those with mental illness or disabilities are often not in the best interests of the patient
  • The compounding of adverse events through “pharma cocktails”
  • How minorities and people with disabilities are targeted by the government for experimentation
  • The impact censorship is having on the medical freedom movement

How Does Death Rule Over Us?

December 9, 2019 hepsibahgarden

Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight. Psalms‬ ‭119:77‬

We need GOD’S TENDER MERCIES TO LIVE CONTINUALLY.

He did not call us to death. Rather, God called us forth from death and brought us into Life so that we may live eternally. We need to always keep “sin” in a dead state, and to do this we need God’s mercy. What does keeping sin in a dead state mean? It means to forsake the works of death immediately in our lives.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans‬ ‭6:23‬

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians‬ ‭5:19-21‬

To be carnally/fleshly minded is death, therefore this also needs to be kept in a dead state. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:6

If we hate our brethren, he is a murderer. The Scriptures says there is no eternal life for such a person. Where there is no Life, there death is present. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 1 John‬ ‭3:15‬.

For mercy to remain upon us, we must perfect our works before God. If not, we are good as dead to Him. And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Revelation‬ ‭3:1-2‬

If we aren’t found in the first love, we are in a dead state. Falling away from First Love is referred to being asleepHence St.Paul writes, Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. Ephesians‬ ‭5:14‬.

If we are not in the Spirit, we are in God’s sight dead. This was why God asked prophet Ezekiel to prophesy to the wind looking at the Valley of Bones. When the prophet did so, breath came into them and in no time the Valley of Dead Bones revived into an exceeding great army.

So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.

And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.

Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Ezekiel‬ ‭37:7-10‬. May God help us to preserve His mercies in our lives!

Be blessed 💕

Original here

‘Grinch’ group bullies elementary school into canceling live Nativity

Judge: Artistic performances don’t ‘establish’ a religion

December 11, 2019

A live Nativity scene in Stuart, Florida (Photo by Joe Kovacs, used with permission)

A “grinch” organization that flexes its influence each year during the holiday season, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, has “bullied” a school district in Oklahoma into canceling a live Nativity scene that had been part of the school’s annual Christmas celebration.

Liberty Counsel said it’s prepared to represent the school if officials decide they want to restore the holiday display.

LC said FFRF not only was wrong to insist such displays aren’t allowed, it mischaracterized a court ruling on the dispute.

FFRF wrote to Supt. Bret Towne of Edmond Public Schools in Edmond, Oklahoma, declaring “the Chisholm Elementary School Christmas program may not include a live Nativity scene in the performance.”

Liberty Counsel, which has handled many such disputes, said that while FFRF cited a 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, the atheist organization failed “to accurately describe” the decision.

“The 7th Circuit simply did not make the sweeping ruling claimed by FFRF. FFRF has once again selectively related what actually happened in a suit, in order to frighten a school district into compliance,” Liberty Counsel explained.

The ruling stated clearly, “We are not prepared to say that a nativity scene in a school performance automatically constitutes an Establishment Clause violation.”

FFRF had said, “While a public school can hold holiday concerts, religious performances and instruction that emphasize the religious aspects of a holiday are prohibited.”

It continued, “Please note that including a live nativity performance in a school’s holiday concert remains illegal even if participation in the nativity scene is ‘voluntary.'”

FFRF cited a previous dispute in which it wanted to ban a 20-minute Nativity within a program that covered about 90 minutes.

The appeals court said: “The district court found that the Christmas Spectacular program. … A program in which cultural, pedagogical, and entertainment value took center stage – did not violate the Establishment Clause.

One judge wrote: “It is not sound, as a matter of history or constitutional text, to say that a unit of state or local government ‘establishes’ a religion through an artistic performance that favorable depicts one or more aspects of that religion’s theology or iconography. [The school] would not violate the Constitution by performing Bach’s Mass in B Minor or Handel’s Mesiah, although both are deeply religious works and run far longer than the nativity portion of the ‘Christmas Spectacular.’ Performing a work of art does not establish that work, or its composer, as the state song or the state composer; no more does it establish a state religion.”

“Liberty Counsel therefore stands ready, along with our affiliate attorneys in Oklahoma, to provide assistance at no charge to Edmond Public Schools, if the district desires to resume a live Nativity in a school Christmas program,” the organization promised.

 

Original here

How you Can Become a Better Person Starting Now

Can you Really Change?

