Sunday, November 30, 2014

BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT: SCS No. 28


Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 28

(We at Project Dream Again hope these sermonettes bring some measure of peace to your soul and maybe spark a thought you then share with someone else in your life.) 



Scripture Lesson for Today:

Matthew 5:3 (NIV)
 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 6:20 (NIV)
Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.


Sermonette for Today:

Matthew and Luke do not record this saying of Jesus the same.  That is why some people down through the ages have advocated for voluntary poverty as a way of piety.  However, Jesus never says anywhere that being rich is a problem or a sin.  He does say that money can make it harder to get into the Kingdom, but we also know that poverty can destroy lives.  What point was Jesus trying to make?

Instead of trying to decide which one is the most accurate let us agree that maybe Jesus said them both.  Jesus would be telling us that there is nothing immoral about being poor and at the same time telling us that putting our all faith in God is a good thing.

Psalm 69:32 (NIV)
The poor will see and be glad—
    you who seek God, may your hearts live!

Psalm 34:6 (NIV)
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.

If we humble ourselves before the Lord it does not matter if we are rich or poor we are all one before Him.  We need to act as if this is the truth that is in our hearts.


Prayer for Today:

Our Heavenly Father, May we learn to look at the poor as your children and to begin to see them as our brothers and sisters. Help us to learn how to witness to our loved ones and to the people we know and who we come in contact with in our daily lives. Amen.



© Ed Cooper, November 30, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved





Sunday, November 23, 2014

THANKFULNESS: SCS No. 27



Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 27

(We at Project Dream Again hope these sermonettes bring some measure of peace to your soul and maybe spark a thought you then share with someone else in your life. Stoney Creek Sermonettes are not meant to replace your participation in a faith community.) 



Scripture Lesson for Today: Colossians 2:6-15 (NIV)

Spiritual Fullness in Christ

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,
7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,
10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.
11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,
12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Sermonette for Today:

I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  My surgery went well and I am healing.  I saw my 66th birthday come and go this past week which only God knows the full story of how much of a miracle that was.  However, our Scriptures for today tells about what I am most thankful for which is what I have received from being rooted in my Savior.

I am not going to try to tell you I am a perfect Christian or even close.  I struggle each day to live closer to the example Jesus set while He was on earth.  I miss the mark by a universe, but He always finds me out there somewhere and brings me home.

I am safe because He “disarmed the powers” and forgave my sins and by God’s grace I will remain safe as long as I remain true to Him.

Read the Scripture lesson for today closely.  Read it each day until Thanksgiving and then on Thanksgiving read it with your family.  It may be the blessing to you that it is to me.    

Prayer for Today:

Our Heavenly Father, May we learn to live lives that honor You. Help us to learn how to witness to our loved ones and to the people we know and who we come in contact with in our daily lives. Amen.



© Ed Cooper, November 23, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved





Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NOW I AM TELLING YOU


I told my surgeon last Friday and I told my psychiatrist yesterday and now I am telling you.  It is more than just the mental health system that needs to be made aware of trauma informed care.

When I was in the military I was transported in a straitjacket from the Memphis Naval Hospital to the psychiatric unit at the hospital at Fort Gordon, Georgia.  It was not a direct flight and I was in the straitjacket for more than 24 hours.  That is not the only type of restraint that has been used on me in my multiple hospitalizations over the 50 plus years I have had a psychiatric label.  Restraints cause lasting trauma among other things.

When I was taken into the operating room the other day, they started strapping me down for surgery without saying a word or explaining a damn thing.  Terror struck like a bolt of lightning from the sky.  One person was talking on a cell phone and the others were talking to each other.

Then I heard a calming voice.  My surgeon spoke to me.  He asked all of them if they had everything they needed and if they were ready.  Then the oddest thing happened.  The surgeon said, “Amen.”  They all joined him.  I went off to sleep, but I woke still remembering the terror.

I remember it still.  It comes in the night with the other nightmares.  Trauma informed care needs to extend to all providers of care and to anybody who cares at all.

