Standing With You…

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From the CcNet Team

As the entire world bands together to fight the COVID-19 virus, we at CcNet want to support ministry leaders.

This is a challenging time for everyone, especially for those of you who are ministry leaders. We are in uncharted territory as we have to do ministry in a season of “social distancing.”

We are committed to furnishing you with the best resources for leading “virtual” worship, providing remote pastoral care (including weddings and funerals), and leading frightened congregations and communities while striving to keep yourself healthy and your spirit encouraged. With that in mind, we will be offering more articles than normal.  We invite you to look for the ideas that seem appropriate for you and your ministry context.

We also want to be your prayer partners. If you have a specific prayer request, please post that in the Facebook thread below. Or, if you have a private prayer request, please send that to us via Facebook Messenger.

If there are specific challenges that you are facing during these difficult times, please send us a FB Message.  If you know of articles or posts that you’ve found helpful, pass them on.

In the meantime, here is our prayer, for all of us:

Lord of all, Creator of the Universe, Giver of Life, be with us in our anxiety. Watch over the lonely, the sick, the immune-compromised, our healthcare workers and emergency personnel, our government leaders, and all who serve and protect us. 

We pray for all those in the CDC, the World Health Organization, and all who are developing strategies and solutions. We pray in gratitude for labs and corporations who have pledged to serve us in this time. 

We pray for those in our community who are scared, or worried about running out of food or medicine. Help us move past our fear to reach out a helping hand when needed, and to keep ourselves safe and stop the spread of the virus even as we minister to those around us. 

We pray for those who will lose income in this difficult time. May we share with generosity what we have with those who vulnerable and in need.  

Be with us as clergy and church leaders, that we will stand as a beacon of God’s hope. 

We give thanks and praise for your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

 

10 Rules for Addressing Panhandlers

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By Dr. Pete Gathje, Memphis Theological Seminary  

“If a panhandler asks me for money, what should I do?”

This question is asked almost every time I give a talk about homelessness, or when people find out I help run Manna House, a place of hospitality for people on the streets. Here is my advice based upon my knowledge of homelessness, and talking with panhandlers.

1. Give or don’t give. It is really your choice. But always look the person in the eye who is asking, and say “Hi.” If you are not going to give then add, “Sorry I can’t help today.” If you are going to give add, “Hope this helps.” Either way, always treat the person with respect. They are human beings, made in the image of God.

2. If you do give to a panhandler, remember it is a gift, and the person is free to do with it whatever he or she wants to do. The person is not homeless because of some personal moral failure, so do not get into making moral evaluations and judgments. 

3. If you do not give that is OK. Panhandlers know most people will not give. One said to me, “It is like cold calling in sales. I expect to get turned down most of the time, and it doesn’t bother me. Just treat me with respect.” (See Rule #1 above). 

4. If you feel unsafe or the person panhandling is being aggressive or threatening, leave the area and don’t give. As one panhandler said to me, “There are jerks in every line of life. Don’t reward them.” 

5. Sometimes give more than you are being asked for. So, if someone asks for a dollar, give them five! Both you and the panhandler can share in the joy of that unexpected gift. 

6. Set a limit or a boundary to your giving. Mine is $5 per day. Once I have given out my $5 then I respond to anyone who asks, “I’ve given out already what I give each day.” I consider this my “street tax.” 

7. There are people who panhandler who are not homeless. They are simply poor. It is near impossible to tell the difference between a homeless panhandler and one who is not. So, again, give if you want, or do not give if you do not want to, but treat everyone with respect. (See Rule #1 above). 

8. Feeling awkward or uncomfortable when you see a panhandler or are asked for money is OK. It means you have a conscience and some compassion. 

9. If you have time, and are so inclined, volunteer with an organization that works with people on the streets offering food, or shelter, or medical care etc. You will get to know some really interesting people, and they will get to know you. And you might see them on the streets from time to time, and you can wave and yell “Hi!”

10. If you really want to help people who are homeless, then advocate for housing for all homeless people and free shelters. Support organizations in your area that practice a “housing first” approach to homelessness. Also resist all efforts to dehumanize, disrespect, and criminalize people who are on the streets with laws like “No panhandling” or myths like “Panhandlers make a lot of money panhandling.” (See Rule #1 above). 