Most people wonder if it’s possible to become a better person after maturity. The answer is a resounding yes. There’s actually room for change at every stage of our life. With a willing spirit, you can transform your personality. Once you figure out the best and easiest approach to take, you can decide the most important personal aspects to work on. Taking into account the best interest of others and your well being, below are some of the most important things you’ll need to work on, in order to make the changes.

Photo by Freshh Connection on unsplash

Help Others:

Good people support and encourage others to do and become their best selves. I believe one of the greatest responsibilities we have is to support ourselves and others to live as close to their unique potential as possible. Because everything we say and do has a negative or positive influence on others. We should always take into consideration the words we speak to and about others.

How you can show Support?

  • Have some faith in others.
  • Hold high expectations.
  • Be encouraging.
  • Be honest.
  • Share yourself.
  • Set the best example.
  • Challenge them.
  • Be mindful of your questions.
  • Invest your time in them.
  • Acknowledge them.

Let go of Anger:

Your relationships can create a haven from stress as well as help you become a better person. But if you walk away from unresolved conflicts, they can become a significant source of stress. Let’s face it, conflicts are common in our society. They happen with our families, neighbors, friends or colleagues. You have to face them in the right manner and come up with a fair solution. The best way to improve in this area is to learn conflict resolution strategies. Let’s take a look at 5 of this tools that are more effective:

Conflict Resolution Strategies:

  • Recognize that all of us have biased fairness perception.
  • Avoid escalating tensions with threats and provocative move
  • Overcome an “us versus them” mentality.
  • Look beneath the surface to identify deeper issues.
  • Separate sacred from pseudo-sacred issues.

You can also identify what your anger triggers and eliminate them as much as possible. Also learn to let go of any grudge and residual anger.

Be a good Listener:

Listening to others and is one of the best things you can do for another person and yourself. It shows them that you value their opinion and allows you to develop closer connection with others. You also get to hear perspectives you might otherwise dismiss. It is important to engage in active listening with the people in our lives. Being an active listener can change your life for the better. It fosters deeper relationships and exposes you to thoughts, ideas world wide views beyond your own experience. You never know what you might learn from someone.

Self Care:

Self care is vital for building resilience when facing life’s unavoidable stressors. Making sure that you get enough sleep is important for your physical and emotional wellbeing. Less sleep can make you less able to brainstorm solutions to problems you come across. I don’t know about you, but when l don’t sleep enough, it makes me very edgy the next day.

Eating a proper diet is also essential in keeping your body and mind healthy. When you eat healthy, problems like bloating and constipation are never going to be on your worry list. That means you will be in optimum shape for handling stress – which gives you added resilience to manage those challenges that come up unexpectedly.

Be Polite:

Being polite is an act of kindness. We can show politeness to everyone we come across. It is not a trivial thing. This little act instill positive feelings in the people around you. Maintaining a certain level of politeness and civility is appreciated because it shows thoughtfulness, considerations, and kindness.

Live with Integrity:

Personal integrity is a cornerstone of whom we really are. It also shows what we stand for. Integrity is part of our mortal foundation. Integrity shapes the person you become with time. Living with integrity means being true to your ideas. It means that your outward actions reflect your inner beliefs and values. It means making necessary changes to live up to your standards. Take time to understand what integrity means to you and how your decisions align with your values. These things can help propel you towards becoming a better person.

Original here

 

VIDEO A Christmas Story

December 7, 2019   By Reverend Paul N. Papas II

 

 

The Christmas Story is story of a hero. The greatest evil the world has ever known made the greatest hero the world has ever known. Crucifixion was the cruelest form of torture and execution man devised or used.

Not every hero since has given up his life for another. Heroes generally take no concern for their own life while trying to save the lives of others.

The acknowledgement and veneration of heroes has existed for centuries. It was the ancient Greeks who are accredited with first coining the designation.

A very recent tragedy brought to light another hero.  A young graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, whose dream was to become a pilot, is a hero after he reportedly related crucial information about the identity of the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola shooter to first responders, despite having been shot several times, a family member revealed.

Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, was confirmed as one of the three victims who were killed Friday morning when Saudi national Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani opened fire on a flight training program for foreign military personnel, Adam Watson revealed in a Facebook post. (1)

Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, was confirmed as one of the three victims who was killed Friday morning.

