The Way Online | A Ministry Devoted To Mental Wellness Through Jesus Christ..
The Way was the original name for early Christians. Followers of Christ were referred to as followers of “The Way”. The Way is the simplest form of Christianity. It is Christianity stripped of all of the liturgy that has become a symbol of the Christian faith.
While shopping at the local market recently, I noticed a woman who was helping two gentlemen do their shopping. We have a program in our area that pairs an aid with people who have mental or developmental disabilities to help them do routine tasks, like shopping. As she was helping them through the checkout line the last gentleman started yelling and beating on the shopping cart. She patiently tried to divert his attention but it was too late, other shoppers were now staring. She paid them no attention, and pushed forward on the mission, even as the man started to yell louder and hit the cart harder. Eventually, they made it through the line and began to leave the store. People rudely stared them down as the made their way through the doors.
I thought about how rude it was for others to act as if this man could control himself, or was even somehow aware of what he was doing. He could not control himself. His brain is different, it is an organ and it is responsible for dictating his behavior. He cannot control his brain, any more than someone with diabetes can control their pancreas.
We need to start recognizing that not all differences can be seen with our eyes. People with chronic psychiatric illnesses experience just as many obstacles to living life as those with physical disabilities. We need to embrace them with compassion not condemnation.
It is just as rude and impolite to stare at people who have mental handicaps as it is those that have physical handicaps. For some reason human beings have this habit of picking out differences and then staring at them, or worse, saying or doing something that brings attention to those differences in a negative way. Mental health advocates have been trying to fight against this for many years, crying stigma over what is actually even worse, this is discrimination. We have been taught to place tremendous force and finance behind eliminating stigma and unfortunately, it has been an ill-placed and ineffective effort.
My son was not born with Autism or a mental handicap, he was however born with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is always there lurking until it presents itself in late teens, early adulthood. My son’s brain is different, he cannot control his brain and when his brain puts him in psychosis he is at the mercy of his disease. He will, however, be responsible in the eyes of the law for any action he takes during this time, which is discriminatory. He is being persecuted upon for having a disease. The medical definition of insanity and the legal definition vary, and the latter is almost impossible to prove. It is designed to weed out those that would use insanity as an excuse to escape punishment, but it harshly punishes those that are indeed sick and need help rather than incarceration. Mental illness is criminalized in America, you need only look to the fact that the largest mental health facility in the US, is the L.A County Jail. They would not spend billions of dollars on building these types of facilities if funneling the mentally ill into them was not the game plan.
Half of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia will spend time in jail at one point in their life or another. It’s time to recognize that mental illness is criminalized in America and that it is discriminatory.
When your child falls and breaks an arm and you call 911 an ambulance shows up and takes your child to the hospital. If my son’s mind breaks and I call 911, it is not an ambulance that shows up, it is a police car and there is a great chance my son will be leaving handcuffed. He may also be arrested for actions, he is not in control of. Bertram Hiscock was arrested for felony kidnapping when he grabbed his mother in fear of the police, he later died in jail, by choking on his own feces. Pamela Wooden’s son’s Christopher endured the other type of tragedy, he was brutally pepper-sprayed, tased and then shot 4 times in the chest for being suicidal. These are the things that we have to worry about when calling 911. Things that in 2019, no parent should have to be in fear of, when all they are seeking is medical help for their child. Our children are 25% more likely to be killed by the police than any other demographic.
It is discrimination.
If your mentally ill child is lucky enough to be taken to the hospital, if they are over 18, you will be shut out of their care completely, unless you have secured a guardianship. HIPPA has made it almost impossible to even know what is going on behind the locked doors of a psychiatric unit. Your child is also usually far too ill to call home so you are left helpless to wait on a miracle. They are there for being suicidal often and there is nothing you want more as a parent than to talk to them or know from staff that your child is safe. You are denied this. I have had several loved ones hospitalized with other physical illnesses and I have never once been denied information on their well being by nurses or doctors. A phone call usually gets you relevant information. This is not the case for psychiatric illnesses – you are shut out completely. I was told by staff on Elliott’s last stay that they could not confirm or deny that he was even in the facility.
This is discrimination.
This discrimination then leads to the patient being dumped off somewhere three days later. Chances are high that your loved one could be released without you even being notified. You will also be left unaware of any medications or follow up treatments your loved one may need to be successful and safe, and this is only a recipe for disaster. First off, three days does absolutely nothing for a person in a psychosis. Elliott’s last psychotic break lasted for several months. Three days of medication does nothing when most prescribed antipsychotics take months to build up and be effective. So they turn around and release psychotic patients all of the time. This violates their Emergency Medical Treatment Act Rights, but the hospitals don’t care, because they get away with it repeatedly. They take these patients and dump them outside of the ER, take them to homeless shelters, or put them at a bus stop and leave them there disoriented and in extreme danger, without ever once contacting the family.
This is discrimination.
The most extremely ill, the ones that have been diagnosed with chronic diseases and disorders that will never be cured like schizophrenia and bipolar 1, are then lumped under the mental health umbrella with those that have minor mental health issues. People that have video game addictions, low self-esteem issues, and perhaps are dealing with stress brought on by life changes do not remotely compare with those that suffer from chronic psychiatric diseases like schizophrenia.
