Monday, September 07, 2009

I HEARD A VOICE

In Recognition of National Suicide Prevention Week (September 6-12, 2009) and World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10, 2009) and in honor of all the families and friends who have lost loved ones to suicide I humbly offer this piece especially written for this day.


I Heard A Voice

Death of a loved one,
Penetrates deep into the inner core,
But when the death is a suicide,
It scars the soul of those who care.

Each time I felt the despair,
And death seemed so sweet,
Tears filled my eyes and my heart grew heavy,
Thinking of the ones who wanted me to stay.

It seemed another step was too much,
But how could I fail,
Those who trusted me to stay,
What would I say to them someday?

I cried out to my Lord,
If I must live,
Only You can give me,
The inner light I need.

I heard a voice from within,
Not the voices of a sick mind,
But the voice of a Living Lord,
He simply said, “I am here.”

By Ed Cooper
September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

YOU CAN'T DREAM AGAIN IF

As I have grown older and my body has developed more problems, I have become less focused on my mental illness or even the brutal childhood sexual abuse I suffered. I have come more and more to realize that the disabling pain of one’s brain, or body or soul all cause tremendous suffering.

Project Dream Again’s focus should not have been so narrow as a single cause or issue, but rather an attempt to address any disabling pain. I am not saying we should have tried to be all things to all people, but we should have recognized all people are in pain.

People can have their pet causes and support them, but if we are to follow the example of our Lord we will first be about the business of supporting people. The person in need no matter what their need is.

You can’t Dream Again if you are hungry. You can’t Dream Again if you are physically sick. You can’t Dream Again if your brain is betraying you. You can’t Dream Again if your soul is so dark no light can penetrate it. You can’t Dream Again if you just lost your home. You can’t Dream Again if ____ you fill in the blank.

Project Dream Again is evolving. I hope for the better. I hope it is becoming more humane at the same time it is becoming more Christ like. Person-centered is a word used in the human services world, but it is a word lived out in the life of our Lord. My prayer is that Project Dream Again will go down the path towards becoming an organization Jesus would approve of. A person-centered organization dedicated to showing God’s grace to all of His creation.

You can visit Project Dream Again at www.projectdreamagain.com

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CHRIST ONLY HAS ONE BRIDE

Christ only has one bride, but how do we recognize her? Are all the ecumenical efforts being made the way to go or are too many compromises being made in the name of unity?
These are serious questions in my mind.
For example, when I look back at major Reformation leaders Luther, Calvin, and Wesley I don’t see enough common ground to form a union.
The same holds true for what is called the Restoration movement here in America first started by a break from the Methodist Church by James O’Kelly in 1794. Others involved in this movement were Barton Stone, Alexander & Thomas Campbell, and others. Like the Reformation, the Restoration movement is now split into different denominations and independent churches.
Do we stand firm on what we believe the Bible says or do we try to work towards a more unified front?
One argument goes something like the more unified we are the easier it is to get the world to listen to our message. The problem with this is it is not our message. The Gospel is a timeless message. It does not need to be changed or rewritten. It is good enough for all ages now and into the future.
My point is yes we should always be reaching out to all people in the same way our Lord did. With open arms and a compassionate heart, but we should not and can not compromise on the Gospel message.
Sitting in Wednesday night Bible study not long ago, the definition of the word Gospel came up. The answers were many and varied. So I guess I had better define what I mean by “Gospel message” when I say I don’t think it should be compromised on.
It is the message the women preached to the disciples when they returned from the empty tomb and told them they had seen the risen Savior. They preached the first Gospel message. The Gospel message to me is about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the grace God is freely offering us if we have the faith to believe. On this message, I see no way to compromise for the sake of unity.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

THEN WHO IS?

How would you like to wait for six days in the emergency room for a bed in the hospital to open up for you? What if another sixteen people were on the waiting list and you had no idea when you would get a bed? To make matters worse, what if you had not agreed to be hospitalized, but were being involuntarily committed because of a psychiatric condition? Would you like to be told we are holding you and treatment is coming someday? This is a real situation happening to a real person in the county in which I live in North Carolina.
Sheriff John McDevitt of Burke County, NC is quoted as saying, “The real issue to me and the real issue that I think is being missed here is, six days ago this patient needed some mental health care and she certainly hasn’t received any mental health care looking at a deputy.” That quote was in the August 12, 2009 issue of The News Herald along with a picture of a deputy sitting in the hallway of the emergency room of Grace Hospital in Morganton, NC.
Sheriff McDevitt said Broughton Hospital (the state psychiatric hospital that happens to be located in this county) had “bent over backwards” so it was clear he was not blaming them. He said there were no beds at Grace, which is a community hospital, and none across the state in other state psychiatric hospitals.
This is not just a North Carolina issue. It is an issue across the country. It was an issue before the economy went south and now it is a real crisis.
My biggest fears are the cuts in children’s services. I am not saying adults, the elderly, and veterans are not important, but children’s mental health, substance abuse, and developmental disabilities programs are especially vital. They cannot fend for themselves at all. You say they have their parents. Not all of them do and even if they do that does not mean that early treatment is not still vital to their recovery journey. The long-term results of failing to respond to their needs now cannot be measured in dollars, but it will cost more then than now.
Eunice Kennedy Shiver who died this week was from a famous family that included her brothers President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and Senator Edward Kennedy. She founded the Special Olympics and the first games were held in Chicago in 1968 just weeks after the assassination of her brother Sen. Robert Kennedy. Her brother Sen. Edward Kennedy has spent many hours on legislation to help the disabled.
Faith communities must step up in this time of national crisis and stand with those with disabilities. Most being the poorest of the poor and the least able to take care of themselves. If this is not who Jesus ask us to reach out to then who is?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

