Sunday, June 29, 2014

I and the FATHER are ONE: SCS No. 8



John 10:30
English Standard Version (ESV)
30 I and the Father are one.”

For most people this simple statement is confounding. Does Jesus mean that He is the same as God the Creator or does He mean He is one with God?  Did He really mean only that He was one with God in purpose, spirit, and motive while being united with Him in intention?  After all, how could the Creator be confined to a human body?

Some argue strongly for the second explanation. However, if that were the case then why did His hearers consider that simple sentence to be blasphemous?  The people present at the time He spoke that sentence and others living when Jesus did and heard Him say and do other things thought He had on more than one occasion claimed some sort of divinity. I don’t think He meant He just had a relationship with God.

The three in one or the Trinity has been a problem for folks down through the ages.  In fact this saying of Jesus has been troubling thinking people for over 2000 years.  I guess I don’t have the trouble with it that some of you “chronically normal” people do because I have had more than one person in my body for over 60 years.  [I gave people without a psychiatric label the label “chronically normal” because we were for years called the chronically mentally ill.] {When I speak of people I am speaking of have a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder}

If you never understand the relationship between Jesus and God, try putting these four great spiritual principals from Alcoholics Anonymous into practice.

1) The humility to admit you need help and being willing to accept it.
2) Recognizing a Power greater than you.
3) Being willing to change your personality with God’s help.
4) Being willing to share your victory with others so they might win also.

These four spiritual principals are in my words, but I think they are true to the spirit of AA.  I know they are true to finding a way to build a life of recovery no matter what the problem.  I know they are soul forming principals and a pathway to your dreams and to a real relationship with the Creator.


© Ed Cooper, June 29, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

THE STAGES OF AGING BY ED



1) I will be glad when __________.

2) Grownups are dumb.

3) This was more fun when___________.

4) The world is going to hell in a hand basket.

5) I wish I was already gone except for ___________.



This is a short list and I have not filled in all the blanks.  I hate it when people try to define the stages of how someone else grows or grieves or does anything.  My point here is that I found myself saying things I heard other people say when I was younger and knew I was getting to be an old man.

Number five may be the most important one.  Patty and I are fast approaching the day that we have been together for 25 years.  I have been suicidal off and on for over 60 years and on days still wish I had already left this world except for the fact I still what to be with my wife.  The “except” in my life has been powerful enough to keep a very suicidal person alive 25 more years.  It is the “except” that I am asking you to think about or look for whichever the case may be.  It is the “except” that can make your life exceptional and make you want to live each day fuller.

© Ed Cooper, June 26, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee  

     All rights reserved  
   

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

THEATRE OF THE THICKET: A poem by ed



You may have a ticket
to a Broadway show,
but I would rather go
watch the going-ons
in the
Theatre of the Thicket
where the wild flowers grow
and the birds fly to rest
while the animals
hide and or play.  

You will not get
a program
to tell you
what is to come,
but be sure of this
the Theatre of the Thicket
has never gotten
a bad review
because its Author
is The Perfect Writer
and will write
on your soul
while you’re there.  

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


Sunday, June 22, 2014

ON THE PEW BESIDE YOU :SCS No. 7


Stoney Creek Sermonette No. 7
"Christian churches and churches of Christ trace their modern origins to the early 19th-century American frontier, a period of militancy among denominations. America’s pioneers brought their deeply rooted religious convictions to the new land and perpetuated their old animosities. Presbyterian squared off against Anglican who defended himself against Baptist who had no toleration for Lutheran. A reaction to this mutual animosity was inevitable."  LeRoy Lawson © Christian Standard, December 1, 2002.  

The Christian Church/Churches of Christ were given birth from disunity while saying they wanted unity.  They fought among themselves and ended up in more than three distinct groupings.  Today there seems to be even more division in what became known as the restoration movement.    

It still remains the hope of Project Dream Again to bring the need to be embraced and our dreams for community to the attention of these churches as well as other faith communities.  I have made a promise to make a special effort this year to reach more of the churches from the restoration movement.  

I grew up in this church and as a teen lived on one of their biggest mission stations in Zimbabwe.  Maskoko Mission and its hospital at one time had the attention of a large portion of our brotherhood.  What has never had the attention of our churches are those of us with a psychiatric label.  Honestly, I have never really felt welcome in any church once I revealed my psychiatric label.    

Christian Churches Disability Ministry and Dr. Jim Pierson has done wonderful work, but people with a psychiatric diagnosis have not been included in this ministry to my knowledge.  That is not a reflection on the ministry, but I am simply pointing out that they serve a different population of folks in case you thought they were serving us.
  
