Psalms 23: A Widow’s Perspective

Psalms 23: A Widow’s Perspective

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I fear no evil, for You are with me.

Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You have anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

During my morning quiet time earlier this week, I had one of those “Aha!” moments that sometimes come to us as we’re reading and thinking. This Psalm speaks of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and I began to ask myself some questions. What is this Valley? What does it feel like? How do we get there? More importantly, how to we get through it? 

As I did a little research, I learned a couple of interesting things about valleys. A valley is defined as an elongated, somewhat flat area of land lying between two hills, that typically has a river or stream running through it. Since water often symbolizes life, especially in the Scriptures, it didn’t seem logical to equate a valley with Death! But maybe I needed to adjust my thinking about this.

Whenever someone we love dies, we enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It is not the reality of death itself, but rather a shadow cast by death into our lives. Being surrounded by a hovering, gray fog. Unable to see the way clearly ahead. Being hemmed in on every side. Feeling like my own life and purpose have died. Intense loneliness. These all describe the Valley of the Shadow of Death. There’s no escape but to go straight through it!

The Valley can bring fear – fear of all kinds of evil – sometimes totally irrational fear. What about my finances? How will I manage? Am I safe in my home? What about my children? Will I be alone for the rest of my life? In this place of shadow, the Lord, the Great Shepherd walks with us. He holds our hand to guide us. He’s not lost because He’s walked this way before. He shines a light on our pathway. He keeps us from falling. 

Perhaps this Valley is a sheltered, well-watered place of protection for me during a time when I’m in danger of losing my way, of being overcome with Shadow. Just maybe I need to change my perspective to understand the purpose of the Valley more clearly.

The Valley is the place where the Shepherd can comfort my heart. He can lead me beside that gently flowing river that drains the spacious grasslands. He brings people into my life to provide community when I’m feeling lonely. He feeds me physically and spiritually and nourishes my emotions. He anoints my thoughts so that they are transformed to thoughts of gratitude. My life overflows with His blessings, and occasionally, the sun even begins to peek through the clouds, bringing joy and gladness. My life is under His mercy, and He promises to be with me forever. That means there’s an end to the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

One day, when our hearts have been sheltered and healed for a time, we will walk out the other end of the Valley into a place of purpose and sunshine. In the middle of the fog, we cannot yet see what will be. But we know one thing to be true, God still has a plan to give us a future and a hope. An overcoming hope. Faith-filled hope that will allow us to thrive and live with a new joy.

Sheryl Gehrls

Founder and Director of Refocusing Widows

refocusingwidows.org

The Hope Factor and what it’s doing through Hope Coaching By Samantha Karraá

The Hope Factor and what it’s doing through Hope Coaching By Samantha Karraá

Have you ever felt stuck in life? What do you do when your circumstances or the pain inside overwhelms your ability to move forward? Have you ever felt like talking to someone might help, but you don’t know who you could talk to or where to begin? What does it take to go from night to light? From loneliness to feeling connected again? From pain to peace? From confusion to clarity? From fear to courage? From trauma to healing? From grief to joy? What does it take to go from hopelessness to hope?

Fresh Hope decided to take action and recruit an army. An army bearing hope. Fresh Hope. And so, we went ahead and gave away 200 scholarships (valued at $12,000 USD): 100 to Spanish speakers in Spain and Latin America in the months of March, and April and 100 additional scholarships to English speaking countries during the months of May and June 2022.

We set out on the first mission to find 100 Spanish speaking men and women who were willing to study to become Hope Coaches as an immediate response to the need. A first step. An emergency reaction to touch a hope starved world.

People started applying for the scholarships as soon as the news went out on our social media. In less than 2 weeks, we had given all the scholarships away to people wanting to become that beacon of light in the midst of the darkness. They represented 13 Spanish speaking countries, as well as Spanish speakers within the US! Perú, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Spain, Switzerland, the USA, Argentina, Mexico and Ecuador; all have people preparing to become Hope Coaches in the upcoming weeks!!!

To become a Hope Coach, you don’t need to be a strong person, have specific previous studies, previous experience, or be as wise as Solomon. To become a Hope Coach, all you need to have is a compassionate heart and be willing and committed to being an instrument in the hands of the Lord.