RECLAMATION

Usually to use a quote one would not do such a long introduction of the person they are quoting, but I want you to know something about the person who penned these words I am about to use. Henri Nouwen was an internationally renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor who wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life. Since his death in 1996, ever-increasing numbers of readers, writers, teachers and seekers have been guided by his literary legacy. Nouwen’s books have sold over 2 million copies and been published in over 22 languages. Born in Nijkerk, Holland, on January 24, 1932, Nouwen felt called to the priesthood at a very young age. He was ordained in 1957 as a diocesan priest and studied psychology at the Catholic University of Nijmegen. In 1964 he moved to the United States to study at the Menninger Clinic. He went on to teach at the University of Notre Dame, and the Divinity Schools of Yale and Harvard. For several months during the 1970s, Nouwen lived and worked with the Trappist monks in the Abbey of the Genesee, and in the early 1980s he lived with the poor in Peru. In 1985 he was called to join L’Arche in Trosly, France, the first of over 100 communities founded by Jean Vanier where people with developmental disabilities live with assistants. A year later Nouwen came to make his home at L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Canada. He died suddenly on September 21, 1996, in Holland and is buried in King City, Ontario. He wrote, “Receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let god be God and do all the healing, restoring, and renewing.”
Can we give the process over to God or do we need to control it by committee and hierarchy? We may be able to answer this question by looking at reclamation efforts down through the years. I call them reclamation because all of them do not fall under the Reformation.
Reclamation means the process of reclaiming or the restoration as to productivity, usefulness or morality. To explore this word even further some of its synonyms are renewal, rehabilitation, restoration, reformation, and recovery. Renewal, rehabilitation, and restoration give us the idea of returning someone or something to a satisfactory state of being. Reformation means redirecting the course from error to a proper focus and direction. Recovery calls to mind the concept of restoring something lost to its rightful place or making something or someone whole again by being on the right journey or path.
If you have ever seen a mountain being stripped mined, then you know what man can do to God’s creation with machines. The Appalachians, which may be the oldest mountain range in the world, are wounded in many places by mountain top removal to get at coal so we can have cheap energy. The coal companies are supposed to do reclamation projects, but you can’t redo the handiwork of God.
The Reformation was an attempt to reform or redo the church. In 2007, there was a 500-year celebration of when Martin Luther became a monk and when he conducted his first mass. This year is the quincentenary of the birth of John Calvin and again there is a celebration of the Reformation.
Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) was appointed pastor in Amsterdam upon returning from studies in Italy. Since it was a reformed pastor's custom to preach through a book of the bible, Arminius began with Romans. Three years later, he was up to chapter 7. The big theological point that got him in trouble was his belief that free will is found only in the regenerate, in those whom God has freed to know and obey him. Unbelievers remain in bondage to sin.
John Wesley and Charles Wesley both certainly made huge contributions to the idea of the church having the proper focus and direction. However, John Wesley’s support of Britain during the Revolutionary War did not help the growth of the Methodist church here in America during that period.
James O’Kelly an Anglican by birth and a Methodist by choice after a disagreement with Francis Asbury started what he named Republican Methodists. The group was primary in eastern North Carolina. The James O’Kelly chapel founded in 1794 still stands and lies a few miles south of Durham, North Carolina. It became know simply as a Christian Church in 1802. James O’Kelly is known as one of the fathers of what is called the Restoration Movement that has already broken into at least three groups.
What is my point? The church is so divided into denominations and independent churches saying they have “the truth” where is a sinner in need of the saving grace of God supposed to go? Where does one go for reclamation? Does the church need reclamation? Does Jesus even claim His bride? These questions need answers if we are truly going to do the work the Lord left us to do. We, the church, can either help folks on their journey towards the One we know or act in a way that they look at us in disgust and want no part of us. To be a haven for reclamation our lives must be a proclamation of God’s grace in us to a wounded world.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shattered Minds