This is discrimination and leads to the illest receiving a great disservice.
The fact that many mental health groups use terms like “recovery is beautiful” is in fact discriminatory. People with schizophrenia never recover, they manage symptoms. A person with schizophrenia could be hospitalized 50 or 60 times in a lifetime, be incarcerated, and homeless because of their diseases. Comparing schizophrenia, bipolar 1 or schizoaffective disorder to self-esteem issues is ridiculous. It is like comparing heartburn to a heart attack, and they need to be separated into their own classification. As of now, they are being discriminated upon by every major organization and entity in this country.
This is not stigma – this is discrimination.
Psychiatric services are rarely treated under private insurance. Discrimination. The Medicaid program does not cover their treatment either. Discrimination. The ER triage method of getting them in and out in 3 days is insufficient and would never be tolerated for other diseases. This is discrimination. Being told they can recover, is discrimination. Being sent to jail for being sick. Discrimination.
I read a comment the other day on one of my posts where a woman had started a Facebook group in hopes of finding her mentally ill mother. She has now reconnected 60+ people with their loved ones. People on the outside of our world do not understand that if our loved one wanders off in the middle of the night, and even if we report it to police, we will not be informed by hospitals or other places like homeless shelters etc because of our mentally ill loved ones “rights”. They cannot care for themselves or make rational decisions when they have gotten off of their treatment plans. There are mothers right now in this country praying that their child will be arrested just so they will know where that child is and that they are eating, and not dying behind a dumpster somewhere alone. Why is this country set up to make this so hard for us to keep our loved ones safe?
Would you want your child living like this? Under the delusional control of a psychiatric illness it can happen and you are powerless to bring them home! Homeless children can be beaten up, raped, robbed or killed. They cannot be forced to come home, or to receive treatment.
I don’t like to be negative in my writing, I like to be encouraging by nature, but there is no other way to describe this situation in America. Every state needs funding, private insurance needs to start covering this care, we need more long term facilities and more A.O.T treatment options. We need HIPPA exclusions for those with brain diseases and we need law enforcement to work with parents and psychiatric professionals to bring this country out of the dark ages and make it a place that is safe and compassionate for these people living with chronic, incurable, brain diseases like schizophrenia, bipolar and schizoaffective disorders. From top to bottom our current system needs an overhaul.
We need a common sense approach to mental illness. We need to be able to intervene on their behalf and save them from themselves. Their own mind puts them in extreme danger, often. They are unable to make quality decisions when they are in the throws of a delusional reality. It is as irresponsible to allow them control over their decisions, as it is to allow a five year old to play in traffic. Common sense tells you that this will end in tragedy. We need to be able to intervene in their care, in a simple way that is easy to maneuver.
Our children are dying, rotting away in solitary confinement, succumbing to the elements alone on street corners. We are on the frontlines in a war we just are not equipped to win. We need help, we need support, we need the nation to back us and say that this discrimination has to stop. Every American deserves to be treated like a human being, not an animal. There needs to be a formal roundtable discussion between all the stakeholders in this situation. The government, the parents, the health care providers, to sit down and make a game plan to get these people the help they need. To end this discrimination finally.
I know when we look back on our nation’s history, this time is going to be of great embarrassment to us. The fact that we have allowed the most severely ill amongst our population to be exploited, abused, neglected and shunned for this long is absolutely disgusting. The United States treatment of the mentally ill is the most criminal act of all, and every day that we continue to allow this abuse we are displaying gross negligence. We know it is happening, to allow it, makes us all responsible.
Imagine if this was your child. You could not force them to come home, they are delusional and refusing to eat or drink and won’t take their medicine. The police won’t help you and all you can do is watch them fall apart…how would that make you feel? We need to protect those with mental illness from this type of unnecessary suffering, please take a stand against this discrimination.
If you would like to become involved in the efforts to change the policies our country currently holds concerning the welfare and care of those with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar and schizoaffective disorders please consider joining the National Shattering Silence Coalition. We are always looking for new members to help us push forward on legislation that will end this discrimination and the civil rights abuses of the most vulnerable in our society – those wit/h serious mental illness.
For someone living with the many different forms of anxiety or depression, attending church can be next to impossible. We must start accepting the fact that as diverse as the human race is physically, it is also diverse mentally. There are many people who cannot attend a social function of any sorts, no matter if it is in the name of worshiping God, or not. Crowds, noises, and other stimulation become too much for those with mental health issues like PTSD, social anxiety disorder or panic attacks and this keeps many at home on Sunday mornings.
Statistics show that 1/4 of your congregation is currently dealing with one mental health issue or another. 1 in 4 Americans are currently dealing with something mentally or emotionally, so we need to understand this in order to help them.
It is not a matter of people not wanting to attend church, it is that they currently can’t attend church. I suffer from P.T.S.D due to severe abuse in a past marriage. For a very long time, any social function was too much. Even going to Walmart and being amongst a crowd for more than 15 minutes became too much. A loud sudden noise still makes my heart feel like it is going to jump out of my chest, that noise, steals my very breath. Being in a room full of strangers was just too much for me for many years. Small groups in small doses, that is all I could handle.