© Ed Cooper, November 18, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

    All rights reserved

Sunday, November 16, 2014

DO NOT LET ANOTHER DAY PASS: SCS No. 26


Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 26

(We at Project Dream Again hope these sermonettes bring some measure of peace to your soul and maybe spark a thought you then share with someone else in your life. Stoney Creek Sermonettes are not meant to replace your participation in a faith community.) 



Scripture Lesson for Today: John 3:16 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Sermonette for Today:

Today’s scripture lesson is probably the most quoted and memorized verse in the Bible.  The problem is that the majority of the world either does not know about it because they have not been told or have not responded to the Good News found in it.

I called the message today DO NOT LET ANOTHER DAY PASS because I think it is important that everyone has a chance to hear and understand the meaning of this verse.  All believers are ministers of the Good News (gospel).  We all are called to tell others.

The paid staff of the church cannot reach the people who can be reached by the masses of believers across the world.  The Good News can transform an individual life and by doing so can transform the world.

The Good News is not just about getting people saved, although that certainly is an important goal, it is also about making people’s lives better right now. 

Acts 4:31 (NIV) 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

Some want to say the Holy Spirit lost His/Her power when the Apostles died.  Don’t let anyone get you on that path.  God is not dead. Jesus broke the bonds of death and hell.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with believers until He returned.  That is why if you help someone come to Jesus their life will change in an instant and be better from then on.

Tell those you love the Good News.  Do not let another day pass without sharing what Jesus means to you with someone.

Prayer for Today:

Our Heavenly Father, May we learn to live lives that honor You. Help us to learn how to witness to our loved ones and to the people we know and who we come in contact with in our daily lives. Amen.



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


Thursday, November 13, 2014

LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO ED


(Any terms or abbreviations you are not familiar with please look up.  Explaining each one would make this blog entry way too long.)

The fight for grassroots participatory decision making in the mental health delivery system has never really begun.  Persons with lived experience (I prefer the term folks with psychiatric labels) get put on boards or committees in token numbers and only then if they can act “chronically normal” during the meetings.  I have been around this thing called advocacy since 1988 and I have yet to see a real grassroots participatory decision making process take place.  If you know of one please let me know.

I suppose the first thing you should know about me is that I believe that Jesus is a real historical figure and further that He is who He claimed to be.  I agree with C.S. Lewis that it is absurd to call Jesus simply a good moral teacher among many.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”  C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Next you should know I am married to the most wonderful woman I can imagine.  However, the important thing for you to know here is that she has been an advocate all of her adult life.  The range of her advocacy at times amazes me.  It encompasses education, housing, poverty, mental health and others too numerous to name.  She has worked through Highlander Center, been the monitor for a federal lawsuit at South Florida State Hospital and Director of PAIMI for the state of Florida.  She is also a published author.  The great thing she is my mentor in advocacy.

I started in the ministry as a teenager when I was on the mission field with my parents in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia).  I held my first church here in the states before going into the Army in 1967.  I was ordained shortly after coming out of the military after a two year tour of duty as an Army medic.  I remain the Chaplain at Project Dream Again were I am also the Director and Founder.

I have the following DSM-5 labels.  Bipolar I Disorder, PTSD, DID

When I worked more directly as a system advocate than I do now, my work was basically confined to Broward County, FL.  I did not try to go statewide or national.  The only national thing I ever did was to co-chair the religious outreach network for NAMI back in the early 90’s.  I believed I could be more effective working on the local level.  I will not go into my successes and failures, but I am proud of the work I did in Broward County.

I hold some very strong beliefs that get me in trouble on occasion.  Add that to the fact that I have a strong personality that people seem to either like or hate and you have a mix that can leave destruction behind me.  It can also build.

I do not believe the state or any other entity for any reason including the threat of suicide has the right to lock away and force their will on another person and call it treatment or call it anything else unless that person has committed a crime that is a crime and not just a law created for the purposes of locking away persons they label.