Becca Clark wrote in a comment to a recent thread, “I do think we run a risk when we generalize from personal experiences.” I have given considerable thought to her assertion and still find myself wondering if it is as true as it sounds. I have to ask myself how much of our entire belief system actual comes from our experiences. I am aware that there is suppose to be something we call hard science. Knowledge developed from pure research that produces facts. I am also aware of all the folks who believe the Bible to be without error and the inspired Word of God. Therefore, there are sources that people believe facts can come from. However, we know that scientific facts are a moving target because almost no one still believes the earth is flat yet at one time that was the science of its day. We also know not everyone agrees the Bible is infallible and the ones who do disagree on what it says. So I ask what knowledge can we count on not to be tainted by opinion and personal experiences?
For example, looking at the question of how to define mind one runs into more curves and dead ends than almost any subject science tries to define. To be ethical I must tell you I have a personal interest in this subject because things have been done to me “in my best interest”, but my only crime is my shattered mind. However, those of us with a mental illness and other disabilities or unpopular behavior, gender, color, sexual orientation, or monetary situations are handled differently by simply creating laws to suit the purposes of the society at large.
When researchers are studying mice, they are looking at less complex creatures than themselves, but when they are trying to define mind with their own mind a problem arises. Are they able to look objectively at a mind with a mind?
Let me back up. If you agree that a mind is merely a brain to be studied as we study any biological part of the human body then you will not agree there is a problem. However, if you think the mind is more than a mere mechanical machine then we can go on. If we need to believe in God, pray to God, and have a soul, where is that connection made? In a mechanical machine or a mind which is more than a biological brain.
I firmly believe that when my mind is shattered and I am not functioning well that my brain disorder is part of the problem, but the solution is not found only in psychiatric medications. Yes, I have bipolar disorder (manic-depression), but that also causes other problems in my mind and soul. I know Ms. Clark cautioned about making a generalization from one’s personal experiences and maybe she is right, but my guess is that there are many hurting souls just like me brought to their knees by a brain disorder (mental illness) which usually causes mind and soul problems.
We can as the body of Christ respond with compassion to those whose only crime are shattered minds and share with them the Good News about God’s love for each one of them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN HUNGERY?

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN HUNGRY?

Matthew 25:37-40 (New International Version)
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

James 2:15-16 (New International Version)
15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

Have you ever been hungry for very long? I don’t mean just missing a meal. I mean not having the means to feed yourself. Have you felt the pains in your belly caused by the lack of food over a period of time?

The experts say six million children under the age of 5 die every year as a result of hunger. They also say that there are 840 million people in the world who are malnourished and more than 153 million of those are children under the age of 5.

“The integral relationship between poverty and hunger may not come as a big surprise, but still the statistics are shocking. Approximately 1.5 billion people live on less than US$1 a day and every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.”
I found this statement on BBC World Service Website.

Why am I on this subject right now? First, I have lived on the streets of some of our largest cities here in the States and have gone hungry. Second, a large portion of people with disabilities such as mental illness live in poverty and their money runs out before the month does. Third, Cornel West, a Princeton professor, has publicly complained about President Obama being “too much in the thrall of the neoliberal elites.” [Newsweek/July 27, 2009] He said, “The moment of euphoria is over. We need intense pressure on Obama. Poor people are suffering. Working people are suffering.” Lisa Miller, Newsweek’s Religion Editor, piece was titled Remember the Neediest! with a subtitle of The Radical Left Versus The President.

We can argue till the cows come in about who should be doing what. What role does our government have? What role do private citizens have? What role do charities have? What role do faith communities have? The simple truth is that when you are hungry you don’t care were the bread comes from, but when we stand before the King, we will care if we fed the hungry.

THEOSIS

PROCESS THEISM, PROGRESSIVE CHRISTANITY, PROTESTANTISM, and THEOSIS

Jennie Fowler Willing opened the New York Evangelistic Training School and Settlement House in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York in 1895. Willing, a Methodist laywoman, required students at the Training School who were preparing for mission careers to spend one hour a day working among the poor and to assist in the evangelistic services conducted nightly. These are her words, “We read the Bible through spectacles blurred by tradition…God be praised, we are out of the controversial belt. We have left behind the highways where theologians marched and countermarched. We study the book now, not for clubs with which to beat each other’s theological brains, but for food to make us strong to fight the common enemy.”

I hope I have not been doing that and I certainly hope this is not seen as such. I simply feel the need to attempt to define some terms and give some notion of my purpose and reason for even wanting to be part of this community. My purpose is because I enjoy the sharing of ideas and even the debating of them. The reason is that I need and want community.

I am not going to try to define Process Christianity. I will leave that to those who know far more than I do about it, but I would like to share a simple fact about process theism, which I found in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Process theism typically refers to a family of theological ideas originating in, inspired by, or in agreement with the metaphysical orientation of the English philosopher-mathematician Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) and the American philosopher-ornithologist Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000).” If you agree to the above as being accurate, then process theism is about God not being a finished product, but rather is in the process of becoming. Do not complain I have made it too simple. I already know it is a much more complex philosophical argument than that, but that is my ‘Reader’s Digest’ version. Since process means becoming, I am at a loss at how anyone could define Process Christianity or theism in any real terms.