 

(This post originally appeared in the Memphis Commercial Appeal as an oped on 9/7/18)

Didn’t Your Mama Teach You That?

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By Rev. Dr. David Galloway, Galloway Consulting, Atlanta, Georgia

Emotional Intelligence is a shorthand way of talking about how you get along with others. There’s lot more to it, but bottom line, it’s about how you bring the person you are into interaction with the people you deal with in business, your work environment, your social community, and even your family.

I use Emotional Intelligence in my consulting work with leaders. I have talked about it in lectures and teachings. The coaching I provide and the training I do begin and end with an appreciation for the role of Emotional Intelligence. It is the “grease” that makes thing work well and move smoothly at work and home. Finally, I use a heaping, helping load of Emotional Intelligence in my life, just getting through the work of the day and the tender of the night.

Thankful to my Mama and my grandmother for teaching me the basics of Emotional Intelligence, they trained me in how you treat other people with respect, as fellow human beings that have inherent worth. That notion of dignity and worth is forged into the Baptismal Covenant I signed onto when I aligned myself as a follower of Christ. And even the country I call “home” asserts from its very beginnings that all people are created equal, endowed with rights, even though we are struggling still to make that real in our common life. So Emotional Intelligence is sewn into the fabric of our life, in the principles we say we honor and the values that inform us.  I have been able to refine that attitude and those skills in the years beyond the training my family, tribe and country gave me, but it really comes down to how you regard and treat others, just like my Mama told me in the beginning.

Didn’t your Mama teach you that? Or somebody else with some common sense? The answer I get from many people I work with is “No”, either formally or by the testimony of their actions as they struggle to get along. They seem baffled by the most simple interactions that some people do simply, natively.

Let me give you a flesh and blood example.

I was doing a consulting gig at a healthcare system in a large Northern city. This system was bleeding financially to the point that their viability for the future was in question. The leadership team had a Chief Operating Officer (COO) that was famous for his financial shrewdness but was infamous for treating his staff badly. This reputation had gotten legs, making its way to the group of Catholic nuns who ran the board of this hospital. The Sisters felt that this man did not understand nor represent the mission of the hospitals in his demeanor. When I arrived, the board of nuns was contemplating his future and was discussing the need to “redirect his career”, or in common speak, fire him. As  he was providing a much needed eye to the bottom line, I offered to coach him, hoping to offer him a choice of treating his people with more regard.

And so with the Sisters sponsorship and his agreement, I entered the scene as his coach. While the work was framed in terms of leadership coaching, I was basically working with him in the area of EQ, that is, Emotional Intelligence, which focused on how he interacts with his co-workers.

Basically, my work with him was about a mindset shift, plus some immediate feedback around the way he led meetings and interacted with peers and direct reports. He actually was a great guy underneath his professional, brusk persona, learned in business school and groomed in executive training. I was hoping to transform his way of seeing the people in his field of being and alter his mindset from a typical business-utilitarian view of people into a more empathetic perspective, with the valuing of his co-workers as people, not mere cogs in his machine.

My intervention and input provided new options for how he might do his job, widening his repertoire of skills in terms of leadership. The feedback I was able to give to him as I shadowed him in meetings held up a “mirror” so he could catch himself and “see” how he was interacting in the moment. This magical combination woke him up to a new way of being a leader in the organization, of treating people as real peopole. The proof of his personal transformation was in the results as he turned around his 360 evaluations, with his coworkers experiencing him as a new person who treated them differently.

A magician never reveals the “trick” of his magic, but here it is. Truthfully, he had been suffering from a limiting belief system, given to him at business school. There, he had been given an image of a COO as being a person without a heart. He was natively a good man, so all he had to do was to realize he could treat people with respect and still drive for metrics and accountability. This was such a relief for him to discover that he could be himself and still make his productivity goals. The result was that of a much happier work place for him and his colleagues. His coworkers were pleased, the Nuns were thrilled, and he was more satisfied with his role in the organization.

Truth is, Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is at least as important as cognitive ability, usually measured as IQ. The good news is that EQ, unlike IQ, can be trained and increased with attention to that dimension of a person. I use an amazing assessment tool to give a baseline of what is the current capacity a person is bringing to the dance. From that starting point, we begin a process of training in which the person attends to his interactions with other persons at work or in relationships. An added 360 component, which adds an assessment by one’s peers, can add a powerful reality check and a measure of progress in one’s EQ development.

