Saturday, June 27, 2009

Prayer for Healthcare Justice

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. – Deuteronomy 15:7-8 (NRSV)


Please join me in praying that President Obama’s public option plan is included in the final product of healthcare reform. Of course, we want God’s will to be done. Should I be in error, then it is best if this does not pass. However I cannot imagine that the public option health plan would not be in tune with God’s will.

Please pray with me for this to happen. It amazes me when I hear Christians say, “Well, I can only pray”. ONLY PRAY? While we don’t understand the deep mystery that is prayer, we do acknowledge that it is powerful beyond measure. Let us pray with our words, our mental images, our feelings, and our actions. (Contacting our representatives certainly counts as an act of prayer!)

Dear Lord, I pray that you help this nation to embrace and enact a healthcare system that provides for everybody’s needs regardless of ability to pay. I pray that the emergency room stops being the primary care provider for anybody. I pray that all people receive preventative care, comfort care, and that they are treated with dignity. Not my will, but your will be done. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Goals

Look to God, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. – Psalm 34:5

Goals are important. A noble goal that is clear and precise gives an individual a sense of direction and purpose. It helps to keep one on a healthy track. For a goal to be noble it must be for the good of all involved. The great psychologist Albert Ellis once said, “When we choose to create profound meanings and long-range goals for ourselves and our community we tend to lead more satisfying and less disturbed lives”. A noble goal brings honor to one’s-self and to others.

The other day I was getting a haircut. The lady cutting my hair shared a story about her step-daughter. This step-daughter is fourteen years old and entering high school. Get this. She already has a four year plan. She has a dream of becoming an anesthesiologist. She has already planned her course of action for getting the most out of her high school experience. Frankly I’m impressed. How many middle-aged people have a four year plan? This youngster is an inspiration.

Yes, goals are great. However there is a danger. The danger comes when we use goals to determine our value. This is a miss-use of goals. A goal is best used as a tool to help us live productive and happy lives. A goal must never be used as a tool for the measuring of self-worth. A human being’s worth comes simply by the fact of being human. As a Christian, I believe our worth comes from being made in the image of God.

This is an idea that needs to be taught and embraced by our society. Quoting again from Albert Ellis: “To help people gain unconditional self-acceptance and to believe that they are okay or are good just because they exist had better be taught to all children in the course of their schooling, from early childhood onward”. Simply being human makes one worthy of value and respect. This is why we respect ourselves. This is why we respect everyone we meet.

Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers) said, “If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person”. You are valuable simply because God made you. You are radiant. By all means, have noble goals in your life. Go after them with gusto, but never let your successes or failures determine your self-worth. You are worth more than can be measured.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Too Much Information

Too Much Information, also known as T.M.I., is what this blog could be accused of. Therefore I will comment. The reason I have this blog is not self-expression, but advocacy for mental health awareness, especially as it intersects with spirituality.

I speak openly and freely about my mental illness issues because I want to normalize the subject. There are many people who take anti-depressants, visit therapists, or deal with mental health issues in some form. I hope that more people will "come out of the closet" about this issue. This will help to normalize the topic, thus reducing the stigma of mental health issues.

I know the topic makes people uncomfortable, but that is the problem. Mental illness is no different from any other illness. Proper diagnosis and treatment empowers people and their loved ones to live abundant lives.

Again - This is not about me. This is about the subject. This is about advocacy.

God bless you.
Brian

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Knowing the Signs

The past few months have been very good for me. My depression and anxiety have been under control with medication and talk therapy. Equally important I have been using a cpap (breathing machine) to control my sleep apnea. It appears that sleep apnea was a major contributor to my depresssion. I've been feeling so good that my therapist and I have begun to meet monthly rather than weekly. Things are good.

Yet, the past couple of weeks I've noticed signs that could be an indicator of increased depression. As of yet I'm not sure if these are the simple ups and downs of normal life, or if they are symptoms to be addressed. Either way, I'm pleased that I know my warning signs. These signs are my friends.