If we start with the proposition that Progressive Christianity is more of a multifaceted movement than a theology in the strictest since of the word, then we may have a better chance of understanding each other. The Center for Progressive Christianity on their about us page claims in 1994 Jim Adams, the founder of the center and at the time the rector at St. Mark’s church on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC started using the term “progressive Christianity” at a time when no other “known organization, scholar, or church leader” was doing so. It seems to me that if I had to sum up the folks that might fall under this label they would be people who tend to be inclusive, accepting, participatory, concerned about social justice, and building a community where spiritual growth can be nourished. As has been pointed out in comments to a previous blog of mine Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are folks who might agree they are progressive Christians. Wikipedia even listed John Wesley as a Notable Progressive Christian. The reason being he did take on the social issues of his day.

Protestantism is one of the main divisions of Christianity, which emerged from Roman Catholicism at the Reformation, a movement that questioned and ‘protested’ against the teachings and authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Protestantism takes its name from the protest of the German Protestant reformer Martin Luther and his supporters during the Reformation, in particular their protest at the Diet of Spires (1529) against the decision to reaffirm an edict against the Reformation made at the Diet of Worms (1521). So our claim to fame is that we are protesters and we still are, but do we know against what?

On the website of The Claremont School of Theology, we find these words “As a theological school of The United Methodist Church, Claremont has deep roots in the progressive Protestant tradition. Today, Claremont is building on this heritage and broadening its scope by transforming into an inter-religious university, a place for people of all traditions and perspectives to study, train and be transformed together. People around the world are taking notice ... and so should you.” So maybe I have found a new term. Progressive Protestant. What does that mean? They call it a “Pioneering Vision.”

Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with Christ, and to some degree that we participate in the divine nature. This does not imply that we become gods, but rather, that we are to come into the fullness of the "divine image" in which we were created. It may be related to the Protestant concept of sanctification. It may also be seen as something akin to the John Wesley’s idea of "entire sanctification". It is defined by Frederica Matthews-Green in her book “The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation” as “the process of being more and more in Christ”. I think I like the idea of theosis because it seems to be “food to fight the common enemy.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

PROGRESSIVE THEOLOGY


My father was born and raised in Appalachia, but was determined to get an education. He did. He was an educator, minister, and missionary to Africa. He was my teacher while I was at Mashoko Mission in what was then Rhodesia now called Zimbabwe. My college education is more like an old time quilt made from leftover rags than a fancy new store bought bed cover. I am 60 and still have never completed a degree. However, I am an ordained minister and Elder in the Christian Church/Churches of Christ and a member of the Glen Alpine United Methodist Church, Glen Alpine, NC. I say all this to let the readers of this blog know who is making these statements and that I make no claim to be a major scholar on the issues. Then why am I making them? Because in a comment to a previous blog I wrote (Mad at God) Bill Chadwick on 7/11/2009 in a reply addressed to Becca raised some very interesting points that I simply could not ignore.
First, let me say his comments were most respectful and written by a person I can only describe as a thoughtful gentleman. The comments seemed both genuine and heartfelt.
Second, I was touched by what I felt was a note of pain I noted in the last paragraph of his comments when he mentioned personal attacks and being blocked from making comments by a poster. If I am right then I regret that anyone in this blog community is made to feel uncomfortable or to experience pain from what is suppose to be a place to find community.
Third, I also read in that last paragraph the words “progressive theology” and “progressive Christians.” Now let us see if we can figure out what is meant by these words.
In a paper, I found on the internet titled Progressive Theology: Some Musings from a United Methodist Perspective by Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan I found these words, “Many of us have said that the division within The United Methodist Church goes beyond the issue of homosexuality. We recognize that our division goes to the very core of our theological divide. We need to recognize further that our theological divide is rooted also in our biblical interpretation and the nature of the Bible as sacred text.” Well no big revelation here. He simply stated the obvious. I guess we will have to look further.
“As an ethnic biblical scholar, I know and have experienced how the textual interpretation of a dominant group has been used as a means to silence and deligitimize the interpretations of other groups. The same is true of theological discourse. Instead, what we need to do, as progressive theological thinkers, is to set the framework and parameters of our theological discourse. Simply put, how do we do theology?” Now we are getting somewhere. They want to set the rules of the game. I think I have seen this before. On the playground in grade school.
“A framework for doing theology that is both critical and constructive, individual and communal, contextual and incarnational, and that takes seriously the values of pluralism, feminism, liberationism, post-colonialism, and ecological and environmental responsibility impacts our biblical interpretation and what we see as the nature of the Bible. In my life as a student of the Bible, I have come to a conclusion that biblical interpretation is public discourse. Robert Allen Warrior talks about the reference to Native Americans as Amalekites and Canaanites by many Puritan preachers. The implication was clear, namely, that the Native Americans, like the biblical Amalekites and Canaanites, if they would not be converted, were worthy of annihilation. The annihilation of Native Americans during the colonial period was grounded in irresponsible biblical interpretation and bad theology. In doing “as if” and responsible readings, we will find ourselves in situations where we must speak and preach against the text, unmasking and rejecting harmful ideologies and bad theologies.”
Long quote, but now I think I get this progressive theology and Christian thing. Progressive means leaving the Bible in the dust and building a theology to your liking in a dust storm. Well I am what they call a folk theologian and philosopher, but even I can see the disadvantage of trying to study the Bible without believing in it or even wanting it in the room.
If progressive theology meant how to move closer to the Lord our Redeemer, then that is real progress, which is the root word of progressive. If being a progressive Christian meant walking in the footsteps of Jesus towards the foot of the cross where one finds the grace God is waiting to show us, then I am a progressive Christian. If progressive means being like Christ and living a life of radical compassion for our fellow man then let me on the boat with Jesus, but not on a sinking ship with those who want to write their own rules to the game.
My friends God wrote the rules when He created all that is. Grace is progressive. It moves the most unworthy into the very presence of our Creator. That is the definition of progressive.
Frances Perkins was Secretary of Labor for FDR for 12 years. The first woman to hold a Cabinet post. A true political progressive. She chaired the committee that drafted and developed the Social Security Act of 1935. She said she had an earnest desire to “to live for God and do something.”
The United Methodist Church may splinter into multiple pieces, but God’s Word to His people will remain. People will still be helping people in each church around the world. They can come up with term after term. Progressive theology. Liberation theology etc. The only thing that will stand the test of time is the Good News. The Gospel. The most radical and progressive movement on the face of the earth started on the day they hung God’s Son on the cross. When He broke the bonds of death and hell on Resurrection Day, we all won our freedom if we will follow in His footsteps. Now that is progressive.



