Friday, May 30, 2014

GO BEYOND THE HEADLINES

Sharyn McCrumb wrote this piece of dialogue in her book The Devil Amongst The Lawyers:
                                                  
   Rose grinned. “Tell him about the horse race, Henry.”   

   Henry sighed. “It’s a tale I heard in Japan-perhaps it is apocryphal, but the        point is sound. It seems there was once a horse race between a Japanese       
   horseman and a rider from Korea.  There were only those two horses in    
   the race, and the Korean horse won.  So a Japanese newspaper reported   
   this story by saying: ‘Japanese Horse Comes in Second in International    
   Horse Race. Korean Horse Finishes Next to Last.’”    
                                        
I am not saying that the above dialogue is a fair example of what the media does with a story. However, it has been clear to me since 1965 when I got my copy of Time magazine while in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and read their slant on what was taking place at that time that one could not rely on a single source for their news.  Most people read or listen only to those news sources that agree with their world view.  That makes it easy for us to get marooned in the mud on an island in our own minds.

This is particular true during a time of national tragedy.  Everyone wants to be safe.  The media keeps putting out stories like there is a solution if we would only do it.  The solution or solutions offered depends on the people interviewed which largely depends on the reporter doing the piece and what outlet they are doing the piece for.  We do not get any unbiased news or news without a slant. The truth is a reporter always takes themselves when they go to do a story.

In the case of mental illness, guns and mass murders, there are not any unbiased people.  We all go into thinking about these tragedies with our own histories and views about all the issues surrounding these awful acts.  Some blame the lack of mental health care.  Some blame the gun laws.  Some point out it is a problem of young white males. (Although I don't think the psychiatrist that shot soldiers at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009 was a young white male nor was the Beltway sniper attacks in 2002 which left 10 people dead.)  Citizens and experts are all over the board about the causes and the way to stop these atrocities.

I would encourage folks to look deeper than the headlines.  Don't believe the early reports.  I would suggest that you consider the possibility that evil exists in this world and to commit these acts it is evil that causes a person to do such hideous things separate from any mental illness, social & economic factors or even any type of abuse the person may have suffered from.  I know most people don't view evil as separate from some other cause, but if you believe in any kind of God, Creator or Force then the chance is there is an opposite force. Our natural world is built that way.  If you believe there is anything beyond your biological body, then you have to consider evil (devil) as a possibility. 

When I read that a person killed roommates David Wang, George Chen and James Hong then went on to kill Veronika Weiss, Katie Cooper and Chris Martinez, I know what I am looking at. Evil.  The proper memorial to these people and their families is to stop talking about the killer and start working towards a world with less evil.  

Maya Angelou sat an example by the way she lived her life and through her writings how to make this world less evil and she had looked evil in the eye.  We should look it in the eye and crush the head of it.

© Ed Cooper, Stoney Creek, Tennessee    
    All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

THE SLOTH’S PACE COULD SAVE EARTH


If we could slow
Our minds
To the pace
Of a sloth
Our souls
Might
Have a hope
Of someday hearing
       
The mockingbird sing
  
The mountain moan
  
The stream scream
                     
And before it is
Too late
THE SLOTH’S PACE
Just might
Slow us down enough
That we would feel
Deep within ourselves
The dying pain
Of our home
                             
And start to fight
To save the earth
Because we slowed
TO THE SLOTH’S PACE
And saw
What we were doing
To the home
Of all those to come.


© Ed Cooper, 5/28/14, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved





Sunday, May 25, 2014

THEY SERVED THIS COUNTRY TOO: Stoney Creek Sermonette No.3


 STONEY CREEK SERMONETTE No. 3

Mark 9: 33-35
33 They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?”
34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
NASB

I don’t know of anyone who hasn't spent time talking with others or at least thinking about their rank or standing with their parents, on their job or in the community.  We like to know if we are number one or at the bottom of the list?  One reason people love sports is because a clear winner is the outcome of the game.  Here Jesus is saying if you want to win this game you need to stop trying to be first and become a servant to all.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  Memorial Day is an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May that honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Historians cannot agree where it begun.  Can we agree these men and women were “servants to all”?

Some years back when I was helping the then pastor of the Glen Alpine United Methodist Church, he called me to help him with a funeral.  The man had committed suicide.  I could not work as a minister in the United Methodist Church because I was ordained in another church and I did not have a degree much less a degree in theology.  However, I had something useful in this situation.  I was a person with a psychiatric label who had said so in public while speaking at the church.  I was not afraid to talk to the family about suicide.