Emotional Intelligence has been on the business scene since 1995 when psychologist, Daniel Goleman, wrote a book on how our emotions show up in our business and work. Now an accepted concept in business schools, EQ has been studied and received attention by academics and practitioners who are interested in how this dimension of human capacity can increase effectiveness, and therefore productivity, resulting in a very real impact on the proverbial bottom line. At the Clergy Coaching Network, we are exploring ways in which Emotional Intelligence can enhance the effectiveness in the leadership of clergy.

Emotional intelligence looks specifically at the self perception of the person. It concerns how the person regards oneself, including an awareness of both strengths and weaknesses. EQ refers to how aware one is of one’s emotions, what’s going on internally as one enters the scene of planning and interaction. And , EQ is interested in the orientation one has as to one’s continuing development and improvement.

This sense of self is expressed to the outside world in the form of observable emotions within the context of relationships, both at work and in personal relationships. One’s assertiveness and independence is noted as well as how one shows empathy for the perspective of others, and to groups one is in, such as a team.

Further, emotional intelligence looks at the way in which one make decisions in terms of problem solving and reality testing. Notably, one’s impulse control is in play as decisions are made and actions are executed. How do you do what you do?

Again, the encouraging news is that one’s EQ can be increased with attention to certain dimensions of your self and ways of relating with others. If you are interested in Emotional Intelligence and how it plays into your work or in your relationships, I recommend an accessible text, The EQ Edge, by Steven Stein and Howard Book. If you are wanting to work with someone in the context of coaching, contact me and I be happy to help you increase your awareness of EQ and assist you in your development. It can make a world of difference.

If your Mama didn’t teach you, the good news is that Emotional Intelligence can!

Our Mission and Comment Guidance

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The 3-part mission of the Clergy Coaching Network Facebook page:

To ARTICULATE A VISION FOR CONGREGATIONS that are faithful in Hospitality, Evangelism, Discipleship, Inclusiveness, Social Justice, Worship, Community, Congregational Care, Service and Leadership Development.

To INSPIRE, CHALLENGE AND EQUIP clergy and congregational leaders for transformational leadership in an ever-changing world.  We will do this by sharing relevant articles, research, quotes, memes and occasionally a bit of humor about human nature, theology and congregational life.

To INVITE CLERGY AND CONGREGATIONAL LEADERS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OUR COACHING SERVICES. We hope that many of those who discover our page will seek to employ one of our well-trained clergy coaches to assist them in their leadership and ministry.  Our coaching services are available to leaders of all religious traditions.

Posts on this page come from a variety of perspectives and seek to address the issues, challenges, and opportunities facing clergy, faith leaders, congregations and the communities in which they minister.  In most cases, our posts seek to address the concerns of our clients and the congregations that they serve. Because our coaching clients are diverse, some of our posts will confirm what you already think. At other times we hope they will challenge assumptions and invite the exploration of new possibilities.  If you are uncomfortable with posts coming from a variety of points of view or religious perspectives (conservative, moderate and progressive, sacred and secular), this may not be the page for you.

If you choose to comment on a post, we ask you to familiarize yourself with our mission and follow these COMMENT GUIDELINES:

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On this site, we know there may be passionate engagement about some of our posts, and with and among those who have differing views.

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Remember, civil discussion encourages multiple perspectives and occurs in a positive commenting environment.

Where Are The Miracles?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Rick Kirchoff

(Few of us are in ministry for long until we are forced to deal with someone’s disappointment that their prayer for healing has not been answered. Usually, we are able to do that at arm’s length, but that has not been the case for me.  This struggle was made very real because of an accident that left our son, Chris, severely brain-injured and permanently and totally disabled. There has been no dramatic healing for Chris. Neither has there been a medical miracle! For the past 45 years, Chris has required almost constant care, even for his most basic needs. What follows are some thoughts that helped me when my prayers for healing seemed to go unanswered. Obviously, this is only a partial answer.  But, if you find this helpful, feel free to use or adapt it to your needs.)

