Saturday, March 15, 2014

Is there a Balance between an Awesome God and Mental Health?


Is there a Balance between an Awesome God and Mental Health?

             I sit in my office and deal daily with patients that have dual-diagnosis; they suffer from addictions to alcohol, crack, pot, and any number of substance and life controlling problems.  However, that is not the worst of it, some also struggle daily with the problems of mental health issues.  Issues such as depression, anxiety, post trauma stress disorder, Bi-polar, and this list could go on.

            Each of these issues in there own right could cause serious life problems for the individual.   They cause arguments, miscommunication, frustration, anger, resentment, and who knows how long this list could be.  Family members want the individuals to just do what is right, get over it, pull themselves up and move on, don’t sit around an mope all day.  The individual has a sense of confusion, why am I this way?  But the despair and inability to kick these feeling just keeps looming overhead, and frustration and confusion are the norm of the day.

          I talk with family members that believe that I along with others in the health care community are the miracle worker of the century, that we can tell them it’s OK and it will change.  If a family member enters treatment for a few weeks, and goes to a few meetings they will all get better.  The sad part is that at one time I believed this too.  I have spent over 20 years in pastoral ministry serving from the children’s pastor, youth pastor, to the pastorate.  I visited church member at the psychiatric wards, and had no clue why they were there.  The doctor would describe symptoms and diagnosis such as Bi-Polar, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, even something called depression.  I remember visiting the psychiatric ward of Children’s hospital, and them describing Attention Deficit Disorder, depression, and separation anxiety disorder.

I would leave confused, because in my mind I serve an Awesome God, who could and would heal if these people would just pray and believe.   Twenty years ago I entered the Chemical Dependency field as a counselor.  I began to develop and understanding of addiction and the mental health of individuals.  As my counter parts within the faith-based community I continued to struggle with mental health issues.  Then one day I sat with a very special individual that taught me the power of God.  He shared the story of the Apostle Paul praying three times for God to remove the thorn from his life.  God’s reply was “My Grace is Sufficient for you.”   As he continued, he shared a very interesting point, Paul never states what the thorn is, therefore, we can place our thorns or burden there and remember “Gods Grace is Sufficient for me.”   He took me back many years ago at the age 19 when my personal family Doctor diagnosed me with arthritis, and I have been on medication for years, does that make my faith any less?  God grace continues to be sufficient for me to continue to walk and function in a normal manner even when it hurts.

That individual has been one of my dearest friend, and remains one my mentors for in the field of counseling.  I’m learning that “God Grace is sufficient” to help individuals that suffer from any mental health issue.  I now have the privilege to serve as Assistant Minister and as a Substance Abuse Counselor, working with a number of patients in my counseling position that bring this long list of dual-diagnosis with them to treatment.  The ironic thing is as pastor’s we work with individuals that may have mental health issues, without knowing it.  We sit sorting through the emotional baggage that has taken them on a ride of destruction.  Today, I still believe without reservation that “God is an Awesome God.   However, now I look at the mental health profession with the same respect and admiration as I do the medical professional.  I have seen first hand the effects of medication for treating anxiety disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 Research has shown that some mental health issues are a result of chemical imbalance within the brain.  Some within the faith-community would like to debate this issue, and place all issues of mental health within the spiritual realm.  If they would only pray and trust God.  However, we have seen from brain scans, and research done by both the medical community and mental health community that there are some biological causes that can contribute to mental health issues.

I have seen people sit and communicate with a therapist of their choice and begin the process of making sense of what is happening in their life.  I personally feel that most mental health issues a person address is the result of events that have happen in the past and the individuals current inability to sort thorough them without help.  The individual that struggles with depression and loneliness, as a result of a father leaving the home at young age.  They function normally most of the times, but events happen and they become depressed due to their concept of loss.  Or the individual that have what is called Anti-social personality and can’t get along with anyone because, as a child mom passed away, and everyone else helped dad raise the child, and boundaries are not a word he likes to hear. The feeling that society gave him a raw deal is now reason to make everyone else’s life miserable.

What do we do?  If I had that answer, I would write a book, do the talk show circuit, and become famous.  But honestly don’t see that all happening.  What I see is individuals within the professional community of mental health, and the faith-community coming together to help people to find solutions and skills to cope with these major issues in their life.  Mental health is not about individuals being crazy, it about individuals that need a loving and awesome touch from God, and a helping caring hand from family and friends.  With the additional help of whatever resource weather it is a medical doctor with medication, professional psychologist with years of training in mental health issues, or a pastor that just loves them where they are.  Together we can and will make the difference.

 

 

 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ethics is always easy!

Ethics is not always easy!


David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church, was convicted recently for embezzling twelve million dollars. Evidence was presented, witnesses were heard, and disagreements were voiced about court room procedure. I am disheartened that I am subjected to only the opinions of the various news media and their biases.
Several well-known pastors have focused on just the greed aspect of this case in articles they’ve written or in their blogs. I believe that they have left out an important aspect of this case: ACCOUNTABILITY, as in the ethics of our actions and behaviors within the ministry and all the relationships within that ministry. The past is littered with these types of cases where a minister goes astray, becomes unaccountable to his ministry, and destroys many relationships. This is a very scary thought that is described in scripture.
Accountability is not only required of all ministers in the financial aspect of the church, but in what is viewed on the internet, the choices of where to eat dinner, and the company we keep.  Ethics is defined as: “the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group or culture.  Many Christians would argue, and maybe rightfully so, that the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament make up the Ethics and moral fiber of how ministers should conduct themselves.  However, one thing that I have personally learned from over 30 years of ministry, and watching too many ministers fall in shame, is that IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT ETHICS AND ACCOUNTABILITY BECOME THE CENTRAL VIEW OF THE CHRISTIAN WALK.
Who does the scripture show that we are to be accountable to?  I believe there are four essential people that need to be accountable to in order to maintain an Ethical view in life.
1)      God is at the top of the list …
a.       To me, this is a no brainer. I have to maintain a clear understanding of His scripture, and spend daily time in prayer and Bible reading focusing on what is right and ethical in His view.
2)      To your family …
a.       I believe that the reason we see many ministers fall prey to the attacks of the enemy and fail ethically in their ministry is they forget they are account to their wife and children.  God has called us to not neglect our family.
3)      To your pastor …
a.       I have the privilege of severing the majority of my 30 years in ministry as an Associate Pastor, under some awesome men of God.  I have found both in my personal life and ministry that when I become accountable to their vision and ethically submit to help them accomplish it, God’s blessings are amazing.
4)      To your accountability partner …
a.       Every man and especially pastor should have an ACCOUNTIBILTY PARTNER.  Ethically this accountability partner should be a man or woman if you are a women.  They should be mature in their Christian walk, they should share your interest in being Ethical and accountable to each other and God. They should be open and honest with each other.  A friend of mine tells me this accountability partner (fellow pastor) has permission to tell him straight up “You’re really stuck on stupid with this one” … meaning his friend can be honest, no matter what.
 Friends, the question is really simple: who are you accountable to? Who do you explain your actions to and get valuable feedback? If you currently don’t have someone in your life that you’re accountable to (today) now is the time to find someone. 
Enough with pastors and minister going it alone, and failing ethically.  Ladies/Gentleman, Not only must you be ethical in your thing and behavior, you are accountable for your reputation, family, ministry, and relationship with God.  Are they not worth more than your ego?