I think we have many “servants to all” who have committed suicide who are not honored and will not be remembered this Memorial Day in the same way as other causalities of war.  A man or woman who kills themselves while in service or after being discharged may still be a causality of war.   There are reasons unrelated to military service which causes some of the suicides by our military personnel and veterans, but the vast majority seem to be directly related.  Therefore, I think we should as a society buck-up and take a more realistic view and help the families by honoring them for the service they did and not fixate on what we consider to be an unpardonable sin.

I had not been out of the military long in 1969 when I found myself in a VA hospital on a psychiatric unit.  A man much older than me finally worked his way up through the many hoops to get a weekend pass.  He took his shotgun and killed himself soon after getting home.  We sat for days with them asking, “How does it make you feel?”  No one ever mentioned what he had given for his country.  Our country.  The therapists only wanted to know how it made us feel to know this man had killed himself.  We would not have known he had if they had not told us. I am saying all the years he spent in the military should have meant more than his final act did.

My prayer is that tomorrow you will spend some time as a “servant to all” and this Memorial Day 2014 remember even those service men and women who took their own lives.  They served this country too.


© Ed Cooper, 5/25/14, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved



Thursday, May 22, 2014

THE TRITOMA and the HUMMINGBIRD: a poem by ed


Red Hot Poker in My Yard


You go by many names
     just like me,
          but you are only
               a single plant
just like I only have
     a single body.

They call you
     Red Hot Poker
     Torch Lily
     Tritoma
     Poker Plant
     Kniphofia,
but I know you
     not for your name
          nor for your beauty
but for the joy
     you bring to my soul
          when I look at you
for you are a torch
     that can light
          my inner life.

This morning
     a hummingbird
          came to taste your nectar
and I was there
     as a witness
to this scene of nature
that can only be called
one of the Creator’s greatest.
So for this morn
     I am almost whole
because by whatever name
     the hummingbird
          and the poker plant
have set me free.

For a moment
     we are one
           if never again
for this second while
     with the hummingbird
          and the Tritoma
I am an I.




© Ed Cooper, 5/22/2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

WHERE IS PAIMI? by Patty Cooper


In 1986, the Congress of the United States of America enacted a law that became known as PAIMI.  PAIMI stands for Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness. 

PAIMI is designed and charged with protecting individuals with mental illnesses.  They can also investigate situations that may provide for systemic changes that can make improvements for groups of individuals with mental illnesses.   PAIMI has far reaching powers.  They can investigate and go into nearly every place where a person with mental illness is put.  That means that they can go into jails, prisons, hospitals and other places with the person’s permission, a guardian’s permission, with the permission of a parent in the case of a minor child.

They may also do death investigations without anyone’s permission. 

ANYONE can file a PAIMI report informing PAIMI staff that there may be a situation that they need to investigate.  Then they are charged with doing so.  IF they take the case.  In the last decade, across this country PAIMI has greatly narrowed its focus and seems to have lost its guts in taking hard cases both for individuals and for making systemic change.

I used to be the PAIMI director in Florida, so I know what PAIMI can do and is charged with doing.  I give PAIMI a failing grade.

All of us across the nation can think of horrific situations that happen concerning individuals with mental illnesses.  Just to name a few of them I cite waiting times in hospital emergency rooms for individuals, frequently voluntarily, seeking admission to psychiatric units.  Think of the number of individuals with mental illnesses who are homeless across this country and who are jailed for doing minor things, but they do not have the money to post bail.

In the Miami Herald (Miami/Dade County Florida), Sunday May 18, 2014 there was an article “Behind bars, a brutal and unexplained death.” (Link to Miami Herald Article) The article describes the horrendous death of an inmate Darren Rainey.  According to the article, he was at the Dade Correctional Institution.  He was locked in a small shower stall for defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up.  The hot water was turned on and he was left in that stall to basically cook.

According to other inmates and “sources” for the article, repeated formal complaints have been filed regarding conditions in this facility—to no avail.

The medical examiner’s office has not completed the autopsy; although, Rainey died on June 23, 2012.  Yes, I said 2012.

Now, there may be some of you who think:  Who cares if this guy died?

PAIMI is charged with caring and with investigating the issues surrounding his death, other deaths and conditions in EVERY facility in this country where individuals with mental illnesses are locked away.  
Yet, in this case and in other instances across this nation when one reads about horrific situations such as this there is no mention of PAIMI investigating.  There is no mention of PAIMI hounding the medical examiner’s office, the Department of Corrections, the sheriff’s department or other agencies charged with investigating crimes.


Yes, I said crimes.  How many sadistic individuals work in these institutions and torture individuals under their care?  Many.  But, how often do you hear of anyone who has committed such acts being arrested, tried, convicted and incarcerated for their crimes?  How many times?  Who is looking out for the very individuals the PAIMI law was created for?  Where is PAIMI? 