In Prince Caspian, the second volume of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, there is a reunion between Aslan, a great lion who represents Christ, and a young girl named Lucy.  Lucy runs to greet Aslan.  She kisses him and puts her arms around him as far as she can.  Then she pulls back from Aslan and says, “Aslan, you’re bigger!” 

Aslan replies, “That is because you are older, little one.” 

“Not because you are?” asks Lucy.

“I am not (bigger),” says Aslan, “But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” 

It’s true!  The more we grow, the bigger God becomes!  I know that as I’ve grown, I’ve found that God is bigger than I’d ever imagined.  And the more I’ve learned of God, the more I’ve discovered how much more there is to know. 

One of the many areas where I’ve had a lot to learn has been in the area of miracles.  In particular, the miracles of healing!  

This is made very personal because of an accident that left our son severely brain-injured, permanently and totally disabled.  There has been no dramatic miracle of healing for Chris.   

We all know that scripture is filled with stories of God’s wonderful deeds, amazing miracles of healing, and bold promises.  And we pray for healing for ourselves or someone we love.  But when the healing doesn’t come or doesn’t come in the way we wished, we wonder! How do we reconcile the promises of miracles with the reality of illness, disability, suffering, and death?  How does it all fit?  

I have to begin by acknowledging that there is so much mystery with God.  This side of heaven there are things I won’t know or understand.  

The writings of Danny Morris and Ron Davis (cited in my endnotes) have been helpful as I have wrestled with this, helping me get in touch with several very different and equally powerful miracles of healing — different ways God lovingly touches us with healing and hope.  

The first miracle of healing that I have to acknowledge may be the most used and the least celebrated of all God’s miracles.  It is simply this: God has marvelously crafted the human body so that most often it protects and repairs itself.  God has designed our bodies with elaborate and intricate systems for fighting off infection, repairing lacerated tissue, mending broken bones, and healing diseased organs. 

In a TV episode of M*A*S*H, Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce expressed his amazement.  He said, “How does it all work?  I’ve held a beating heart in my hand.  I’ve poked into kidneys and crocheted it all together again.  I’ve pushed air into collapsed lungs.  I’ve squeezed, probed and prodded my way through miles of gut and goo and I don’t know what makes us live!  I mean, what keeps us in motion?  What keeps the heart beating without anybody rewinding it?  Why do cells reproduce with such abandon?  What force brought us together in such fantastic complexity?  It never ceases to amaze me!”

And then Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled expresses this same amazement.  “In the ordinary course of things we should be eaten alive by bacteria, consumed by cancer, clogged by fats and clots, and eroded by acids.  It’s hardly remarkable that we get sick.  What is truly remarkable is that we don’t usually get sick more often!  There is a force that we don’t fully understand that seems to operate routinely to protect and encourage physical health.”

We are wonderfully made!  It’s nothing short of miraculous that our bodies usually heal themselves.  If we ever forget what a miracle that is, just ask a hemophiliac whose cut will not heal.  Ask the AIDS patient whose immune system has turned against him.  Ask the woman on dialysis.  Each of them would encourage us to celebrate the miracle of how wondrously God created our bodies so that most often they heal themselves. 

Then there’s a second miracle.  It is the miracle of the partnership of God and medicine.  

Like the first miracle, we often take this one for granted.  This is the miracle of how God works in partnership with science and medicine — guiding us to a remedy, to a doctor, or to some new treatment.  We’ve become so accustomed to this that we only recognize the wonder of this miracle in its absence. 

How many of you have had surgery?  Or how many have given birth? Or have had a broken bone?  Or suffered some serious infection? Or how many take medication for your heart or high blood pressure or diabetes?  We would very quickly see that many of us might not even be alive today were it not for this wonderful miracle. 

There is a third miracle.  It is the miracle of dramatic, instantaneous, divine intervention.  

I’ll never forget the morning that I went to the hospital to pray with Mike.  He was in for surgery.  When I went into the hospital room, his family was there and all their faces had the look of worry and fear.  The doctors said he had a malignant tumor and it would have to come out immediately.  You could even see the bulge of the tumor in his neck.  His prognosis was very poor.  The tumor was growing rapidly.  Just before Mike left the room, we prayed together and they wheeled Mike out to surgery.  In less than an hour, he was back in the room.  Sometime between leaving that hospital room and getting to the operating room, the tumor had disappeared!  It had just disappeared!  The doctors were amazed!  There was no medical explanation.  