“Today has been the worst day of my life. My youngest brother gave his life for his country in a senseless shooting. Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own. After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable. He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled. When we were little I gave Kaleb the name little poot and it stuck. It eventually evolved into pootis and finally uncle poot. Just wish I could talk to him one more time or wrestle with him one more time even though he could probably take me now. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers in this difficult time. “(2)

Simply put, the key to heroism is a concern for other people in need—a concern to defend a moral cause, knowing there is a personal risk, done without expectation of reward.

Philip Zimbardo: What Makes a Hero?

 

Christians who helped Jews during the Holocaust were in the same situation as other civilians who helped imprison or kill Jews, or ignored their suffering. The situation provided the impetus to act heroically or malevolently. People choose one path or the other.

Some choose a path to meet the needs of others. For example there is New England Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson will use his custom-made “My Cause, My Cleats” cleats to bring attention to his One More Foundation. H e created the One More Thing Foundation to spread the love and hope of Christ to one more soul.

“And, we do that by following the three charges that are given in Micah 6:8 when it talks about doing justice, loving-kindness, and walking humbly with our God,” he explained.

Watson said that, for the last decade, the foundation has given him the opportunity to meet people with “real needs” and “to know the one who can meet their needs forever and ever.”

“Whether it’s promoting and giving food to those who are hungry, doing events around the holidays, promoting education, standing against injustice — whether that be sex trafficking, abortion, or racial injustice … and also, just bringing kindness to people,” he continued. (3)

Courtesy of Eric J. Adler and the New England Patriots

Heroes | Restoring Faith in Humanity | 2017

 

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” — Arthur Ashe, professional tennis player.

There have been thousands of unnamed and unknown heroes over the centuries. Heroes include those who stood ready, who fought and who died for the cause of freedom, first responders, those who served others, and the many that have helped someone without regard to their personal safety,

The true Christmas Story is an everyday story.

The real reason for the season was born to die and save us all.

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(1) https://www.foxnews.com/us/naval-academy-grad-shot-5-times-hero

(2)  https://www.facebook.com/adam.watson.397/posts/3471855006187806

(3)  https://www.foxnews.com/media/patriots-benjamin-watson-one-more-foundation-my-cause-my-cleats

——-

Below are a handful of links to heroes

https://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/local/2019/11/14/sons-american-revolution-honor-first-responders-heroic-acts/4193217002/

https://www.aol.com/article/news/2019/08/05/soldier-praised-for-heroic-act-at-el-paso-shooting-what-i-did-was-what-i-was-supposed-to-do/23788523/

https://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/2019/09/17/hero-westchester-cops-honored/2354177001/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bradley-plane-crash-heroic-acts-saved-lives-in-deadly-b-17-bomber-crash-official-says/

https://www.usla.org/page/HEROIC

https://publicholidays.la/anguilla/national-heroes-and-heroines-day/

https://preacher01704.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/a-christmas-story/


When Trauma on the Field Creates Trauma in the Home

After their son suffered a devastating brain injury playing football, Pat and Tammy McLeod saw their marriage put to the test.

JOYCE KOO DALRYMPLE| SEPTEMBER 5, 2019

When Trauma on the Field Creates Trauma in the Home

The family and friends of Zach McLeod gathered at a church in Boston for a solemn ceremony entitled “A Time to Mourn.” They watched a video of his life from birth until the devastating accident he suffered at age 16. Zach had been a gifted athlete, student leader, and beloved friend. His mother spoke of how much she missed hearing Zach’s prayers, thoughts, and dreams. Guests wrote down what they missed most about the young man they had known—the young man they would never see again.

Then, later that day, the same group reconvened. This time they celebrated a new life and watched a video showing milestones of progress. Who were they celebrating? Zach McLeod. In fact, Zach himself attended this ceremony, called “A Time to Dance.” He was elated to see so many friends and family members, to see and to hear their affirmations of what they appreciated about him.

If this sounds like a confusing day, not to mention an emotional whipsaw, welcome to the world of “ambiguous loss.” And welcome to Hit Hard: One Family’s Journey of Letting Go of What Was—and Learning to Live Well with What Is, a powerful new book by Zach’s parents, Pat and Tammy McLeod. Hit Hard deals with the messy contradictions of a life where suffering and joy are not strangers but siblings that share the same house.