*Quotes came from a paper on www.progressivechristianwitness.org
** My Website www.projectdreamagain.com

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

MEND A BROKEN HEART TODAY

We need to go back to the beginning to a barn in the mountains of Appalachia. Because it was in that barn, my strongest feelings of being deserted by God were felt. I was not yet old enough to go to school, but I was old enough to be brutally used as a sex toy. It was not a single incident by a stranger. It was many victimizations over a number of years. My grandfather would first do something good and kind and later unexpectedly would come a sexual assault so brutal and painful I simply wished he would kill me.
Where was God?
It has taken me years to understand that He was in the barn with me. Why He did not stop it is a mystery only He knows the answer to. How do I know He was in the barn? Because I am now sixty years old and still alive and at least as sane as most of the folks around me. That means He was there. He helped me even as I denied He existed.
Researchers estimate that, in our country, about 10% of boys and 25% of girls are sexually abused. About 30% of those who sexually abuse children are relatives of the child, such as fathers, grandfathers, uncles, or cousins. The big question is why is it so hard to protect children from sexual abuse? (Note the percentages above are only for sexual abuse not all kinds of child abuse)
There are many answers given to the question I just posed, but the answer I am about to give is from my own personal experience. That does not make it right, but I offer it as a possibility. The main reason is that once we become a victim of childhood sexual abuse we no longer trust adults enough to tell anyone about what is happening.
Faith communities can play a major role in turning this whole thing around. Note I said community. In a community where all the adults are looking after the interest of the children, the disabled, the elderly, and the poor children will have a better chance and if they do become a victim are much more likely to tell.
Jesus was in the barn with me, but are we in the byways, busy streets, and sharing with the bloodied souls of our fellow sojourners the chance for the peace we know in our own hearts. The only evangelism that really works is heart to heart. Did you help mend a broken heart today?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

MAD AT GOD

I am mad at God right now so I immediately started building a case against Him. We do the same thing with friends or families who we think have wronged us, or we have some other reason to need to dislike or dismiss them. Therefore, I was delighted to find this gem in a novel I am presently reading. It goes like this.
“Well, sometimes when I see a guy like that, I say to myself, “There but for the grace of God go I,’”
Gail commented, “If God’s grace existed, there wouldn’t be people like that for you to say, “There but for the grace of God.’” (from Spencerville a novel by Nelson Demille)
However, my delight quickly passed and reality once again hit me in the face. God was not responsible for my anger. He was not the one who had committed the actions that were causing my anger. True enough He had not stopped them, but if He had, I would have been angry at that because that would mean He had decided to take our freedom away and turn us into robots.
The truth is I am responsible for my anger. Yes, something was done to me that should not have been done, but I am 60 years old and I know that I am not perfect and expecting perfection from others is simply insane.
Tolerance and acceptance of one’s self and those around them will lower the anger quotient. Tolerance and acceptance does not mean agreement or status quo. It means you may work to change what you can, but with a spirit not consumed by anger.
Anger is not only destructive to the person feeling it and the person or persons on the receiving end, but it prevents you from being heard either by the source of your anger or the larger community.
Anger produces violence in one’s deepest core and at times erupts into acts of violence. Every time I get mad, I at some point think about Jesus in the Temple and Him cursing the fig tree for not having any fruit on it. I say to myself even Jesus got mad. Whatever He was feeling we know He went to the Cross sinless. Can we claim our anger never causes us to sin? If we can’t make that claim then we need to claim responsibility for our anger. We need to stop demanding perfection before perfection is possible.
It will only be possible when we join Him in the place He is preparing for us. Till then we own our own anger. I guess I have to stop being mad at God. What a shame? It was easier than taking the responsibility myself, but if I am going to be honest and work on a healthy soul I must. The case I must build now is one of tolerance and acceptance without ever becoming resigned to reality as it is.
Working to improve my heart and the hearts of those around me. Working for the day that anger will pass away.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Wishful Thinking


Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, called wishful thinking America’s “besetting sin.” After her husband's death in 1945, she continued to be an internationally prominent author, speaker, politician, and activist for the New Deal coalition. She worked to enhance the status of working women, although she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because she believed it would adversely affect women. She was also one of the founders of Freedom House.