© Ed Cooper, 5/20/2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved

Sunday, May 18, 2014

World’s Best Known Sermon: Stoney Creek Sermonette No. 2

View Sea of Galilee


The world’s best known preacher has had his most famous sermon read by more people than any other preacher ever to preach a sermon at anytime anywhere in the world.  This sermon has probably been quoted and used as the subject of at least one sermon by every preacher who ever stood before a congregation.  Lines from this sermon can be found in books down through the ages and on the lips of folks of all ages.  Of course, I am speaking of what is referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount” as recorded in the book of Matthew in the New Testament preached by Jesus during His ministry on earth. There is also what is referred to as “The Sermon on the Plain” recorded in the book of Luke (6:17-49).  Some scholars think they are the same sermon just told differently and other scholars consider them taking place on totally different occasions.  I will be using the account in Matthew and I am referring to the “Sermon on the Mount.”

No matter how often this sermon is quoted and how much it is loved, “The Sermon on the Mount” is a problem for every person who ever decided to become a Christian.  For example, the words of what is called the beatitudes may be beautiful, but their meaning makes for a difficult path to follow.  They express succinctly the values on which Jesus placed priority. 

Each beatitude starts with the word blessed which is a state of well-being in which your soul is in a healthy relationship with God.  So 5:9 could read, “All is well with the souls of the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”   The question is where are the peacemakers?

Where are the “poor in spirit” that have recognized deep within themselves that they are spiritually bankrupt without total submission to the will of God?  Are not we all too self-centered to do that?

Where are the “meek”?  Are there people who will not try to advance themselves ahead of others and at the other person’s expense?

Do we as a people show mercy and can you see a pure heart in yourself?  When I look within I do not find a pure heart.

Can we call ourselves a nation of peacemakers?

When was the last time you were persecuted because of your righteous?

Some theologians and some Christians will tell you that the beatitudes were just to describe a moral standard so impossibly high that it is relevant only for a future millennial kingdom. Others have thought its primary purpose was to portray the absoluteness of God’s moral perfection.  They are simply trying to rationalize not having to live up to the moral code Jesus clearly taught.

The sermon Jesus preached/taught on that mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee is the sermon most important to us today.  Yes, the Good News of His death, burial and resurrection is the Gospel to be preached, but the “Sermon on the Mount” tells us how Jesus expects us to live if we are to be followers of Him.  People do not have as much trouble with becoming a believer as living a life as described in the “Sermon on the Mount.”   

Later on in this sermon we find these words.

The Golden Rule
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
(Matthew 7:12-14 ESV)

© Ed Cooper, 5/18/14, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved






Thursday, May 15, 2014

REPAYING the SHEPHERD

You can never give
So much of yourself
That you are no more;
Nor can you give
More than has
Already been
Given for you.

All you can do
Is look around
And hope you can see
What you might do
For a soul
Who needs a friend
Or simply wants
A warm embrace
And a simple place.

You can never repay
The debt you owe,
But by warming
The heart of another
You draw closer
To the Healer of Souls.
So each morning
Give thanks
You have another chance
To serve the Shepherd
By looking for His sheep.

© Ed Cooper, 5/15/14, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I DO NOT PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS

It is no secret among people who know me that I don’t play well with others.  This is not a plea for advice. However, if you feel the need to give me advice please feel free to do so. 

I suppose one of the questions I should try to answer for myself is why I don’t play well with others?  I really have no big insight into that.  Maybe I don’t want to know the answer or maybe there isn't a simple answer.  I could use my psychiatric label as the reason, but to be honest I don’t think it has anything to do with my inability to build meaningful long term relationships.

Before our family went to the mission field in 1960, I had always been the principal's son or the minister’s son.  Other kids do not pick you to play on their team at recess if you are the son of the high school principal or if they know your dad is a minister. On the mission station in Zimbabwe I had friends, but sadly none of them are in my life today.

I can remember going to visit my Uncle Russell’s farm in Ohio.  There was a pond on it.  Daddy tried to swim across it one time and almost drowned.  Uncle Russell and Aunt Mabel were always happy to see us and I was happy to see my cousins.  They moved to Georgia and we went to Africa so I saw little of them again.  I had other family on my mother’s side that we visited often and that I visited after I came home in 1965.  We seldom visited any of my father’s relatives.