The Language of Loss

Pat and Tammy were attending a ministry meeting when they received a nightmarish phone call. Their son Zach had sustained a catastrophic head injury in a high school football game. Zach survived, but today he speaks with great difficulty and requires 24/7 care. Pat and Tammy had to come to grips with the complex realities of taking care of him while parenting their other three children and juggling their careers in ministry. They both serve as chaplains for Cru, an interdenominational Christian ministry, at Harvard University. Tammy is also the director of College Ministry at Park Street Church in Boston.

The McLeods wrestled for a way to understand what they were experiencing. Alternating as authors, Pat and Tammy write about the same events from different points of view. Having and not having their son in the way they once did put them on what felt like opposing sides. Pat focused on the “have” part of that reality, while Tammy gravitated toward the “have not” end. As a result, they struggled to connect with one another in their grief. This book is as much about how a marriage survives in the wake of a crisis as it is about the ongoing trauma.

Because Hit Hard is so honest, it is also raw, intense, and messy. It is emotionally difficult and uncomfortable to read. The book takes readers through a series of traumatic events and explores how Pat and Tammy process each of them and the relational challenges that ensue. The details of their loss are heart-wrenching: Tammy gets cancer, and Zach sustains a second brain injury. For people who have endured trauma (or are enduring it still), the details of their journey may reopen wounds before providing hope.

The McLeods could not find language for what they were experiencing, which only deepened their sense of loss and isolation from their community and from one another. Their friends were unsure what to say. Should they share their joy that Zach had survived? Or grieve with them for the loss of the life that was?

Countless books and articles on grieving failed to speak to the McLeods’ circumstances. Finally they found a book by family therapist Pauline Boss called Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief. Putting a name to their experience was powerful. The words “ambiguous loss” validated their pain. They were not alone in their pain; it had a category of its own and was shared by others.

Boss describes two kinds of ambiguous loss. One is when the physical body is absent yet the person is psychologically present in the mind of the loved one. Examples of this include those missing because of war, natural disasters, kidnapping, adoption, or divorce. The other kind of loss happens when a person is bodily present but is not the same cognitively or emotionally. Examples of this kind of loss include people affected by Alzheimer’s, addiction, mental illness, or debilitating brain injury.

Boss wrote that to pursue closure is a fruitless endeavor. Fixing the ambiguity is often impossible. The goal then becomes how to live well with the ambiguous loss and increase tolerance for it. Tammy writes, “The secret to living well with ambiguous loss requires living well with both having and not having someone the way you once had them.” The McLeods needed to learn how to hold two opposing ideas in their minds at the same time. The Zach they had known was gone. A new Zach survived. They celebrated his survival but mourned what had happened to him.

Finding out that their grief had a name somehow changed things for the McLeods. It not only authenticated their pain but also clarified the source of the tension in their marriage. They realized their marital challenges had not been rooted in one spouse being right and the other being wrong. It was the ambiguity of the loss. Giving a name to their grief did not remove the debris, but it did throw light on the scene, so that they were less frequently tripping over things or bumping into each other in the dark.

Redeemed Ambiguity

In the beginning of the book, Tammy laments all of the things her son could never do again. He would never play football or sing with her, a hobby they enjoyed together. A scene at the end of the book illustrates how Tammy has made peace with their reality. Two hulking football players are holding Zach up as the three of them step onto the playing field. Zach is dressed in the team uniform, but he isn’t playing. His gait is not as smooth and his posture not as straight as the other players. But Zach is a leader in his own way. He sets an example by showing up and rising from every hard hit of life. He plays a motivational presence on the field and in the community.

Hit Hard can help those struggling with all kinds of grief, but especially those experiencing loss that has no clear end. Tammy felt understood when she read Boss’s words that living with continuous uncertainty and loss “is the most stressful kind of loss people can face.” The book can also help those who want to support someone experiencing a loss that feels complex, contradictory, and elusive. And lastly, it may assist marriages or other relationships in tension due to differences in how people process grief.

As Pat writes, “Ambiguous loss will probably always remain part of our family’s legacy. It will move in and out of the forefront, but never completely disappear. Like mountain hikers, we’re learning how to cinch our backpack straps tighter, adjust the weight so it doesn’t rub on already stressed spots, and keep climbing….Today we live in that redeemed ambiguity—incredible suffering and incredible love in the same messy world.”

Joyce Koo Dalrymple is a wife and mother, a minister of discipleship and women, and a former attorney.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/september-web-only/hit-hard-pat-tammy-mcleod-football-brain-injury-trauma.html