The Mission Statement of Freedom House has these words in it, "Freedom House is an independent organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Freedom is possible only in democratic political systems in which the governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, belief and respect for the rights of minorities and women are guaranteed."

"Freedom ultimately depends on the actions of committed and courageous men and women. We support nonviolent civic initiatives in societies where freedom is denied or under threat and we stand in opposition to ideas and forces that challenge the right of all people to be free. Freedom House functions as a catalyst for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law through its analysis, advocacy, and action."

So was she herself engaging in wishful thinking? Did God when He created us engage in wishful thinking? Is wishful thinking bad or just another name for hope?
Wishful thinking has a dream like or unrealistic quality to it. Hope can be based on wishful thinking or it can be based on a solid foundation. I am speaking about being born again to a living hope.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (English Standard Version)
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

We do not have to depend on ourselves for our hope or on wishful thinking. For those of us with a disability and our families that is more than mere words. It is comfort to a hurting and shattered soul. It brings peace, which means we can begin to dream again. Not just of the bye and bye, but of tomorrow. A peace that means the rising sun no longer is something to dread, but rather something that just might if we are lucky bring some small joy.

©Ed Cooper, 2009
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

100% Tax Rate?

I wrote this over two years ago and I still think it makes a valid point. I am advocating for a response that will cost less per person over the years, but the person making the comments thinks I am asking for a “100%” tax rate. It must be the single worst piece I ever wrote to get such a response. I am putting it out again because I think it applies even more today. Lets see what the response is this time.

Where is the COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATISM? (June 21, 2007)
By Ed Cooper
Phillip Yancy, author of numerous books says compassion simply means, “To suffer with”. I had trouble with that definition so I looked it up and found that WordNet said the verb compassionate meant to share the suffering with another. That sounds nice if it were possible. Remember President Bush said, “I call my philosophy and approach compassionate conservatism." (White House Press Release April 30, 2002) Wonder what he meant by compassionate?
In an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times recently Verlyn Klinkenborg writing about the report released last week by the Audubon Society which said millions of birds are missing wrote, “The Audubon Society portrait of common bird species in decline is really a report on who humans are. Let me offer a proposition about Homo sapiens. We are the only species on earth capable of an ethical awareness of other species and, thus, the only species capable of happily ignoring that awareness. So far, our economic interests have proved to be completely incompatible with all but a very few forms of life. It is not that we believe that other species do not matter. It is that, historically speaking; it has not been worth believing one way or another. I do not suppose that most Americans would actively kill a whippoorwill if they had the chance. Yet in the past 40 years its number has dropped by 1.6 million.”
Yesterday I was trout fishing on Wilson Creek not far from my home in the Pisgah National Forest and I could hear the birds. They added to the sound of the rushing water of Wilson Creek, which was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System on August 18, 2000, and made the experience delightful even though I did not catch a single trout. What if all the birds were gone?
Klinkenborg seems to be concerned if we will make the right ethical decisions about the other species on this planet with us and I do too, but I spend even more time worrying about the fact we have never learned how to treat each other especially if they are different from us.
To put it bluntly I have never been like most of the rest of my fellow humans. My mental illness and the fact that I was sexually abused as a young child over a long period has made it very difficult for me to fit the normal mold. In other words, I am not what I refer to as a chronically normal person. That means school was almost impossible and I was unable to finish college. I held over 50 different jobs before founding Project Dream Again in 1988. My point here is that I am one of those folks that you would not “actively kill” if you “had the chance”, but like the whippoorwill we are dying off. As I wrote in an earlier blog Marilyn Elias writing in USA TODAY about a recent study wrote that those of us in the public system die about “25 years earlier than Americans overall.” Where is the compassionate conservatism? Maybe it all went to Iraq!
To respond to the needs of folks with mental illness means meeting them where they are. Unfortunately, lots are on the streets or in jails and prisons, others living with families struggling to get them services promised but not forthcoming, some in state hospitals or private ones and others hiding because of the stigma of letting anyone know they are ill.
How do you reach out? By embracing them with compassion if you use the true meaning of the word. A true compassionate commitment to the mentally ill and their families would save government in the long term. It really is less expensive to treat people as if they are fully human than to lock them up in state hospitals or jails and prisons. Why can’t we learn? We ask the wrong people for advice.
Try this! Ask consumers, family members and frontline workers what is needed. Let them be the experts. Embrace a concept of recovery based on the real meaning of compassion. You will then find that “in the community” begins to mean something.