There are denominations like the Presbyterian Church (USA) that have done a lot on the national and local level.  They have even produced some great materials, but when I was moving to a small town close to Morganton, NC a few years ago I contacted the minister at the PCUSA church in Morganton and he had never heard of any of their materials or the resolutions that had been passed.   I would be remiss not to mention the Mennonites who worked in mental hospitals during World War II and still have a major outreach to us.  There are many other denominations and individual churches doing great work, but the majority of us have no faith community to call home.  

It is time the church I grew up in and other faith communities started embracing folks like me and becoming the leader in how to help us to feel welcome and to feel like we have a place to belong.  They need to make sure we have a safe sanctuary in their sanctuary on a pew beside them.

© Ed Cooper, 6/18/2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee     
    All rights reserved

Thursday, June 19, 2014

THE UNWINNABLE WAR

Blue Ed by Ed Cooper


I knew I could control
the whole world
if I could only get
this mind of mine
to slow so I might
organize just a few
of the many thoughts
running amuck
in a mind uncontrolled
by me or mine.  

It is like climbing
a ladder that has
been placed in mud,
and as you step
onto the next rung
the ladder sinks
two rungs deeper
into the dark mud
eventually leaving you
nowhere to step. 

You cannot see
the turmoil in my mind,
and the battles
of the war
I will not win;
so plead for my freedom
to let the war rage
on the street if need be
rather than on your ward
locked away all safe and neat.

My freedom is all
that keeps me hoping
the war will end
and I will still be me
free to think again
and live among
those I love
and who love me
without the war
I cannot win.          

© Ed Cooper, June 18, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

GETTING THE HOLY INTO HOLISTIC

Cleveland Clinic has a Center for Integrative Medicine with an aim of increasing the wellness of its patients by doing more than attacking the illness.  They offer something they call holistic psychotherapy.

Holistic psychotherapy services include traditional talk psychotherapy and non-traditional therapies including hypnosis, heart-centered hypnotherapy/regression therapy, breath therapy, rebirthing breath and guided imagery. Holistic psychotherapy is only delivered by a clinician with a license in clinical social work, clinical counseling, or psychology and certification in advanced clinical hypnotherapy.”  (From Cleveland Clinic’s website)

Wake Forest Baptist Health also has a Center for Integrative Medicine. It describes it this way on its website.

Integrative Medicine is evidence-based, relationship-centered care, promoting optimal health. It is a system of comprehensive care that emphasizes wellness and healing of the whole person, with special emphasis on patient and family participation, and attention to mental and spiritual health. The knowledge and use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is an important aspect of Integrative Medicine. Integrated Medicine uses the best of both conventional and complementary strategies to attain patients' health goals.   

The problem is not that integrative or holistic medicine is not moving into mainstream institutions, but rather what they mean by integrative or holistic.  When I first saw someone other than myself use the word bio-psycho-social-spiritual, I thought we were headed down the right road.  However, I was not smart enough to think about all the definitions that could be used for all four parts of the word. 

Ask yourself why Cleveland Clinic started its Center for Integrative Medicine.  Was it because the corporation had some giant philosophical awakening or was it to stop the loss of patients to alternative medical businesses? Holistic psychotherapy?  When on earth were they not supposed to be looking at the whole person?

When I say I what to see holy in holistic, I simply mean I want to see the medical community and psychiatry, which I am not sure belongs in the medical community, start to recognize the possibility that a person’s faith may go further than a simple placebo effect because the person is connected by faith to a real spiritual force we call God.


People having an eternal soul is not what most of this emerging trend in integrative medicine is about. Until they put that real piece in, they are just building another fad on sand and the ocean will wash their sand castle away when the next tide comes in.  

© Ed Cooper, June 17, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee    
    All rights reserved    

Sunday, June 15, 2014

FATHER'S DAY: Stoney Creek Sermonette No. 6



This is almost too hard to write.  I lost my daughter in a divorce years ago and I have never been able to win her heart back again.  I  have lost other children I helped raise, but was never allowed to adopt.  

I lost a step grandson who died years ago under circumstances God needs to explain and I lost a step grandson named after me because I divorced the mother of the mother.   My heart is broken beyond repair.


My father is gone.  I miss being able to discuss theology and religion with him.  To again talk with him about education.  I miss being able to ask him about how eastern Kentucky was when he grew up there in the early 1900's.  The phone no longer reaches him.  I can't just get in my car and drive down I-85 to College Park, Georgia to see him.


