Tag Archives: Mental Illness

Our Own Demons

sunny-sideup-eggsLiving in the Spirit
June 18, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 8:26-39

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. –Luke 8:26-31

Heal My Soul. I think I first heard this prayer in a song by David Teems in his album Scars and Stripes which came out in 1998. It has resonated with me ever since. Last year my Sunday School class completed Joel Ortberg’s study Soul Keeping. We all were touched by how much we needed to pay attention to our souls, but often do not. It can be quite scary to think about ridding our souls of the muck and mire that clogs our being like rotting leaves backed up in a sewer line. We do not deal well with emptiness and we are at times hesitant to be filled with the powerful love of God. Why do you suppose that is?

It is really hard at times to see ourselves as others see us or to know ourselves as God knows us. I have done battle with weight most of my adult life. (Was an underweight skinny little kid actually.) My doctor referred me to a nutritionist. A tall angular woman, who I am sure was never a pound overweight in her life, studied very carefully the food diary I had keep the previous week. I was supposed to eat no more than 1200 calories each day and I had fulfilled that requirement but had not lost any weight. There was no question in my mind that she thought I was lying to myself and to her in my accounting. Just for the record, I was not lying. I even had measured and weighed everything. She took a plate and set it on the table between us and then took plastic food, including two sunny-side-up eggs, and carefully displayed them on the plate lecturing me on proper proportions. I am not a violent person, but I was very tempted to pick up those plastics eggs and slap them across her face. You will be pleased to know that I did not. I also did not ever return to see her. We cannot help others, if we let biases based on our own way of being cloud our judgment.

While I doubt we will ever obtain Paul’s perfection in real time, we must deal with our own demons to some degree before we can truly be servants to others. The process of daily examination of ourselves in the presence of God is a worthy one.

Prayer: Heal my soul, O Lord, so that I might be a balm to others. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 

Advocating for the Mentally Ill

May 2, 2016

Scripture Reading: Acts 16:16-34

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, ‘These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.’ She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour. –Acts 16:16-18

I keep hearing the phrase, “We don’t do enough for the mentally ill in this country and state.” and then we do nothing more. In Oklahoma we are actually cutting services for the mentally ill. It is as if when we say, “Ain’t it a shame” the shame goes away. It does not. The Affordable Care Act included a provision that insurance companies must include mental health services and that has helped those who can afford insurance. Oklahoma, however, chose not to participate in the Medicaid expansion part of the Affordable Care Act and thus the most vulnerable mentally ill are still left out in the cold, literally in many instances as the mentally ill make up a large, disproportionate share of those who are homeless.

The scripture does not say why Paul was very annoyed. At first thought one might think, he just was tired of the slave-girl’s constant disruption of his work with her shouting. What she is saying, however, gives testimony to Paul’s true purpose. I suppose he could have been disturbed because her methods and her status in life were not what he would have chosen to represent his ministry. She was not the best spokesperson for his cause. But it is also possible, probable, I believe, that he saw she was being exploited by her oppressor and he finally decided to put an end to the exploitation at least that is what landed him in jail.

The mentally ill often are unable to advocate for themselves. They are dependent on the love of others to assure that they receive the care and treatment targeted at returning them to wholeness. We are all called to be such advocates along with Paul in the name of Christ.

Prayer: Lord, protect those who cannot protect themselves and open the doors of understanding to all of us who are called to speak on their behalf. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 

Welcoming the Different and the Difficult

Stigma of mental illnessEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
February 1, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Mark 1:21-28

Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.  — Mark 1:23-28

We do not provide adequately for the mentally ill in our communities. Strides have been made in recent years to improve both the medications and therapies available to treat mental illness but the availability of such service is often rationed and limited in scope. Faith communities have a role in advocating on behalf of populations who cannot advocate for themselves and that includes encouraging the expansion of services for the mentally ill, but that is just the beginning.

Jesus treated the mentally ill just like he did everyone else. He met them where they were and welcomed them into his presence. Do we welcome the mentally ill into our churches and treat them as we would treat any visitor? Yes, Jesus did heal both the mentally and the physically ill, and yes, we might help people find the health care they need, but more than anything else the mentally ill need to experience life without being shunned. There is no better place for that to happen than in church. It is amazing what transformation can occur in people’s lives when they are treated like the children of God they are.

In Mark 5:1-20 we read about the healing of Legion, a man who apparently had multiple personalities. Jesus healed Legion who then begged to go with Jesus, but Jesus’ response was to encourage Legion to stay in his own community and be Jesus’ follower there. Legion did and told his story to the extent that people were amazed.

Prayer: Lord, teach us how to love the other who is different and sometimes difficult, but whose potential as a child of God is as great as any. Enable us to be enablers of that potential. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.