The main sign for me is isolation. Lately I've found myself compelled to cancel plans. This is a big warning sign for me. When in the arms of depression I tend to isolate myself big time. I feel guilty and ashamed when I cancel plans. I want to be a man who keeps his word. Further, this keeps me from getting close to people. It is sabatoging behavior. Still, I'm in the early stages of this sign. As of yet I do not know if I've canceled plans simply due to being tired or if I'm avoiding people. I need to be aware within the next few weeks. Depression can sneak up quickly and quietly.

A secondary sign I've noticed is an increase in feelings of anger. These feelings do not come from outside of me, but rather through my internal dialogue or "tapes" of past events and imaginary conversations. It is an important sign to observe.

What are your signs? Even people without a mental health diagnosis have warning signs about their well-being. It is good to know the signs. Sometimes we need help to learn our signs. Therapy is wonderful for this. I pray you are well and that you know your signs. If you think of it, say a little prayer for me.

Thank you and God bless you.
Brian

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Inner & Outer

There is a dualism within Christianity that I find to be unhealthy. This is the notion that there is an "individual" and a "social". On the surface this is true. Yet, those of us in the mainline traditions tend to ridicule those who have what we call "individualistic" religion. Likewise, evangelicals tend to consider us to be closet socialists! For years I have worked to present the gospel as both. It is both individual and social. In fact, there is no meaningful difference.

I preached about this for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I compared and contrasted him with Billy Graham. People tend to see them as preaching very different gospels. I say this is not true! There is only one gospel (Galations 1:7). Both of these giants of 20th century Christianity preached the gospel of Jesus Christ...the gospel of peace, justice, and reconciliation. Dr. Graham focused on the individual experience. Dr. King focused on the social experience. To claim that these are two different things is a false dualism. You as an individual human being are one with all of creation. Likewise all of creation is one with you. I find that the Buddhists tend to understand this better than do many Christians.

Personally, I have a different understanding of salvation than does Dr. Graham, but I respect him. I saw him interviewed on Larry King. On this show Dr. Graham shared that he and Dr. King met to discuss Dr. Graham's spiritual crisis. Dr. Graham shared that he wanted to do more for the civil rights movement. Dr. King shared that he believed Dr. Graham was honoring his calling preaching in stadiums while Dr. King was honoring his calling preaching on the streets. Again - it is the same gospel.

Dr. Graham insisted that his gatherings be desegregated. In the deep south of Jim Crow I cannot think of another person who could make this happen. Dr. King had a deep personal spirituality along with his calling to work for justice. Social justice and inner transformation are not two competing factions.

All of creation is within Christ. We are all within Christ, individually and collectively. There is no meaningful difference. If one is committed to social justice but does not resolve her/his psychological issues (we all have them), then they are not being faithful. Likewise, if someone focuses exclusively on their inner-growth without working for social justice, then they are not being faithful. To truly grow one must care about the whole. To truly care about the whole one must work on inner-growth. These are not two different things. They are one. We are one. God is one.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Social Gospel

http://socialgospel-brian.blogspot.com/

Above is the link to my new blog. I will keep this one for discussing mental health issues as it is very dear to me. The other one I call Social Gospel as it deals with politics and religion from a progressive point of view.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

National Health Care Decisions Day

April 16, 2009 is National Health Care Decisions Day. It is a day to encourage people to work on advance directives. What are advance directives? I'm glad you asked. They are legal documents that give you say over what kind of medical treatment you do/don't want if you are unable to speak for yourself.

One for is a "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions". This is a document in which you choose who you want to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself.

There is also the "Healthcare Treatment Directive". This is a document in which you say what procedures you do/don't want should you be unable to speak for yourself and there is no reasonable hope of living or achieving a quality of life that is acceptable to you.

Probably the best course of action is to have both. The ensures that you are not subjected to treatments that you would not want. Further, it helps your loved ones to make decisions based on your choices. Remember, in the moment of grief and denial, your family may not make the choices you want. If you write them out, it will give them comfort and structure.

I refer you to the following link for more information.

www.nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org