Dramatic miracles of healing do occur.  They seem to be the exception rather than the rule; but when they do occur, we are awed that God has moved in such a dramatic way.

And there is the fourth miracle.  There are those times when disease and difficulty come and they don’t go away.  Our bodies don’t repair themselves.  There is no medical solution.  There is no instantaneous miracle; and illness, suffering, and disability have to be endured.  So, there is the miracle of the “Sufficiency of God’s Grace.” 

The Apostle Paul underwent a period of suffering he called “a thorn in the flesh.”  We don’t know exactly what it was, but we’re told that it was terribly painful and it interfered with his ministry.  So he went to God three times in prayer asking, “Please help me. Please remove this thorn from my flesh.”  But each time, God answered, “Paul, I will give you my grace.  And that will be sufficient.”  And it was!  So much so that he would later say, “When I am weak, I am strong.  For the power of Christ dwells in me.”

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned our son, Chris. Chris was severely brain-injured in an automobile accident at the age of six.  He is now 50.  Though he has a wonderful spirit, Chris is diagnosed as permanently and totally disabled.  After Chris was hurt, we began to pray for his healing.  I wanted him back to normal, and I wanted our life back to normal.  At first, my prayers were calm and confident, but it wasn’t long before I was pounding on Heaven’s gate till my knuckles were bloody.  

I began a desperate search for miraculous healing.  I got in touch with some of the foremost Christians in healing ministry across the country.  I read about them and I sought their counsel.  I avoided the TV healers but instead chose those who I knew to have integrity and depth. 

One person whose writing especially spoke to me was Dr. Francis MacNutt.  When I finished his book on healing, I immediately called information to get his phone number. When we spoke, we arranged to meet in Nashville where he had a speaking engagement.  Finally, the day came, and I drove to the appointed place, only to discover that his plans had changed. He would not be attending the conference.  He’d forgotten to notify me. 

Well, I was angry!  All of the tension and hurt I had experienced since the accident turned into rage, and the rage into angry prayer.  I told God in some very colorful language how I felt and how angry I was.  

God is not offended by such carrying on, and I’m glad about that!  Because I DID carry on!  After I had raged on and finally exhausted myself. I said, “God, I’m through! I want Chris to be well, but even if not, I want YOU.  I just want you to love me through this.  Help me, God, because I don’t know where else to turn.”

Rather than zapping me for my anger, something else happened.  The most wonderful peace descend upon me.  And with it came the deep knowledge that no matter what happened, God was with us and we could face Chris’ disability with courage and grace.  

For the most part, I think we have.  And if we have at all, it has been because of the miracle of the sufficiency of God’s grace.  We’ve been sustained, held up, loved, forgiven, and supported. 

There is a fifth miracle.  No matter how many times we’ve been physically healed, finally we die.  The ultimate form of healing every believer is given is the healing that comes through death and resurrection.  Though we may suffer for a time, Christ’s promise is an eternity where every tear will be wiped away and all our suffering will cease. 

Eternity is a big word!  It’s hard for us to imagine eternity.  It’s so much larger than our short life, that it’s difficult even to visualize it.  But if you drew a line all around the room where you are reading this, and then made a pinpoint dot along that line, that dot would represent our lifetime, in relationship to eternity.  If you stepped back and looked at that dot in relation to the line, you would be struck by how tiny and how brief it is when compared to the line of eternity.  

In the Christian scheme of things, a lifetime is but one-millionth, perhaps one-billionth, of what is yet to be.  “What is” cannot be compared to “what is to come.”  In Christ, we awaken to an eternity where our tears and fears, and our hurts and humiliations will be no more. That’s the miracle of death and resurrection for a Christian.

So on this journey so far, I’ve seen that there are at least five healing miracles! I cannot say that there are only five, but these five suggest the range of possibilities.  And because of them, I know that God cares about our health. 

But as much as I value and cherish health, I cannot fall for the lie that was in the old commercial:  “If you have health, you have everything.”  It’s just not true!  We can be healthy and not be whole.  We can have great strength, yet be weak.  We can be physically fit, yet spiritually anemic.  We can have been healed hundreds of times, yet still not know the Great Physician. 