Those that suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, are overcome with extreme anxiety and even panic attacks if forced into a social setting. Then you have those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder who may have various legitimate reasons for shying away from church attendance. OCD can be about order but it can also be about obsessive thoughts of cleanliness. Many people with OCD may not like being touched by strangers during the customary greeting period at the church. Other mental health issues may make others feel this is intrusive and unwelcome as well. Not everyone is comfortable with hugs, handshakes or being touched by people.
Last year I made the mistake of taking my mental wellness group to a Sanctis Real concert at another local church. The music was too loud, the lights too intense and their flashing caused many anxieties. One woman even had a fear of driving after dark, which I failed to think about. It was a lesson learned that I will never repeat. The large group of screaming and singing fans didn’t make this trip pleasant for those that attended with me. It was a total fail, as we discussed it at the next meeting, I started to understand just how much of an effect this had on each participants lives. Even the things that should be enjoyable, are terrifying for some.
To a more extreme end of the spectrum, some people have a fear of leaving their homes. Those people are really going to have a hard time going to church on any sort of committed basis and probably will not attend at all. We have to realize that there are legitimate issues that many people are facing alone, just because it is awkward explaining them to others. Telling a Pastor that you can’t attend church because of anxiety or depression can lead to difficult conversations that many are just not ready to have. So they quietly just refrain from coming to church.
There are in fact so many different mental health disorders, illness, and issues it is probably one of the leading reasons many no longer attend church. During the cold and flu season, you will see a natural decrease in your attendee numbers as parishioners are often out nursing a virus. Have you ever stopped to wonder how many people who have left the church or are absent often, may actually be absent as they are dealing with a mental health issue?
The guy that seems to be the comedian, always making jokes, could he be suffering from depression or anxiety and using humor as a coping mechanism? Maybe you notice his attendance is iffy and sporadic. The little lady who just lost her husband to cancer and now barely makes it to church, perhaps depression is keeping her locked inside a secret prison not only on Sunday but on everyday. The little boy that can’t sit still and causes his mom and dad to run repeatedly back and forth to the nursery to avoid the disdainful stares of others, does this child have Autism, ADD or any other emotional disturbances?
We have to start understanding just how important a healthy mind is to a healthy life. If a person is suffering silently with any of the multitudes of mental illnesses or mental health issues we now know exist, they need our support, not condemnation. We need to be aware that mental illness can keep a person from attending church just as quickly and surely as physical illness can. We need to start taking into consideration that not everyone is comfortable with being touched or called out to publicly speak. We need to be more compassionate and empathetic to the mental health concerns of our congregations.
Want to have a more fulfilled and balanced life in Christ? Learn to balance your mind & emotions to unlock total fulfillment in your life – not just temporary happiness! A healthy mind leads to a healthier life! Only $24.99 and includes a certificate in Christian Life Coaching! Enroll Now!
We live in a busy world that makes you feel irresponsible if you take a day off to rest. Our work week has consumed Sundays to make the non-stop selling of goods more important than what is actually “good” for us. Remember when we were younger and we were exploding with energy, that as we have grown older we often reflect on fondly, wondering where that energy went. It is no coincidence that as a child we got enough rest, we had parents that made sure of it. Now as we have grown older, we often neglect this very important part of our life. We need more rest.
And yet, we march on like we can just keep on continuing to burn our candles from both ends and escape the eventual repercussions. God specifically left us a day of rest, not for him, for us. Your rest is important, and God is the final authority to seek on if it is “OK” to take a day off. It is more than OK – it is important.
We live in a world that never sleeps, everything and everyone is busy. We go to sleep with a phone on our nightstand, that even while we sleep, keeps our mind busy. We watch TV or read until we fall asleep too, stimulating our minds every waking hour of every single day. Our lives center around our work, whatever that may be, the pursuit of financial security often tops our list. This pursuit can come at the expense of our health because God told us that we most assuredly need a day of rest.
Does the day of rest then become an act of faith? That you can honestly say, inwardly that your finances are in God’s hands, not your own. That God never goes back on his word, and it specifically says that we were designed to need a day of rest. You can trust Him, if you are obedient, he will take care of your financial needs. We see many people with sicknesses and diseases related directly to stress. We try to blame our diets for this but I think we need to look at the benefit of rest. Our rest is important and needs to be taken seriously. We must realize that God didn’t create it as a sidenote or an afterthought to creation – it is an important part of God’s divine plan. Rest is something we need to do – weekly. An entire day to do nothing but relax and enjoy our life.
Do you get enough rest? If not, why? Do you feel like being disobedient to this request of God benefits you or affects you adversely? Can you trust God to take care of you if you obey Him? Are there things that keep you busy and separated from a day of rest that you could sacrifice to be more obedient in this area?