Under Comments I found this Reply: “Government cannot possibly solve every social problem that exists nor should they attempt such an impossible task. If you believe the government needs to take more money from people in order to pay for such programs than how much do you believe your taxes should be increased? Why is the cause of the mentally ill more important than the plight of the homeless, widows, orphans, storm victims, violent crime victims, uninsured or any other group of people who have just as much need. In order to provide for every group of "victims" to their satisfaction the federal government would have to impose a 100% tax rate and there would still not be enough money. Besides the shear impossiblity of providing for every need in existence the federal government does a horrible job of managing anything. While there are many excellent charities that keep administrative costs between 10-20%, it is not unusal for government programs to have admin costs in the 60-70% range. As individuals/Christians we do have a personal responsibility to assist those in need on a voluntary basis.
by Tony Jul 4, 2007 2:56 pm”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

COMMUNAL HEALING

We are experiencing a time in this country unlike any in my lifetime. I have been on this earth for over sixty years and more people in this country and around the world have their backs up against the wall than ever. Solutions are being sought, but are they really the ones that help people over the long haul. Do you give folks a fish or a fishing pole? The following piece comes off the website of Heifer International, which can be found at www.heifer.org

“A Midwestern farmer named Dan West was ladling out rations of milk to hungry children during the Spanish Civil War when it hit him.
“These children don’t need a cup, they need a cow.”
West, who was serving as a Church of the Brethren relief worker, was forced to decide who would receive the limited rations and who wouldn’t – literally, who would live and who would die. This kind of aid, he knew, would never be enough.
So West returned home to form Heifers for Relief, dedicated to ending hunger permanently by providing families with livestock and training so that they “could be spared the indignity of depending on others to feed their children.”
In 1944, the first shipment of 17 heifers left York, Pennsylvania, for Puerto Rico, going to families whose malnourished children had never even tasted milk. Learn about the cowboys who brought cows and kids together.
Why heifers? These are young cows that haven’t yet given birth – making them perfect not only for supplying a continued source of milk, but also for supplying a continued source of support. That’s because each family receiving a heifer agrees to “pass on the gift” and donate the female offspring to another family, so that the gift of food is never-ending.
This simple idea of giving families a source of food rather than short-term relief caught on and has continued for over 60 years. Since 1944, Heifer has helped 8.5 million people in more than 125 countries.” From the Heifer International website
This is more than a story about one man’s dream, but it is also the story of many people being able to dream again. The AARP Magazine in its May/June issue has an article by Barbara Kingslover about her trip to Nepal and the work of Heifer. It can be found at http://www.aarpmagazine.org/people/the_color_red.html

Why am I going into such detail about all this? Because if you want to help folks you have to reach out in ways that empower them to help themselves so they can regain and maintain the dignity of their humanness. That is what the Messiah did for us on the cross. He made it possible for us to be restored. To be completely whole again. To become a new person. Persons with brain disorders and their families need to know and to be able to dream again about becoming whole.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WE CAN DO BETTER

I have never liked to be referred to as a case so I am not particularly fond of the term case manager, but trying to change common terminology only leads to more confusion and we already have enough of that in the mental health field. There are many ways to deliver case management services and they go by an assortment of names. Some of the names are intensive case management, supportive case management, assertive community treatment teams, broker/advocacy case management, wraparound case management, and clinical case management. Clinical case management is a model where the case manager is also the person’s primary therapist. Trying to define all the others would be futile because they mean slightly different things depending on where they are being put into practice and the resources available to the system implementing the model. They are also put together in varying ways in different systems across this country. The point is I cannot say supportive case management and everyone understand the word in the same way. The simple truth is we have an array of case management concepts implemented across this country working to varying degrees.
I want to suggest a team approach for those of us with a severe and persistent mental illness based on the idea that we are bio-psycho-social-spiritual beings.
Bio: The team needs a primary care physician, a nurse, and a psychiatrist.
Psycho: The team needs a psychologist preferably with a doctoral degree.
Social: The team needs social workers, rehab specialists, peers, and an advocate/broker case manager.
Spiritual: The team needs a pastor, minister, chaplain or some way to get to the spiritual care of their choosing.
This may sound grandiose, but preventive care and ongoing excellent care is less costly in the long run than poor care and hospitalizations.
We can do better and the truth is we have the moral obligation to do so.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Staff

I have known mental health advocates who seem to think they are not doing their job if they are not finding something wrong the staff are doing or have done at a state mental hospital. It is a good thing to make the care received by folks who are locked away as first rate as we can. Most of them are not there voluntarily. Since we are forcing them to be there claiming it is our right as a state to do so, we certainly owe them our very best psychiatric care under the safest conditions we can possibly provide.
The key some folks seem to be missing is that the people working in state hospitals are humans with all the same emotions and baggage the rest of us carry around. Which means in very plain and basic terms if I want to be treated like a human when I am a patient in a state mental hospital then I had better hope the staff there are being treated fairly by their superiors, critics, the media, and the public. The better they are treated the more likely I am to be treated well. If you care about the patients, you will care just as much about the staff.
Recently, the staff at Broughton (the state hospital in Morganton, NC) was vindicated by a judge who said a previous investigation had not been accurate or fair. Will the public remember that or all the bad press?
We must at some point learn to respect each other enough to see one another as fully human. Staff, patient, family members, the public, media, and government all have a role to play in this endeavor. As long as we can look pass, each other without seeing the humanity of the other we will remain in the darkness. The light only shines when we open our eyes and see the person next to us as they really are. Fully human no matter how flawed.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