Tommy discovered that!  Tommy was a college student.  One of his teachers, John Powell, was a Christian.  John had taken many opportunities to talk to Tommy, but Tommy seemed to be a hardened atheist — an angry young man who had rejected God, his parents, and society.  John had repeatedly tried to reach Tommy, to witness to him, and to love him, but it seemed to make little difference.  Eventually, Tommy graduated. He walked out of the classroom and out of reach forever, or so John thought.

One day, some years later, John was working at his desk.  The office door opened and Tommy was standing in the doorway.  At first, John didn’t recognize Tommy.  He had changed so.  He looked frail and wasted.  The long hair he’d worn as a symbol of rebellion was gone.  Though his eyes were bright and his voice firm, it was clear that cancer and chemotherapy had ravished him.  Tommy sat down and began to talk to his former teacher.  The anger and arrogance of his days at school were gone and were replaced with a calm, self-assurance that John had never before seen in Tommy.  

Tommy told his story:  “When the doctors found a malignant tumor, I began to get serious about trying to find God.  And when they told me that my cancer had spread to my vital organs, I began to beat my fists against the doors of Heaven.  I couldn’t understand why God was silent.  I was alone and I knew I was going to die.  So I decided to spend the time I had left doing something profitable.”

“I thought about the talks we had.  I’d remembered something you said: ‘One of the saddest things in the world is to go through life without ever knowing how to love.  But it may be even worse to go through life and leave this world without ever telling the people you care about that you love them.’  Mr. Powell, I finally saw what you meant. So, I decided to begin to love as you said, and to tell people that I loved them.”

“I decided to begin with the hardest case, my Dad.  I went to my dad’s house.  He was reading the paper.  I said, ‘Dad?’  He said, ‘What?’  The newspaper didn’t even rustle.  I said, ‘Dad, I really want to talk to you.’  He said, ‘Well, talk.’  I said, ‘Dad, it’s really important.’  He lowered the newspaper a bit and glanced across at me.  It was obvious that he didn’t want to be bothered.  But I looked him in the eyes and I said, ‘Dad, I love you.  I just wanted you to know that.  I really do love you.'”

“My dad dropped that newspaper like he’d been hit in the chest.  Then he did two things I can never remember him doing before — he cried and he hugged me.  We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning.  It was easier with my mother and my little brother.  They cried with me too, and we hugged each other and shared things that we had kept secret for years.  I only regretted one thing: that I had waited so long.  I waited until almost the very end of my life to open up to the people I love.”

“Not long after this, I turned around and suddenly realized God was there.  He’d been there all the time.  He didn’t come when I had pleaded.  I guess I was like an animal trainer holding up a hoop for God to jump through.  But God does things in His own time and in His own way.  While I was learning to love, God’s love was penetrating into my heart and opening up my heart.  God was there, and I talked to God and felt God’s love and acceptance and forgiveness, and received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.” 

John asked Tommy if he’d be willing to share his story in his class.  Tommy said he would.  They scheduled a time for him to come, but Tommy never made it.  He had another appointment to keep.  Shortly before he died, Tommy called John one last time and said, “I’m not going to make it to your class.  Will you tell them for me, Mr. Powell?”  “I will, Tommy.  I’ll tell them.”

Tommy wanted them to know that the greatest miracle is to know Christ and his love. This miracle heals broken relationships and brings hope to people troubled in body, mind, and spirit.  It helps us endure what might otherwise seem unbearable, and brings wholeness in the midst of incomprehensible tragedy and even in the shadow of death. 

“Where are all the miracles?”  They’re all around us!  They happen in so many ways!  But the greatest miracle is to know Christ and his love.  This is the one miracle that is given to everyone who asks.  This is the one miracle that lasts an eternity!

————————–

Endnotes: This article is based, in part, upon material from the following sources:

C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

John Powell, Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?

Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

Danny Morris, Any Miracle God wants to Give

Ron Davis, Gold In The Making

A Christian Dealing With Mental Illness

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Guest Post by Randy Riverstone Graves

Randy is a former United Methodist minister who stepped down from pastoral ministry when his mental illness became too much of an impairment. After several years of deepening depression, made worse by self-medicating with alcohol, his life spiraled out of control. He says, “I was in a spiral to the grave. Although I still struggle with mental illness, I thank God that Jesus has delivered me from the death grip of addiction and given me a new life in the Spirit. I have been restored through Celebrate Recovery, and I’m 17 months sober.” Randy now serves as a Worship Leader and Training Coach at a Celebrate Recovery ministry. What follows is his witness and wisdom. 

I’ve been actively resisting a depressive episode that I feel coming on. It’s not full-blown, but I know the early warning signs. I have bipolar disorder, and in the past, feeling like this caused me to just surrender, and give in to the inevitable days or weeks of unrelenting gloom.  I would begin drinking hard liquor. Alcohol only made it worse, but in the grips of addiction and a crisis of mental health, I sought relief where I could find it. Alcohol would a least numb me for an hour or two before I had to tilt the bottle again to make the world go dark.

Thank God, I’ve found a way out of that darkness. I have a new life in the Spirit that has equipped me to face this with a different perspective. Through Celebrate Recovery, a comprehensive Christ-based 12-step program, I’ve learned better ways to cope, and not just to cope, but to overcome. For others who may be dealing with mental illness or addiction, I want to share a few things I’ve learned to help resist walking over the edge of the cliff.

I Reach Out

One of the worst things about mental illness and addiction is how isolated one can become. The worse things get, the more I tended to retreat into the dank corner of my cave. When I am struggling like that, it is important to reach out. I let my friends and family know what I am going through.

In Celebrate Recovery, we are deliberate about forming “accountability partners” or sponsors — people who agree to provide mutual support for each other during difficult times.

While I do not feel even the slightest desire to drink alcohol right now, I have been around the block enough times to know that it is times like this I need to be on hyper-alert against the possibility of relapse. I have to be proactive and reach out to my support team. I send a text or a Facebook message to people I trust. These are people who have my back, people who will pray for and with me.

It is so helpful just to be able to say to someone, “Hey, I’m going through a rough time,” and to know that they understand and truly care. I could call them if I needed to, and I know without a doubt that they’d meet with me. But for the most part, it is enough for me to simply reach out and touch base with people who understand what I’m going through.

I Seek Professional Help

Mental illness is a medical condition that usually requires medication to treat effectively. There still remains a stigma for people seeing a psychiatrist and taking medications for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. It’s time to put an end to that stigma. There is no shame at all in seeing a psychiatrist or other healthcare professional to treat mental illnesses. People with Type 1 diabetes have to be under the care of a physician to take insulin. People with heart conditions see a cardiologist. And people with mental illness see a psychiatrist.

I regularly see both a psychiatrist and a therapist for help in dealing with my condition. This allows me to function as a husband and father, and to serve the Lord in various ministries. Without my medications, I would not have a very high quality of life. I’d be trapped in constant mood swings and delusions. My medications bring me stability and allow me to have a sense of purpose.  My therapist is also very helpful in dealing with problems related to mental illness and alcoholism. Seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It means that I care enough about my life and my family to do whatever it takes to be healthy.

I Lean In

I’m learning to lean into the Holy Spirit. For me, this is a major difference in my life now. A year ago, I experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in a way I’d never experienced before. In my tradition, we call it being “baptized in the Holy Spirit,” but the terminology itself isn’t important. In a desperate time, I leaned into Jesus, and suddenly the Holy Spirit was flowing through my own spirit in an ineffable experience of the immediate presence of God both inside me and all around me. Soon after, God began to produce good things in my life through the Spirit: things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and so forth. The Bible calls these things the “fruits of the Spirit.”

However, the Spiritual life contains some hard truths. There are still some really hard times. People will leave us. Loved ones are going to die. Hurtful things are going to happen. At times, depression can pile on like heavy snow.

My experience is that the Holy Spirit isn’t there with us just during happy times. Whether our hands are raised in praise or pulling our hair in weeping, the Spirit is there. One word the Bible uses for the Holy Spirit is “Paraclete” — a Greek word that emphasizes that God comes along right beside us as a friend, a comforter, and an advocate to speak on our behalf.

When the challenges come, I find it essential that I lean into the presence of God. I pray. I read a few verses from the Psalms. And even if I don’t feel joyful, I still offer words of praise and gratitude. Even if all I can do is mutter, I mutter a prayer.