Rearrange my schedule and help me to have a true day of rest. Allow my body to heal from the stress that I often overload it with. Let my nervous system heal from the overstimulation I often expose it to. Lord, help me to have a quiet day each week in which I can meditate on your Word and enjoy the simple pleasure of a stress-free day. Let me develop a new attitude that places a day of rest at the forefront of my priorities. Lord, remove any guilt I feel about doing what you have told me to do. Help me learn to rest my body, soul, and mind so that I can be a healthy and productive child of God. Thank you, Lord, for reminding me daily that you care for me and have set up a system to keep me healthy and well. Thank you, Jesus, for all you do.
In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.
Want to have a more fulfilled and balanced life in Christ? Learn to balance your mind & emotions to unlock total fulfillment in your life – not just temporary happiness! A healthy mind leads to a healthier life! Only $24.99 and includes a certificate in Christian Life Coaching! Enroll Now!
Yes! Everyone wants to have the best quality life they possibly can! And if you are here, chances are you want to help others have a fulfilled life too!
As a Christian, we know that starts with having a relationship with Jesus Christ, and this course keeps the material Christ-centered as we explore a holistic approach that uses proven, evidence-based techniques to teach your own mind to be more in line with what God originally intended for us. A peace filled, worry free, relaxed mind that is free from outside interference. I want to teach you that your happiness does not hinge on other people’s thoughts or opinions and that by engaging just a couple simple techniques you can free yourself from being enslaved to other peoples expectations of your life. We do have free will given to us by God, and I hope you chose to use yours to embrace a more fulfilled life, free from the negative thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that are limiting your success at the moment.
But that’s not the end…..
I want to teach you so that you can use this simple technique of Christian Cognitive Behavior Therapy to help other people help themselves! We can change the world, by only changing ourselves first! I do believe that our spirituality and our mind are connected in an unbreakable cord that makes it imperative to address the two together. The Bible even talks about having the mind of Christ as a believer. That means having a worry-free, confident in your identity, compassionate, and empathetic mind that is focused on doing the work of God here on earth. It is hard to do this when negative thoughts, beliefs and ultimately behaviors are restricting you.
This course focuses on a Christ-centered method of CBT and looks at life coaching more as a teaching ministry than a vocation. To share the Gospel message of hope, strength, love, and peace through Jesus Christ to those who are hurting in their soul or spirit. This is the mission of Healthy Mind Ministry.
This is not mind over matter, or New Ageism. This is doing what the apostle Paul instructed us to do,
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8).
I know that for many this is easier said than done. I want to teach you C-CBT so that you can train your mind to replace the negative thoughts, beliefs, and behavior in your life with more positive, Christ-centered thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors.
What will you learn in this course?
I follow the K.I.S.S. model in my teaching. Keep-It-Super-Simple! C-CBT is a profound and effective technique but it is rather easy to explain if you understand it’s core concepts. I have approximately 2.5 hours of video that will take you through a curriculum that builds upon itself. I have also included a text document for each lesson that you can print off for easy reference.
Learning to take responsibility in your thoughts, beliefs & behaviors.
Bridging the gap between who you are now and who you want to be.
Learning how to balance your mind between the reasoning and emotional sides.
Learning the cognitive distortions that are significantly limiting your success and keeping you from having a fulfilled life.
How to reach true fulfillment in the 7 key areas of a balanced and Christ-centered life.
Setting goals and creating a fulfilling future by engaging this CBT technique in your own life and teaching it to others.
On Completion You Will Receive a Certificate Of Christian Life Coaching In Christian Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (C-CBT) from Healthy Mind Ministry.
You will receive your certificate via email when you have successfully completed all of the course lectures and reviewed the written materials. I also include a suggested reading list to follow up and learn more with at your own pace and convenience. The course is only $49.95 and is an investment in your own life’s journey as well as your ability to minister to the needs of others.
As a Pastor, you have a charge given to you by God, to attend to his people. Caring for their needs and guiding them through life on the solid foundation of the Word of God, is the calling that has been placed upon your heart. You are to care for God’s people, shepherding them lovingly home to be with our Father in Heaven one day.
This call encompasses caring for all their needs. Helping them apply Jesus Christ to their physical, mental, and emotional needs, as well as their spiritual needs, is the ultimate role you will play in your parishioners’ lives.
Traditional Pastoring often entails making hospital visits, nursing home stops and calling on the homes of those who are experiencing physical illnesses. These visits are commonplace for most in the Ministerial field. I want to ask you though, what about the illnesses you can’t see? Who is making those house calls? Statistics show that 25% of your congregation is dealing with some sort of mental health issue, are those needs being tended to by your church? Although these illnesses lurk in the emotional and mental realms of those that attend your church, they are just as real. These inner illnesses can be just as life-threatening and debilitating as any physical illness.
We need to have at least a lay education in seeing and spotting those that may be silently suffering amongst our flocks. Educating yourself on the warning signs of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues can mean the difference between life and death for your parishioner. Sadly, in the United States, 123 people complete suicide every day. Christians are not immune or exempt from suicide. Pastors, priests, born-again baptized believers have all succumbed to suicide in recent years. Suicide does not discriminate, it can affect Christians too.