I believe that systems of care need to be conceived, operated and monitored by a process that is grassroots participatory.  Let me give you a concrete example.  Each Veterans hospital needs to have a board that is made up of at least 51% of persons receiving services at that hospital.  It needs to have a human rights committee made up of at least 51% persons receiving services there.  It needs independent advocates at the hospital employed by a nonprofit run by persons receiving services there.  You get the idea?

Project Dream Again would like to see a conference to discuss two big issues. 
1) Spirituality and the Reductionist Biological Theories
2) How to Implement Grassroots Participatory Decision Making in the Mental Health System. 

I am not optimistic the conferences will happen because those subjects are not in the interest of anyone but those of us with psychiatric labels who want more control over our lives.

Ed Cooper, Director& Chaplain
Project Dream Again (Est. 1988)
© Ed Cooper, November 13, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

THOUGHTS ON DAN FISHER’S PROPOSAL

                                 Carl Ransom Rogers (1902-1987) father of person-centered

Dan Fisher made a proposal for a bold new campaign to give voice to persons with lived experience.  I would like to make a few comments on what he had to say.  He had five main points and I will address each one in order.

1) The idea of protecting our human rights is certainly a good cause, but I wonder what kind of agreement we would come up with or what is meant by that broad terminology?  Does Dan mean we will fight to deny the state the right to lock a person up because the state declares them to be suicidal? That is just one example of what may separate persons with lived experience when the discussion gets beyond saying “protecting human rights” and down to defining what those rights are concerning people with a psychiatric label.

2) Funding is an issue that we also may not all agree on.  I am not sure all of us think as highly of the “peer-run policy and support organizations” as Dan Fisher does.  I know many persons with lived experience who have never heard of them.

3) Why would we want SAMHSA directing all of the funding for recovery and peer support programs across the country in each state?

4) & 5) These are wonderful statements, but I am not sure how Dan thinks we will “increase public knowledge” or that there will be a “transformation” of the system? Also, has meeting with other disability groups produced any results for us?

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ADA is a wonderful idea for those folks who think it produced something positive for them.

I would like to see the “peer-run policy and support organizations” go to Asheville, North Carolina and study under the folks at the Center for Participatory Change and then visit the Dallas Willard Center for Christian Spiritual Formation, part of the Martin Institute for Christianity and Culture at Westmont College.

We need a policy platform that was derived from a true grassroots participatory process and our leaders need to be well grounded in what being human means so they can communicate that into policy language.  So called person-centered materials still do not adequately cover the spirituality of the person.  Hopefully then there would be a chance to have a transformation in the delivery system that would be designed by the people who wanted the systems help and that system would respond in a wholistic way. 

Ed Cooper, Director and Chaplain
Project Dream Again (est. 1988)

© Ed Cooper, November 11, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved


Sunday, November 09, 2014

CAN YOU KNOW "THE UNKNOWN GOD"?: SCS No. 25


Stoney Creek Sermonette: Number 25

(We at Project Dream Again hope these sermonettes bring some measure of peace to your soul and maybe spark a thought you then share with someone else in your life. Stoney Creek Sermonettes are not meant to replace your participation in a faith community.) 



Scripture Lesson for Today: Acts 17:16-34 (NIV)

In Athens

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

Sermonette for Today:

To me this is one of the most interesting stories about Paul in the book of Acts.  Not just because I stood in Greece with my parents in 1964 where this supposedly took place, but because it is an extraordinary account of an unusual encounter with a group of people unlike the people Paul usually engaged with.

Paul and Silas had been forced to leave Thessalonica the capital of Macedonia and they fled to Berea some 50 miles away where again Paul was forced to flee.  Paul went to Athens a distance of 222 miles.  The record in Acts does not say whether he went by ship or road.  Each time Paul had been forced to leave because he was preaching the gospel and the resurrection which infuriated the leaders in the cities.

In Athens he found a group who loved to talk and exchange ideas.  Paul took this as an opportunity to preach a gospel message and to tell them about the risen Savior.