I have been a failure as a father.  I failed my own daughter.  I failed the children I helped raise.  I have failed to be the example I should have been to my present wife's children and grandchildren. I failed.


This is not poor Ed.  This is telling you straight out that you had best learn what is important.   Your most important job on this earth is to form the best relationship you can with the Creator. Your second most important job is to learn how to become a great dad and husband and to learn how to build an embracing family.  To create a democratic family where everyone feels valued as fully human.


Some people think that a Christian family means one where the man bosses everyone around.  If you can clearly hear and listen closely when Jesus talks about children, you will know how to treat your children.  You will know the respect they deserve and what I mean by a democratic family.   


© Ed Cooper, June 16, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved

Matthew 18:2-4  Authorized (King James) Version 

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Mr. Howard Franklin Patty's Father
Lester Cooper My Father with Mom

Grandpa Tutt with Grandma

Friday, June 13, 2014

I WAITED TOO LONG: fiction by ed cooper




We had just finished the last of the renovations to the little white house on the farm we had bought on a creek in eastern Kentucky to get away from the crowds in south Florida.  It had been a long process that seemed to take forever, but now things were getting back to a normal routine.  I loved living back in the state of my birth and I did not leave the farm for days at a time.  We were considered outsiders on the creek and would be no matter how long we lived there because we were not born there.

“You know there are lots of liberal advocates who talk about no forced treatment, but when I’m manic they would run for the hills,” I said to my wife with a grin on my face.  We were sitting at our small eating table drinking coffee as we did each morning.  I had just come back in from having a cigarette.  I don’t smoke in the house or in our vehicles.  I am not sure why the subject was on my mind, but as was common she went along with whatever subject I brought up.

“You’re probably right.  I can’t.”

“You sure can’t.  None of my family has been able to and when we tried to set up a network of friends to help they ended up trying to get me involuntarily committed.  So much for peer support!”

“You are too much for one person,” she said looking me straight in the eyes I guess to see how I was going to react.

We did not give her the satisfaction of any kind of response from any of us.  We all just looked back at her with the least amount of expression we could produce.  It is hard when you have to share a body to get everybody to agree not to respond when you feel attacked.  She was simply stating a fact Ed said, but some of us were not so sure.  We all did not love her like Ed did.

“You are not going to say anything?”

“What is there to say? You have expressed what you think.  Do you want me to simply agree?”

“Are you saying I am wrong?”

“No.  I am saying you hurt our feelings.”

“Are we back to that?  Ed, I thought you had stopped using plural pronouns when referring to yourself.”  The look on her face told the whole story.

“I can’t because it would be a lie.  I guess the truth is that only Jesus has enough energy and love to hang with a bipolar DID.” *

“Don’t put me down.  I have stayed by your side.”

“How about we stop here before we hurt each other with this conversation?”

“Fine.  You never want to finish any conversation unless you're high and then you don’t stop talking,” she said as she walked off into another part of the house.

I felt worse than before the conversation had begun and I am sure she did too.  I did not feel like trying to fix the situation so the day went by with it just hanging in the air like the humidity before a storm.  I am not sure I could have fixed it, but the fact I didn’t want to said more than the problem did.  I went instead to the creek on the property.  They had just started stocking trout in it again after years of not doing so because of the strip mining that had been done upstream.  Needless to say, I did not have any luck fishing.  To catch trout you have to have your mind in the game.

Why did I not want to fix it?  I ask myself this question several times during the day.  Finally, I decided to go look for her and try to straighten things out.  I found her in our bedroom.  She was lying on the bed on top of the covers in her clothes.  Her eyes were open staring at the ceiling.  She was not breathing.  I had waited too long.

Only Jesus can hang when I am high, but only the one I lost could hold me close at night when the nightmares woke me.  Why did I wait too long?

*DID is the acronym for Dissociative Identity Disorder formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.

© Ed Cooper, June 12, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee     
    All rights reserved 


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A WKU Professor Who Wrote Soul Food


Jim Wayne Miller (October 21, 1936 – August 18, 1996) taught at Western Kentucky University for thirty-three years.  He was a graduate of Berea College and earned a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in German and American Literature.  One would not think that this highly educated man would become one of the most honored poets in the genre of Appalachian poetry, but that is exactly what happened. 