We can do simple things like following up with people who are experiencing major life changes, this simple act can be the lifeline they may need to stay healthy in times of trouble. When somebody loses a loved one, does your church offer grief counseling? When a job is lost, does anyone take the person aside to make sure things are ok? If someone’s attendance starts to falter do you check up on them to see if their mental health is the cause? We need to start thinking about the mental health of our congregation. It is as equally important as the physical health of those we care for in our church.
Many mental health issues keep people from even coming to church. Those that suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Depression may never have the mental or emotional strength to even breach the doorway to a church sanctuary, who will call on these people, to encourage them that Jesus Christ is there to help them through these storms as well?
I challenge you to take up this commission in 2019, make your congregations’ mental health a priority. Look at ways to apply Jesus Christ and his teachings to the emotional and mental well being of your congregation. The Bible is full of examples where God takes the time to address our emotional and mental needs, and if it is important to God, it should also be important to us.
To learn how to better serve the mental health issues of your congregation you can check out National Alliance for Mental Illnesses (NAMI) FaithNet resources. Here you will find prayers, sample sermons, and support from other Christian groups that are embracing the need to better serve our congregation’s mental health needs and concerns. https://www.nami.org/namifaithnet
Together, we can encourage each other, to make 2019 a pro-active year to address these issues and draw people closer to the Lord by showing them that they can lean on the Lord to weather all storms. We can show them that they are not alone and that the church does care for their needs.
2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover.
42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?
50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
As the Holidays approach much of our life becomes consumed with gift giving. The television runs ad after ad about the local steals and deals you can get at every department store and mall within 100 miles of your home. Every time you get on your laptop you are bombarded by holiday exclusives in your inbox or in your newsfeed. As you scroll through Facebook on your phone you get ad after ad after ad meticulously designed to prompt you to buy, buy, buy.
I am going to challenge you that for this Christmas you take the road less traveled and you give a much more precious gift – the gift of yourself. I am not saying give up all tangible gift exchanges, just perhaps suggesting, you give a little less of the stuff you can touch and more of the stuff you can feel.
The world needs more love and you are a love factory my friend.
Your children don’t need the latest technology, they need your genuine affection. They need your undivided attention more than they need the latest phone or video game. They need to be held, and to be read to and at times for you to just sit and listen to them. They need you to invest in them your time and to them, this equates to your love.
Your neighbor does not need another summer sausage platter and a quick Happy Holidays as you rush in your front door before they can say thank you. Maybe they need a hot cup of coffee and a listening ear. Perhaps they are elderly and need you to make a commitment to shovel their driveway every time it snows. Give your neighbor the gift of being there and available to help them whenever they need help. People have forgotten, we need other people. Just being able to count on you to be available can mean so much to someone. The understanding that you truly care for them, is priceless.
Find a community cause you can invest your time and talents into. There are so many little community projects out there that are understaffed and overtaxed by the needs of a hurting society. Maybe you can find a clothes ministry, a soup kitchen, an abused women’s shelter or a mentorship program to help endangered youth. Giving back to your community is a way to share the love of Christ with strangers that will almost always become friends.
Giving back to the world the truly precious gifts that God has given you is a way of serving God on a very deep level. Your gifts were given to you to be given to others. I am in no way saying that traditional gift giving is wrong, not at all, it is a big part of the Christmas season. I am saying that this year make a special commitment to making this upcoming year a year of giving. Imagine what a difference this type of giving will make to your family, neighbors, and community. Now imagine if everyone took on this challenge and gave the gift of themselves.
You are a gift, that God created, to bless His world.
Last night I finally did something I was dreading doing, I put up my Christmas tree. In my heart I was almost thankful the boys were too busy to help me as I knew it was going to be hard. I wanted to spare them the pain of unpacking Elliott’s ornaments and his stalking.
As much as we try to pretend that things are normal now, we constantly face reminders that they are not. I often run into people that ask me how Elliott is doing that have not heard about what has happened. I used to try to explain things, now I just say he is not well and he needs your prayers. I then often sit in my car and cry afterward. I still get mail for my son at times and salesmen still call my house looking for my son. All these things tend to remind me that my son is not here, and only God knows when he will be home again.
As I pummeled through the worn out Christmas tree box and hastily packed away ornaments from last year, I intentionally slowed down and took my time. I kept reminding myself that I made it through his birthday, the 9th. It was a morbid type of inner pep talk I used to pump myself up to handle decorating this tree – reminding myself that I had already conquered the one year anniversary of his first suicide attempt, incarceration and his now passed 23rd birthday. I was mentally preparing myself to face another Christmas without him, as I lovingly separated bulbs and silver glittered ice cycles.
I finally unpacked his ornaments and his stalking. Each one holding memories of a different time. A happier time before schizophrenia presented itself. A time when I looked forward to him coming home with such anticipation. A time when we sat at the table and used glue and glitter to customize these very bulbs and stalkings. A time that seems so very long ago. It only reminded me that if the state of Florida were to get their way – my son may never come home again.