I Keep Moving

No matter what, I keep moving. I get out of bed; I take a shower, and I get dressed. There are days that that becomes the most courageous thing I do. In the past, there were days I didn’t get out of bed. But that just made things worse.

Yesterday, was one of those dark days.  So, I got up, got ready and joined some friends on a beautiful hike. They probably couldn’t even tell that inside I was struggling with deep sadness, because I did my best to keep moving and experience the glory that was all around in nature. Even though I felt terribly sad, for one clear moment I had an experience of God while sitting near a waterfall that brought the whole universe into clear focus. I felt my spirit expand in interconnection with all the droplets of water in the air, every grain of sand, and every particle or wave of light flitting through the green and yellow leaves.

If I had stayed home, I would have missed the glory being poured out on the world around me. I suppose the real trick is to learn how to notice that glory in my own home, too. But to experience it at all, I know that I have to keep moving.

I Share the Good News Of Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered, 12 step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind. It provides a safe place to find community and freedom from the issues that are controlling our life. If you’re interested in learning more about this ministry or would like to launch Celebrate Recovery in your area, here’s the link to their web site: https://www.celebraterecovery.com

No Longer Alone!

Red umbrella in storm

Guest post by John Carosiello

A few weeks ago, on my morning drive, I noticed that the co-host on the Christian radio station was conspicuously absent. After another song, the co-host who had been missing spoke. She said, “I’m sorry I was late.  If I’m candid, it is because my anxiety disorder has been especially troublesome today, and I almost couldn’t leave my house. But I made it!”

I knew that I had to talk with her. Why?  I also suffer from a mental illness. And, as a Pastor, I understand the stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in the church.

So, at the next commercial break, I called the co-host. I told her that I am a pastor who suffers from anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I wanted her to know that she is not alone. I shared the struggle I have each Sunday because open-spaces are an anxiety trigger for me. I shared the titles of a couple of books that have helped me through my struggles.

The co-host choked up as she thanked me for calling. She said that she felt foolish for having shared her condition with everyone and was concerned that there might be ramifications for her career. I thanked her honesty and vulnerability, and I told her that it is essential that Christians started talking about mental illness.

I was eleven years old when I suffered my first full-blown panic attack. I was at theater, and I fell out of my chair trembling in panic, dread, and confusion. That was just the first of many such attacks.

Growing up in the church, I assumed that my condition had to be spiritual. I sought prayer from pastors, church elders and family members. Yet, my conditioned remained.  I wondered what was wrong with me? I had never heard of the terms “anxiety disorder” or “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.”

Then, one night, after falling asleep while watching television, I awoke to an infomercial about anxiety disorders. As I listened, I wept! Here were these successful people on TV talking about their personal experiences with anxiety. It was like they were reading my journal. For the first time, since my first panic attack, I felt I was not alone.

There are clergy all over the world who suffer from mental illness.  In silence and shame they wrestle with anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Just a month ago, a pastor-friend called and asked me to pray for him. He is highly successful, leads a large church, and often appears to be larger than life. Yet, He was suffering from depression. This seemingly invincible leader was struggling with a depth of inner pain that seemed out of control.

I suggested he talk to his physician, but at first, he rejected the idea. But he finally conceded to talking to his doctor and being put on a medication.  As of last week, he is doing much better!

Years from now, I believe that the idea that mental illness is a curse or a spiritual weakness will be scoffed at like someone suggesting heart disease, autism or paralysis or an infection is a spiritual weakness today.

Too many clergy suffer alone and in silence because they do not feel like they can talk about their mental health challenges.  They fear being judged or even putting their job in jeopardy.

Well, I have news: my entire staff, elder board, and many of my church-members know about my anxiety and OCD.  The only consequence has been that more hurting church members and their friends come to me seeking guidance on how to deal with their mental health challenges.  Praise God!  The thing that I thought might destroy my ministry has led to even greater ministry to those who are suffering.

If you are a clergy suffering from any form of mental illness, please do not suffer alone.  Reach out to your physician or a mental health professional.

And I would love to be in touch with you to listen to you and pray for you! Feel free to email me: JohnC@citg.org

You are not alone! There are many out there just like you.