A Hope Coach is not a counselor or a therapist. Instead, a Hope Coach is a person who has been trained to be an exceptional listener, and to ask the right questions at the right moment to help the other person process the pain and, as they do so, they can begin to see a way forward.

The actions and practices of a Hope Coach are based on 25 years of clinical research of how hope works. When this hope is infused with faith, the results are incredible…! 

“My favorite part of the training was learning how to write a biblical lament”, shared one Hope Coach. “The Stages of the Hope Coaching Process are set out so clearly that it feels as though one is taking the Hope Seeker by the hand and leading him out of a maze of hopelessness” shared another. “I particularly like to use the Mountain of Grief. I have seen people be able to move forward when they understand this truth”.

But that is not the best part! Experience has shown that where a Hope Coach is born, opportunities to make hope contagious arise: Churches asking to have other Hope Coaches trained, people inquiring about how to start a Fresh Hope Support Group. Life will never be the same for a Hope Coach, and Hope Coaching is for everyone! Not just for people with a mental health diagnosis.

A Hope Coach naturally becomes a better friend, a better mom, a better dad, a better spouse, just by using the skills learned in the training. A Hope Coach can serve at his church. A Hope Coach can serve as part of the Fresh Hope Certified Hope Coaches. There’s no limit!!!

So why don’t you take a step forward and become a Hope Coach yourself? Write to samantha@freshhope.us, tell us you read this blog and we will offer a full scholarship to you as well! Expect nothing less than to be filled with hope yourself as you set out to be a vessel of hope… 

Need to talk to a Hope Coach? Do so now by visiting https://freshhope.us/hopecoachmenu.

Click on “Hope Coach Quick Links”, and then on option number 2.

By His Wounds We are Healed

By His Wounds We are Healed

The percentage of incarcerated who have significant, unresolved trauma in their lives is extremely high. For men, in the mid 80 percent range, for women in the high 90s. There are over 2 million incarcerated in the United States.

As I was considering whether I wanted to become a facilitator of trauma healing groups at Douglas County Jail, my primary thought was whether I was capable. After all, it is clear that many, or maybe most of these men and women need therapy, professional help. A very wise person said to me, “Tony, do you think they’re going to get it?”

Well, of course they’re not. 

But here’s the thing. The same may be said for the rest of us. Trauma in our fallen world is so common, so normal, that many of us are unaware of trauma in our lives; or better stated, unaware of the effect it is having. For those who have significant trauma in childhood, it is not surprising that a lifetime of brokenness shows up in relationship issues, addiction and incarceration. Damage often is done way before the realization that a person may need “therapy”.

While leading trauma healing groups I have heard stories that are, a number of adjectives come to mind, but heartbreaking may be the best. I do not know how folks walk around and function on a daily basis with what has happened to them. 

It is surely by the grace of God. He is sustaining them.

And that is what a trauma healing group can do for a person. It shows them the grace of God. It reveals trauma in their lives (some of it unknown) and gives them a chance to face it. And it gives them an opportunity to place it in the hands of our Savior.

It’s easy, for me at least, when thinking of Jesus, to focus on the atonement. The theology. In other words, I’m a sinner in need of a Savior, and that’s what Jesus did when He died on the cross. He saved me! And of course, it is right to think on this. But we should also remember that Jesus spent much of His ministry healing people; He took are illnesses and bore our diseases. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. (Matthew 8:16-17) And when He saw people suffering, He had compassion on them.

Jesus says about Himself that He is gentle and lowly (humble) in heart and if we will but go to Him, we will find rest for our souls. (Matthew 11:29)

And when you see a person give their pain to Jesus, maybe for the first time ever in a trauma healing group, you witness the beginning of change and hope. There’s no magic cure and no excuses. There’s walking through your pain and suffering with God, who knows exactly what it means to suffer. He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Tony Stella- Married to Lori for 38 years. Retired Nuclear Power Plant Operator Master Facilitator with the Trauma Healing Institute since 2018.

When was the last time something like this happened to you?

When was the last time something like this happened to you?

A few years ago, I came across a Google review of our church. It started off great. The author was complimentary about the kindness of our community, the hospitality of our people, the ministries of the church, etc. He even threw some praise my way. Then, the message turned nasty.