I forced myself to decorate it anyway. I reminded myself that I do have other children and they want to have a semi-normal Christmas. They need the tree to do that, they need their lives to resume. So I proceeded to trim the tree in tears, the past 23 Christmas’ flooding through my mind in flashbacks of past presents, Christmas trips, and the thousands of “good times” we had as a whole family before Dec. 6, 2017 changed our lives forever.
And the the Lord reminded me that I am not alone in my suffering…
I started to think about all the parents whose children will not be home for Christmas this year because they are now deceased – and will never come home again. Their seriously mentally ill children may have completed suicide, died at the negligence of their care providers, been killed by the police or died while incarcerated. Some untreated mentally ill children passed away in sad silence on a street corner or an alleyway, finally succumbing to the elements. There are thousands of people who have passed away because of our absolute negligence as a country to care for their psychiatric needs, and there are literally thousands more right now that are at risk to not make it through until Christmas next year.
Many grieving parents will be facing what I am facing this year, the absence of a loved one at the Holiday season. Some absences will be due to incarceration, some can be attributed to involuntary or voluntary psychiatric commitments, others over the vagrancy of a child and others, unfortunately, will be mourning the actual death of their SMI child.
This is a time when we are taught to be cheerful, thankful and full of the Christmas spirit. This inner expectation to be happy despite our inner sorrow compounds the situation. We have others to think of, other children and perhaps spouses, that expect us to decorate, shop and wrap presents – in spite of our own needs. The pressure to make sure the Christmas show must go on can be immense.
As a Minister in my community, I have been invited to several Christmas Contadas, Christmas Choir Performances, and Holiday Celebrations and Parties. Everyone in attendance is always in that trademark Christmas cheer. People are dressed in their Sunday best, smiles galore, as children happily anticipate all the glory of what this time of year represents to them. It is a beautiful time of year, and yet at times, it is hard to feel the beauty myself.
It is in those times I gently remind myself to focus on the things that eternally matter. That the Bible tells us that this world is temporary and so are our afflictions. I remind myself to focus on the fact that Christmas is about the birth of our Lord and Savior, that in him there is always hope, and that in him we have eternal life. That even in the event of physical death, my child will be redeemed into his loving arms. That he has given Elliott the most precious and powerful and priceless of all gifts already – the gift of salvation. That his hand is upon Elliott, even in jail. As the old hymn tells us that his eye is even on the sparrow, how much more so is it on his child, Elliott.
I understand the feeling of trying to make yourself happy, it doesn’t really work all too well. Happiness can seem fleeting, it is, of course, a temporary emotion but the joy of the Lord is something else. The joy of the Lord can overpower even the deepest of sorrows we may experience in this lifetime if we learn to lean on the Lord in prayer and in faith. I want to let you know that I understand this season is not always that joyous for a multitude of different reasons, but I want to encourage you that the Lord does care and he is there, ready to help you in your deepest times of inward darkness.
Please pray this prayer with me if you too are having a less than Merry Christmas in 2018 for whatever reason, know that God loves you and he is there willing and able to comfort you.
Dear Heavenly Father,
As this Christmas approaches Father, I ask that you guard my mind and my emotions against the feelings of sorrow or sadness that sometimes dwell within me over the situations in my life that cause me pain. I know that your heavenly hand is in my situation and that you want to give me the peace that passes all understanding, Lord. I pray for that peace right now, a peace that transcends the veil of sorrow and brings comfort to my aching heart. Lord, you understand my human shortcomings, you understand my situations and my limitations here in this world and I ask that you give me your strength to walk through the Christmas season with gladness and a joy that I know only comes from you.
Heavenly Father, heal my heart, bring peace to emotions and make still my mind. Send the Holy Spirit to comfort me in my deepest emotional and spiritual needs. Giving my heart and soul that much needed peace and solace that only comes through you. I pray for all those that during this holiday season find themselves having a hard time finding the joy of the Lord. I ask that you renew their faith in you, replace their human weakness with your God strength, and carry me through to a New Year with a refreshed spirit, filled with your love, grace, and mercy for all.
My ministry began when my son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Over the past year I have learned that our country and our faith community have failed to minister to the needs of this specific demographic of people. Alongside those that live with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar and schizoaffective disorders there are caregivers who also need the love, hope, encouragement and support that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
I have devoted my life to helping those that cannot always help themselves and their families and caregivers. My vision is to see those effected by serious mental illnesses treated humanely, compassionately and with the dignity allotted all children of God.
My ministry is based upon…
“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;”
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”
I encourage you to please lift me up in prayer as I move forward in faith to fulfill this vision God has placed upon my heart. Pray for those that live daily with these diseases and pray for the family and friends that care for them. Pray that our country adopts a more compassionate understanding of the forgotten ones who are suffering all around us, sometimes in plain sight.
If you would like to partner with me in support or if you need prayer for a serious mental illness or a loved on who is struggling please contact me in the below ways. If you are a Pastor or Minister and would like more information on how to serve those with serious mental illnesses in your congregation I would love to speak with you as well.
I believe Jesus Christ is the answer. He can give people the hope, love, and support they need to make it through these dark times and I want to encourage people that Jesus loves them and is willing to help them no matter what they are facing.