As you can see in the scripture lesson Paul did not have 100% success, but he did have some people become believers including a woman who was important enough that the author of Acts gave us her name.

Paul says we can find God, but can we know God? 

John 17:3 (NIV)

3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

I think it is clear that we can know God and Jesus because it is eternal life.  There are many more scriptures pointing to knowing/relationship with the Father/Son.  Becoming Christ like or Soul Formation is not an easy task.  Learning to live a life that reflects a faith/relationship with Jesus and an indwelling of the Holy Spirit is more than just words.

We can come to know God and we can become intimate with Him if we are willing to submit to His will.  I/me (by which I mean being totally self-centered and self-absorbed) must become “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) In other words you must totally surrender yourself to the Creator.  One would be well to remember the honeymoon will be short and the union will be hard work, but Jesus says in Matthew 11:30 (NIV) “30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


Prayer for Today:

Our Heavenly Father, May we learn to live lives that honor You as You honored us by sending Your Son to live among us. It is in Your Son’s name we pray this prayer. Amen.



© Ed Cooper, November 9 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee

    All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

ANTON T. BOISEN: A Forgotten and Committed Advocate

Anton T. Boisen 1916

You will not find Anton T. Boisen (1876-1965) on most lists honoring the lived experience advocates of years past.  I use the term “lived experience” rather than patient, client, consumer, consumer/survivor/ex-patient, peer or persons with a psychiatric label because it has absolutely no meaning whatsoever.  Everyone has lived experience.  Rev. Anton Boisen had experience with being given a psychiatric label and he also had experience advocating and working with others who had a psychiatric label.  He is regarded as the founder of Clinical Pastoral Education and was so honored on the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. by ACPE publishing a Boisen reader edited by Glenn H. Asquith in 1992 titled Vision From A Little Known Country.

Rev. Boisen started his work at Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts. He was the chaplain there and got the administration to agree to let him bring theological students there and train them in what he called “reading living human documents.”  Boisen had a strong belief in the fact that much could be learned by listening to those of us with labels. This work at the hospital began in 1925.  At the time Boisen was chaplain at Worcester there were 2,200 folks being held there.  In 1932 when he became chaplain at the State Hospital at Elgin, in Illinois they had 3,600 folks there.

Rev. Boisen had two main objectives with his program of bringing theological students to the hospitals.  He wanted to get seminaries to incorporate clinical training into their curriculum for all students studying for the ministry and he wanted them to see the profound association between those with a psychiatric label and people who are suffering spiritual traumas.  Boisen believed saying you were hearing God did not necessarily mean you were having auditory hallucinations.  He also did not believe every breakdown was a biological disorder.  He thought some of them were caused by traumas including spiritual warfare. 

He was hospitalized more than once and was accused by some of only doing this work to find out more about his own troubles.  I have heard the same accusations and I am sure he was as hurt by them as I have been.  He believed above all else in making sure the whole person was seen and responded to.  He wanted to hear all he could from the person and every other place he could get information. 

In my dream world, I would have put Rev. Boisen, Carl Rogers and Alice Miller working together under the direct hand of Jesus.  People would now have a true definition of person-centered because they would know what a person is.  You can’t have person-centered until you stop measuring and labeling folks like they are one dimensional.  A person is so complex you can never figure yourself out, but folks pretend they can figure out what is good for someone else.  I have yet to see a person-centered system only the words on paper. 

Rev. Boisen tried to get folks to see people.  He is mostly forgotten, but I bet the people he truly saw in those hospitals are gathered around him now still telling their stories because he would still be listening trying to learn more.


© Ed Cooper, November 4, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved


Sunday, November 02, 2014

WE DON'T OWN OUR WORLD



You may think
     you own your world,
but I have a word for you
     beware what might come.

I was on top of the mountain
     when struck down to my knees
by a disease coming out of the blue
     and turning the skies dark as night.

Maybe this moment you should stop
     and notice who is beside you
and embrace that person with your realness
     because we don't own our world.


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