Uncle Forrest, who recently passed away, was one of my uncles who opened the doors of his home when I came home.  He was married to my mother’s youngest sister and a big University of Kentucky basketball fan which alone would have made him special to me.  He was also an investigator for the Dayton, Ohio bus lines which made him a detective on top of all the rest.  He could also play ball. He was born in Hardburly which is a small coal town in Eastern Kentucky. This coal town lies at the head of Jake Branch of Trace Fork of Lotts Creek, 3 1/2 miles NW of Hazard.  It was founded by and named for the Hardy Burlington Mining Co. The post office was established on April 17, 1918.



Another home always open to me was my Cousin Al’s parent’s house.  Aunt Ruby and Uncle Otis were always there for me.  When Al and I would go out on the town in Dayton, Ohio, Uncle Otis would stay awake until we came in no matter how late it was.  Sometimes he drove around until he found my car then went back to wait for us to get home.

I would be remiss not to mention the number of hours my Uncle Wallace spent listening to me.  The truth is I probably spent more time with my uncle when I was at their farm than my cousins.  We talked about everything.  I remember going down to the tobacco sales with him once to take a load for sale.  I also remember gigging for frogs with my cousins and Aunt Betty frying them for us.

Why all this thinking back?  Because lately there have been a lot of people pass away and I realized that people I had been very close to at one time are now gone and that we had grown apart before their departing this earth.

Not long ago a cousin of my wife passed away.  At one time Roy Dale and I did something together almost every week.  Then it stopped.  Now he is gone.  One of my best friends in Florida died a few years back.  I went down for her memorial.  I spoke at it.  I spoke about how much she had done for me when I needed it most.  You know I am not sure I ever told her that.  I am not sure I ever said a proper thank you to my Aunts and Uncles or cousins.   I am not sure I have properly told anyone how important they are to me.

Not playing well with others means you will feel alone in a world full of people.  People seem to feel used by me.  They also seem to feel like I have let them down.  Even when I make no promises people seem to feel like I have.  I take the blame, but should I shoulder the shame.

The biggest push in mental health today is community services.  I believe people with lived experience should be in the community.  I am wondering if I am alone in having trouble relating to others in this world.  Do I have a unique problem or do more of my fellow sojourners have the same difficulties as I do?

I have a wonderful wife and a handful of family members who communicate with me, but for the most part I am as isolated as I would be in a state institution.  In the community does not mean a damn thing if I can’t learn how to play well with others so I can build healthy relationships in the community.  Patty cannot do it all.

People in the mental health arena speak of natural supports, but it seems a hard concept to define and an even harder concept to make happen.  We need to learn how to help facilitate a spontaneous support system.  By which I mean resulting from a natural impulse, arising from internal forces or causes, indigenous and produced by a natural process.   Only then can I and my fellow sojourners dream of truly being “in the community.”

© Ed Cooper, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved



    

Sunday, May 11, 2014

LET YOUR CORE SOAR: Stoney Creek Sermonette No.1

Psalm 119:17-24
The Message (MSG)
Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life;
    not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road.
Open my eyes so I can see
    what you show me of your miracle-wonders.
I’m a stranger in these parts;
    give me clear directions.
My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!—
    insatiable for your nourishing commands.
And those who think they know so much,
    ignoring everything you tell them—let them have it!
Don’t let them mock and humiliate me;
     I've been careful to do just what you said.
While bad neighbors maliciously gossip about me,
    I’m absorbed in pondering your wise counsel.
Yes, your sayings on life are what give me delight;
    I listen to them as to good neighbors!

Since this is the day we celebrate our mothers, I guess that should have been the topic of the first Sunday Stoney Creek Sharing.  Instead, I have decided to take on the subject of the birth of our souls rather than the celebration of the person who gave birth to our bodies.  It is our souls that are at the core of our beings and which will live beyond the death of our biological bodies.  As I have said before, you do not have to believe this for it to be a reality.  However, you might want to at least consider the possibility that it is a reality because it is your soul, the core of your being, which determines more about your reality than your mind, body, economic status or social status.

One cannot read the 119th Psalm without coming away knowing our souls long for nourishment from and relationship with our Creator.  This is not just some silly passing notion.  It is a deep felt need in all peoples around the world down through history.  No record of any group of people has ever been found where they did not have some form of way to communicate with the place they thought life came from and went to.  It is a deep seated need. Whatever psychiatry, scientists and academia say about the soul does not change the fact that people feel the need to have their souls fed.