On December 6, 2017 my family made a fateful decision to call 911 and seek help for my son. He had become suicidal and was hurting himself. At the time, he had spiraled into a state of psychosis, something our family had never experienced before. He had decompensated into a false reality of conspiracy theories, voices, and hallucinations. His inner mind slowly turned him inside out – his thoughts became his truth and his reality became an illusion. He was convinced that Jesus Christ had returned, and he had been left behind and that at any moment the government was going to start killing everyone unworthy of redemption. My son was involuntarily committed to a hospital by the responding officers for being a danger to himself and others.
By December 9, my sons 22 birthday, he was in a jail cell with two self-inflicted black eyes, trying to hang himself with a sheet to escape this world and the horror going on in his head. He spent his birthday in a suicide suit in a jail cell beating his head into walls.
I looked at his mugshot, caught in a surreal mix of emotions not understanding at all how this could happen or why? His blank flat eyes with an emotionless stare looking back at me from two bruised eye sockets literally penetrated me to my soul. How could this happen?
Everything that could go wrong for my son, had. My son has been in jail for 9 months. He faces two felony charges. First Degree Attempted Murder and Attempted Murder with A Weapon for an alleged incident that happened in the hospital where he had been placed on an involuntary psychiatric commitment. His alleged weapon was a comb, a comb that someone on suicidal watch should never have had access too. The weapons charge carries a life sentence if he were convicted. My son’s life could be ruined, even if he escapes a lengthy prison sentence these types of charges will limit his abilities to work, rent an apartment, or function in society for the rest of his life. This tragedy unfolded because my son developed a brain disease, a disease that affects his ability to understand reality. He has been criminalized and ostracized for having its symptoms, which he has no control over.
Through a subsequent hospitalization, after being bailed out briefly, my son was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia. A disease that is in my family tree, both on the paternal and maternal branches but I never in a million years thought it would show up in my child. I guess no one does. It’s like one day your child is driving along the roads of life doing well and then schizophrenia slips into the driver’s seat and hijacks everything. Now I log in weekly and add money to my son’s commissary account just to keep my son in socks because he wears holes in them by pacing the halls of a felony dorm. He is now housed with murderers, rapists, and other violent offenders. We went from thinking about his wedding to hoping he survives his incarceration.
The past nine months have been relentless. He has remained highly suicidal for most of this incarceration. Only recently did his medication start to work and bring him back to a place where he no longer is actively hurting himself or desiring to die. Medication is imperative to his wellness and we are blessed that he is housed in a facility that allows him that. The mental health department of the jail has been very in tune with my son’s psychiatric needs and for that I am thankful. I know that we are blessed. This is not always the case in our nation.
This disease stole everything. It is the criminal – not my son – he is just an unwitting host who is paying the price for its presence in his body.
He is far from alone.
Now because of my son’s sickness and his absolute tragedy in the “mental health system,” I have become an advocate for those living with serious mental illnesses in America. I am amongst many other parents who know the painful frustration of having absolutely nothing in place to help us just keep our kids safe and healthy. We must fight the government to get them treatment. No other illnesses warrant this type of action. If your child develops cancer you are referred to specialists, your insurance company cannot drop you and there are even multi-billion dollar hospitals dedicated to nothing else but cancer research for your child. If your child gets schizophrenia you get an insufficient 72-hour psychiatric hold and you only get that when your loved one is trying to kill themselves or others.
Why do we have to be so reactive? Why can’t the US allow us the benefit of being proactive in the care for our children?
It is untreated serious mental illnesses that are far too often the problem, and people need to start realizing that. Treatment works. With consistent medication and a support system of a psychiatrist or a social worker, those with serious mental illnesses can live without issues. They can manage their symptoms, even if a full recovery is not an option, which unfortunately is the case with chronic psychiatric illnesses.
Psychiatric illnesses are just as disabling and destructive to the person as any other illness. The absolute toll they can take on a person is astronomical. The caregivers in this country have no real option to lean on as a standard of care. We are left to fumble in the dark, looking for some shred of light, all the while hoping our child does not kill themselves or harm other people during a psychosis. Calling 911 often ends in our child being arrested or in more tragic instances being killed by the police. The mentally ill are the victims of a very broken system that no one seems to be in a hurry to fix. Those that are sick are paying the price, they are being abused because of our apathy, and they are too ill to even know it.
Proper psychiatric care is so hard to secure because treatment for those that are 22-64 years of age in America has been choked off by the discriminatory and barbaric 53-year-old Institutes of Mental Disease Exclusion in the Medicaid/Medicare reimbursement statutes which will not pay any facility with over 16 beds to treat a psychiatric illness. This exclusion inevitably closed the very hospitals we now so desperately need to treat our children. Those beds have been replaced by jail cells, as our kids have now been diverted into the judicial system.
The jails and prisons have become the new asylums. As those hospitals closed, those with serious mental illnesses have just been displaced to mental health wards inside of jails or “left to die with their rights on”, infested with lice talking to themselves on street corners, often being raped or abused repeatedly before succumbing to the elements just because they are too ill to assess their need for help. Often their loving parents look on in horror as various laws tie their hands from intervening and saving their own child from what can only be described as an unwilful and slow suicide.