Jim Wayne Miller, on his poetry:
 “Good poetry will deal with ordinary things...and still manage to evoke a sense of wonder, of the miraculous."  http://jimwaynemiller.net/index.html

The reason I say his poetry is soul food is because he wrote with a direct meaning that also had a bigger meaning.  His poetry is much like the parables found in the Gospels or the stories passed down from our ancestors.  They may be simple, but when we look deeper there is a greater meaning to them.  You can find a sample of his poetry at the link above.

Every day that goes by those of us with a psychiatric label seem to be losing a little more of our freedoms.  We are treated less like we are fully human and more like we are something to be feared and shunned.  That means we need all the soul food we can find.

Where a person finds something to feed their inner being is different for each one of us.  I was delighted when I found Jim Wayne Miller and his straight forward poetry.  He was from North Carolina where I had lived for many years on two different occasions.  He went to Berea College where my father and mother and both my sisters attended. He did his graduate work at Vanderbilt where James Still and Robert Penn Warren had gone.  He taught where one of my nieces and her husband had graduated from.  Most important his poetry was about real down to earth things.

Some lines from a poem of his.
 (from Brier Sermon-"You Must be Born Again." )

I'm telling you, every day you're leaving
a place you won't be coming back to ever.
What are you going to leave behind?
What are you taking with you?
Don't run off and leave the best part of yourself.

from The Mountains Have Come Closer, 1980 ©

That last line hit me hard.  How many times do we run from the best part of ourselves to become what others want us to be rather than being ourselves?
     

© Ed Cooper, June 10, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee,  All rights reserved 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

THE GOSPELS and GHOST STORIES: Stoney Creek Sermonette No. 5



People who are from the heart of Appalachia or their hearts have been touched by Appalachia know that along with a deep respect for family comes a tradition of telling stories and legends that some would say were of a supernatural nature or ghost stories and legends.  It is an art form to be able to tell one of these stories well.  An art form mostly lost and never to be regained.

The same people from whom these old stories came also had a deep respect for their faith.  They believed the Gospel stories without any reservations.  They did not sit around discussing if the miracles Jesus performed were true.  They simply believed.  A dimension beyond the valley and mountains they could see was not something hard for them to imagine because they were raised on stories that included happenings not of an ordinary day.

Today, we are so sure of what we know that most of us believe that there is nothing knowable beyond what our conscious brains can know.  We think the Gospels stories like the old stories of Appalachia are simply tales of amusement.  We think we have become smarter and have more knowledge than all the people who lived before us.

It is true that science has produced great knowledge which has been put to desirable uses.  However, when they wanted to keep the invasive Canada Blackberry plants from ruining the natural “baldness” of Roan Mountain, TN they turned to goats. http://baatany.org/

The Gospels are not about your head.  They are about your heart.  They are about your soul.  They are about a world that hard science cannot either explain or explain away.  The Gospels are about how to live a life in harmony with your own heart because you have given your soul away to serve others as the Man in the Gospels did.  As long as we remain selfish and demand that all the love be directed towards ourselves, then we will remain soulless and wandering in the wilderness of loneliness in a crowded world.

Only when we decide to give our soul away to the One who gave it to us in the first place can we find the joy it takes to face the darkness until sunrise.  When the sun comes up there will be peace in our souls and harmony in our hearts.  How do I know?  Because that is the promise in the Story and I believe the Story.


© Ed Cooper, June 8, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee All rights reserved  

Thursday, June 05, 2014

THEY MAKE FORCED TREATMENT SOUND SANE

If you have been paying attention to the major media outlets over the past few months, you may have concluded that the only way to keep yourself and your family safe is to support those calling for more money to be put into the present mental health system for more forced treatment.  The people quoted make forced treatment sound sane.  However; there are a few problems with the arguments they are making.

1) The fundamental rights of the person are being denied and the state takes on the role of a parent or guardian.  I am not a lawyer so I cannot explain this to you in legal terms, but in straight language your personhood is denied and the government becomes you.  When they locked me away I was no longer Ed, I was the property of the state.

2) The medical science used by mental health professionals to get some sort of court to commit you to a hospital is based on what most scientists would deny was real science.  No other medical specialty uses only what a person can tell them to make a diagnosis, but because there is not a single physical test to verify any of psychiatry’s labels they have only their patient’s words and presentation to decide which label found in DSM-5 they are going to give them.

3) Even if you agree there is a psychiatric disorder such as bipolar, how have you helped the person by taking away their identity and making them mere property of the state?  If you think that is a sane way to begin a healing process, then you have never faced any problem in your life.  Imagine the worse time in your life and then imagine someone coming into your home and taking you away to a locked ward where they took your clothes and all your personal possessions.  Do you think it would have helped you get over the worst time in your life?