This isn't about heaven or hell.  The point isn't that sin may make you end up in hell one day, but rather that not being in a relationship with the Creator makes your soul sick today which puts your life into a spin cycle that feels like hell.  A healthy soul can bring health to the rest of your life.  I don’t just mean eternal life, but to your outer life right now on earth.  A healthy inner life means a better outer life.  Let your core soar and draw closer to the One who can bring “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7 (NRSV)

© Ed Cooper, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
     All rights reserved









Thursday, May 08, 2014

WEST VIRGINIA WAS SOUL FOOD


View From Hawks Nest Lodge, Hawks Nest State Park, West Virginia




New River Gorge Bridge, Near Fayetteville, West Virginia 




Jumping Off the New River Gorge Bridge in October


New River Above Hinton, West Virginia



My Best Friend and Wife Patty Above Hinton, West Virginia


McKeever Lodge at Pipestem Resort State Park, Pipestem, West Virginia 

Here we went horse back riding, played miniature golf, watched the deer play, went to the dairy Queen on the New River in Hinton, WV, visited Hawks Nest State Park and relaxed in our suite from vacationing too much.  We took the short way home.  It took over twice as long as going up, but we went from Pipestem to Pikeville, KY on the back roads and then down to Jenkins, KY into VA and then to Kingsport, TN. 

This high school is built on reclaimed land that had been strip mined.

  
Mingo Central High School

Before any environmentalists that may be reading this blog get on their high horse about mountain top removal or the coal industry in West Virginia, Eastern KY or SW Virginia, I hope you are reading this blog without using any power from a nonrenewable resource and that you live off the grid not consuming any nonrenewable resources.  I hope your footprint is so light I could not track you on the sand at Panama City Beach, FL.  My point is simple.  It is not the fault of the miners and their families in the heart of Appalachia that the US demands cheap energy and lots of it so get off their backs.  Drive through coal country now and you will see they are paying the price and always have while the entire country has used the cheap resources from the region.

As a boy my father dug coal from a vein near his house for their personal use and coal was strip mined from the farm I owned in Bell County, KY.  We recently sold the remaining acreage we owned in Bell County and as we were leaving Pikeville yesterday Patty just started balling.  The radio was on so I thought it was the song, but it was Route 119 that ran to Pineville, KY.   She was thinking about our farm.  It had been almost 7 years to the day that we moved away from that farm.

This trip was personal.  On Facebook I called it West Virginia, Kentucky Coal Country Trip, but it was much more.  It was food for my soul.  It is and always will be my roots.  The core of Appalachia is my core and somewhere in that core is a piece of coal turning into a diamond.

©  Ed Cooper, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
      All rights reserved

Sunday, May 04, 2014

RUTHLESSLY ELIMINATE HURRY IN YOUR LIFE

As I have said before on this blog, we do not have a mental health system.  We have a mental illness system with people being defined by their supposed illnesses rather than their obvious abilities. In DSM-5 is a list of behaviors and reported occurrences when grouped together is given a name and called an illness. If I tell a mental health professional that I have had periods in my life when I really felt good about myself and had lots of energy and did not need much sleep and that I was easily drawn off course during these periods and maybe a tad irritable. However, I would always have high goals, but some did not turn out so well and these periods of feeling on top of the world were always followed by a drop into the depths of hell I would no doubt be given a diagnosis of bipolar 1 disorder.  None of the statements to the mental health professional have to be true.  The people living with me may know more about the truth, but even they cannot say if I am hearing voices or not.  Psychiatry is not based on science.  Psychiatry is based on the stories told to mental health professionals and what they think they can observe.  Defining mental health and coming up with a “mental health” system based on human rights and the person’s abilities is far from a reality no matter what words they use to describe the system taxpayers are funding.

Healthy soul is as hard to define as mental health.  I have put them together because it is my belief they are closely related, but first let us deal with what a healthy soul is.  Dallas Willard (who died last year at 77) was a Professor in the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.  John Ortberg, Pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, reports that Professor Willard said, “When I die, I think it may be some time before I realize it.”  That may sum it all up. A healthy soul can be defined as a soul so close to the Creator that when the earthly body is shed the soul is not even aware of the change.  The transition is seamless.  Professor Willard gave Pastor Ortberg a hint at how one might be able to start getting their soul in such shape.  Ortberg reports in an interview with Publishers Weekly that Dallas Willard responded when asked how to have a healthy soul by simply saying, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry in your life.”

Healthy soul and mental health go together because we are more than simply a biological being.  We have an eternal living part of us called a soul.  Holistic health only comes when we pay attention to the whole and part of our whole is holy.  You don’t have to believe you have a soul to have a soul.  You simply have one and your soul will live on after you shed the body your soul now dwells in.  Holistic health is a healthy soul, mental health and a healthy biological body.  Will we ever get it right?  Probably not because we always want to emphasis one part of ourselves more than the other.  If you make that mistake, make it in favor of your soul because it lives the longest.

© Ed Cooper, 5/4/14, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

    All rights reserved

David Willard (1935-2013)