I now frequent Facebook groups that showcase lost mentally ill children who have slipped away in the darkness, often to be lost forever sucked into a world of vagrancy, delusions, hallucinations, and abuse at the hands of a very cold and unsympathetic society. Their parents desperately looking for any shred of information that their child is alive through posts and pictures of homeless people submitted by members across the country. Sometimes someone will find a missing child, often now grown, dirty and delusional. The reunions are not always joyous, the last one I read the son was too ill to remember his mother and he ran away again shortly after.
I am also active in several support groups for parents that grieve the completed suicide of a child that the system ultimately failed. I have friends who have had children shot by the police, children who have jumped to their death from ambulances, children that have been kept in solitary confinement for years and robbed of contact with their families the entire time. All this suffering just because they became ill and our country has no better solution in place currently to help them.
It’s a whole other world that you do not know about until your child gets sick in this way. And then you are thrown at warp speed into what can only be described as this surreal world where you scream for help as loud as you can, but no one can hear you. You are screaming for help that you so desperately need and deserve but nobody comes to rescue you…ever. As Ron Powers book title says so well “No One Cares About Crazy People”. It is just you, and others like you, trying to make sense of total insanity. Politicians don’t want to touch the situation, the jail personnel don’t know how to change it, the Emergency Rooms don’t have the resources to handle it, and your family just stares at you and tries to understand but they don’t really know how to help either.
You are alone in a void where no one has an answer, and even worse no one even cares to try to answer you. They just shuffle you along and want you to stop using words like “suffer” and “schizophrenia”. They want you to deny your own pain and act like you are ok, that this abuse, neglect, and discrimination is the best we as a society can do for our loved ones. That is just not true, this is America, we can do better.
We just can’t pretend this is Ok anymore. Our children are dying out here for lack of care. They are living behind dumpsters, rotting in solitary confinement, being killed by police. This is not OK. This is discrimination. There is absolutely no parity of treatment for those with physical and mental illnesses in the United States. Those living with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar and schizoaffective disorders deserve the same quality, compassionate care as anyone else living with any disorder or disease in this country.
If the government wants to claim they support parity they must abolish that 50+ year IMD Exclusion in Medicaid/Medicare. I cannot imagine that would be accepted by any other group of people. That is the epitome of discrimination based on a diagnosis. Can you imagine if you were denied treatment due to a diagnosis of AIDS, or diabetes or heart disease? If millions of people were excluded from treatment based solely on the diagnosis they have for any other illness there would be riotous noise amongst the masses over it. But for those with serious mental illness, there is silence.
Mental Health Awareness has become a hot topic as of late. We have a nationwide drive it seems to learn more about mental health. I applaud that. But I must say we don’t need more mental health awareness we need serious mental illness action. We need treatment that is proven to work. We need more assisted outpatient treatment & more funding for research to find better more effective treatment options. We need more comprehensive support for those dealing with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar and schizoaffective disorders on every level of their lives. Only taking action will get them off the streets, out of the jails and into safer healthier situations. Awareness cannot do this job. We need action. Action in the form of more training programs for Crisis Intervention Teams, more support, and resources for social workers on the front lines, housing, and community outreach programs that work to bring these people to a higher level of functioning in society.
The recovery model of mental health excludes many of the people most severely affected by serious mental illnesses. There are individuals who do need to be hospitalized for longer periods of time. Individuals who are so severely ill, recovery is not a possibility. In our society, we do not like to face certain truths because they are unpleasant. The truth is that there is a small percentage of people who are considered untreatable and will need a much greater level of intervention on their behalf by psychiatric and medical staff to function. It is much better for them to be cared for in a psychiatric hospital full-time than to live in unsafe conditions either at home or more likely on the streets or in jail. The recovery model doesn’t work for people who have chronic psychiatric illnesses and it is cruel to try to make someone adhere to it when it is an impossibility for them. Asking for recovery for some people with schizophrenia is like asking a quadriplegic to get up and run a marathon. It is demeaning and absurd.
I look forward to a future where all of the illnesses are treated proactively rather than reactively. By doing so, countless tragedies and senseless suffering will all be avoided. Isn’t it time we do the right thing and finally face this situation head-on as a united force. We need to eliminate the discriminatory Institutes of Mental Disease Exclusion, get more AOT programs in place and move forward in caring for the millions of people in the United States who suffer in silence. We need to stop worrying just about awareness and start taking action.
We can be aware a ship is sinking, but unless we take action all on board will perish.
If you would like to get involved in changing the United States policies on the treatment of those living with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar or schizoaffective disorders I would encourage you to join The National Shattering Silence Coalition (NSSC). We are a coalition of like minded individuals who are advocating on behalf of those who are the most severely ill in our country. If you agree that it is time for action, not just awareness, please join our team! We would love to have you working with us to destroy the barriers that millions of individuals face daily in our country in getting the treatment they deserve and the care and support their family needs as they care for someone living with these brain diseases.