LETTER TO NC SEC OF HHS

February 27, 2009

Lanier M. Cansler, Secretary
NC Department of Health & Human Services
2001 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-2001

Dear Secretary Cansler:

I am a person with a psychiatric diagnosis, I have family members with a psychiatric diagnosis, and for the past twenty years I have been an advocate for those of us with a mental illness both here in North Carolina and when I lived in Florida. I say this only to make the point that the mental health arena is not new to me and it touches my life and those I love.

I have served on the governing board of a state hospital, the mental health planning council for a county of 1.5 million people, started programs, did trainings, spoke at national conventions, and have helped run a nonprofit for twenty years. I understand that unsolicited advice is seldom welcome, but I am going to take the risk of offering some based on the above experiences I have just mentioned.

First let me make the disclosure that I am presently a member of the Human Rights Committee at Broughton Hospital, but I am writing this letter as a private citizen and not in any way on behalf of the Broughton HRC.

Number 1: Abuse & Neglect in North Carolina’s State Psychiatric Hospitals

I appreciate your standing up for us and taking a “zero-tolerance” policy towards abuse and neglect of us in state psychiatric hospitals and I do not doubt you mean it. However, there are some things you might want to look at. When an allegation is made that a serious crime has taken place such as rape, what are the qualifications of the person doing the investigation? Is the possible victim taken to a rape crisis center? Who decides when the outside authorities are called? Which outside authorities are called since it is state property? Should state employed advocates be deciding substantiated or unsubstantiated when serious crimes (possibly felonies) are being investigated?


Number 2: Transfer of State Psychiatric Beds To Private Corporations

In a release dated February 5, 2009 from your Dept. it is revealed that Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services which is owned by Universal Health Services has filed an application for a Certificate of need to relocate 50 beds from Broughton to their for profit operation in Winston-Salem. Dr. Michael Lancaster working in one of your divisions (MH/DD/SAS) is quoted as saying, “They are essentially paper beds” in the WSJOURNAL. There are a couple of problems with this statement. First, in an article in the February 6, 2009 issue of Psychiatric News there is an article titled “State Hospital Admissions on Unexpected Upswing”. It says “The number of admissions to public psychiatric hospitals in the United States dropped from a peak of 475,000 in 1971 to fewer than 160,000 in 2002. … The number of admissions rose by 21% from 2002 to 2005 after a historic decline since 1971 because of deinstitutionalization.” It also says, “Historically, when the economy gets bad, inpatient use rises.” This being said it is logical to assume the western part of this state that Broughton Hospital serves will need those beds. If not in Morganton then west of Morganton not east making it harder on families living in the western part of the state. Then ask yourself how a company looking to make a profit and hire the very best people and provide the latest evidence- based recovery person-centered services can do it without cutting corners somewhere? What about quality control? If you are having a hard time now controlling abuse & neglect, what do you think a for profit corporation will do to make sure you do not find out what is going on at their operation? Almost anything was my experience when they turned over South Florida State Hospital to a for profit company who had been building and running prisons.

Number 3: Including Persons With Psychiatric Disabilities In Decision Making & Planning


Here one is always tempted to find the closest or the easiest to get along with or maybe a person with degrees already working within the system. Sometimes even a person who has made a career out of being a person with a label and is now a consultant is called in. Let me suggest at times you might want to hear from grassroots folks. People living each day in the trenches with their mental illnesses. My point here is you might want to consider some horizontal lines rather than just vertical lines when looking at your organizational chart. Horizontal management is not a new concept in mental health. The first Veterans Administration hospital I was ever in had what they called ward government. The patients handled most of the problems that arose on the units. There have been many models down through the years. Peer run programs which by the way cost less. Peer joined with Faith-Based is not a new idea either.

My point here is you need professionals and I am not trying to say otherwise. I would not have wanted my abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery done by a friend. I would not want a friend writing my psychiatric medication prescriptions. However, there are things that we do better than someone who does not have a mental illness which I call “ chronically normal people” or even a family member of a person with a mental illness and that is a give a very different viewpoint of the services being offered.

For example when I look at North Carolina’s Person-Centered Planning model I am struck by how many people they ask in addition to me about what I should be working towards in my life. It does not even seem like the process understands it is my life. It doesn’t belong to my family. It doesn’t belong to my friend. It doesn’t belong to anybody but me. Would it not be wonderful if Carl Rogers could come back to life and remind folks what person-centered is?

OK! Enough and I thank anyone who has taken the time to read it.


Respectfully,



Ed Cooper


Cc Governor Beverly Perdue
Leza Wainwright, Director /MHDDSAS
Sen. Jim Jacumin