4) Because no one can accurately predict when a person is going to be violent, locking people up that some professional decides needs to become the property of the state will never make you safe.  Read the previous sentence again because it is the most important sentence in this blog entry.

I do not believe in forced or coerced treatment under any circumstances.  Unless a person has committed a crime I do not think the state has the right to put them behind locked doors.  I don’t think the state has a right to make laws allowing them to lock me up because they think I might kill myself.  I am not the property of the state.  My body is not the property of the state.

To be sure, no forced or coerced treatment becomes more of an issue when I get manic which is why for most of my life I have always hit the road before anyone could lock me away.  The road trips were costly in more ways than one.  I should not have had to run.  I should have had a safe haven to run towards.  Maybe the church needs to become a safe haven for us. Isn’t there a tradition of the church being a safe haven?
 James O'Kelley's Chapel 

© Ed Cooper, 6/5/2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee 
    All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

WHY WE NEED FAITH COMMUNITIES

Everyone does not have a Patty.  You have seen this statement before on this blog, but it is important enough to write again.  People with lived experience or consumers or people with psychiatric labels need a place to be.  I don’t really care what you call me just don’t call me late for supper as the old saying goes.  I get tired of the fight over what to call those of us suffering from the pain of what the medical community has labeled as mental illnesses.  I have grown even wearier of waiting on faith communities to really get into the act of reaching out and embracing us and our families.

Over twenty-five years ago I learned of an organization called Pathway to Promise. They have been trying ever since to raise the awareness of the need and to produce materials to help.  There are other organizations working hard at this same thing, but the stigma has not been reduced and the embrace has not greatly increased.  Some blame it on the mass killings, but I am not that easy on faith communities.

The church was given birth by the violence of the cross, but the resurrection brought the light of love to the early church.  Violence is not a reason to run away from a group of people, but rather the very reason to run towards them.  After her husband Jim Elliot and four others were killed doing mission work in Ecuador on January 8, 1956, Elisabeth Elliot decided to continue her husband’s work among the people who murdered him.  Be very clear; I am not saying mentally ill people are dangerous or even that the mass killings were caused by any form of mental illness, but I am saying the church should not and cannot use dangerousness as an excuse for its lack of ministry to us.
Jim Elliot

We don’t need special programs. We need special people willing to embrace us and welcome us into their community.  We need a place to be.  If you are alone and isolated in the community it is no better than being in a hospital.  Why do we need faith communities?  Because they are suppose to be the place one can find people most like Jesus who said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?   You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

How great it would be to be fully embraced in a community where they were not judging your ever misstep. We need that.

© Ed Cooper, 6/3/2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved

Sunday, June 01, 2014

WHEN GOD SEEMS FAR AWAY: Stoney Creek Sermonette No.4

THEY DON"T LOOK HAPPY WITH EACH OTHER

You have most likely heard someone use the old story about a couple in a car sitting as far apart as they can get when one of them says, “When we were just dating we used to sit so close to each other people thought we were a two-headed monster in the car. What has happened to us?”  The other replies: “Who moved?”

That is the question we need to ask ourselves when God seems far away.  Who moved?

Hebrews 10:21-23
New International Version (NIV)
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

We can be sure God is faithful, but does He* move away and leave us in darkness to test us or to build our faith?  A nineteenth century writer, Frederick Faber wrote, “In the spiritual life God chooses to try our patience first of all by His slowness.”  When God seems not to be there, He may be on His eternal time while we are on our 24 hour clock.  Think about it for a moment.  God has been forever and will be forever.  We think He must be gone from our lives if He does not do what we want the second we want it.  He may not be doing our will, but you can be sure that He is riding in the car with you and His love for you has not changed from the beginning of time into eternity.  You were created to be loved.  Let me repeat that.  You were created to be loved.

It is true that you can pull away from God and let sin take over your life.  The other side of that coin is that God awaits your return.  Not when you have become perfect, but when you have again recognized how much you are loved and have decided you are again ready to return that love.  God loves us and wants us to love Him.

The journey with God is not a road without bumps.  Sit closer to Him and you will not notice the bumps as much because you will have your attention taken up by the one you love and who loves you.  The road will seem smoother and your soul will be soothed.  The people around you will envy your new found peace.  When they ask you about it, share your story.  Stories are the stairway to the stars beyond which the heavenly city is built.

* I am aware that God does not have a gender.  The masculine pronouns I use throughout this blog referring to God is simply for my convenience. 

© Ed Cooper, 6/1/14, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

    All Rights Reserved