I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the negative shift in tone and content had I noticed that this post was written by someone who was using a fake name. It was shocking to read the false assumptions and half-truths. Even though this treatise was mostly misinformation, misinterpretation and misrepresentation, the words still hurt.

After the initial sting, I realized who wrote the review and knew what had transpired that inspired this scathing report. In the end, it turned out to be an immature response to an offense inflicted by someone other than me. And yet, I (and my wife) were cruelly and unfairly criticized.

To be fair, there were a few unflattering statements that were actually true. Ultimately, the vast majority of the message was inaccurate. Regardless, it triggered a shame response and opened up some wounds. The truth is: we all enter into ministry as flawed and fallen people. Our stories are filled with bumps and bruises. We’ve all faced bullies along the way. We’ve each borne our fair share of trauma, grief and regret. Our hearts have been broken and all our scars aren’t fully healed.

We have heart wounds that are perpetually exposed as we experience the insults, hardship, persecution, and difficulties that occur in pastoral ministry. The struggles and burdens of ministry aggravate old injuries AND cause new wounds. Personally, I long to be like the apostle Paul. I want to wholeheartedly believe that the grace of Christ is sufficient for me and that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. I would love to be relentless and resilient when the thorn digs in and my soul feels weary. Throughout my years in ministry I haven’t always had the resources and support I needed.

That’s why Fresh Hope for Pastors is introducing a new program for ministry leaders called Healing the Heart Wounds of Ministry. We know that serving the Lord in vocational ministry can be overwhelming. Too often, pastors try to put their heads down and power through. Most of the time, we do so in isolation from others. After all, the sheep have teeth and it is sometimes your own congregation that does much of the damage.

You need a safe environment where you can share your story with peers who understand. It’s ok not to be ok. Our Heart Wounds retreats offer the unique opportunity for pastors and their spouses to drop their guard and be honest with folks who will be empathetic and encouraging. And, participants won’t simply benefit during the time that we are together. Our goal is to send you back onto the field with tools and resources that will help you remain hopeful and joyful even as you encounter the challenges of ministry.

Sadly, pastors and spouses endure rejection, criticism and attacks. We go through cycles of grief and loss while carrying the weight of the people we love and serve. It’s a hard job that results in a lot of hurt. It is critical for pastors and their families to stay healthy despite the heart wounds.

Our team of pastors, spouses, trauma experts and behavioral health specialists are committed to caring for you as we explore ways that you can enjoy fruitful ministry and increase the longevity of your calling.

What are some of the most significant wounds that ministry has exposed or inflicted?

How has past hurt emerged as you’ve faced the challenges of ministry?

How do you cope with the pain and find hope in the midst of your struggles? Who reminds you of the resurrection and restoration of Christ?

Jason Moore is the director of Fresh Hope for Pastors. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Jason is a former church planter and a certified peer coach. He lives with a mood disorder and walks alongside pastors who are facing the challenges of burnout, anxiety, depression, and other mental and emotional health concerns.     

It Begins With a Story

It Begins With a Story

Every life is a story. Moment by moment, the sentences and paragraphs come together, telling a much bigger story of a life lived. One day the story reaches the final period.  Each of us has a story to tell of how we became a widow. Each story is unique, and each one of you is still writing your story. The amazing thing about these stories is that each one has a surprise ending for you to discover!

Writing a blog is a new venture for me, so I’ve decided to begin by sharing a bit of my personal story. Dave and I had been married 48 years when a malignant cancer appeared under his tongue. Like many men, Dave had put off going to the doctor thinking there was an irritation that needed to heal on its own. At his first visit to the ENT specialist, the doctor scheduled a procedure to remove the affected area and surrounding tissue. That day began a series of surgeries to remove additional small sections of his tongue until we got clear margins.

In January of 2018 the surgeon pronounced him cancer-free with no need to check-in for 6 months. At 5 months Dave became concerned about a small lump he could feel in the side of his neck. The PET scan was moved up, and sure enough — a new cancer appeared in a lymph node in his neck. The ENT surgeon began another surgery to remove it, but decided it was too complex for him. So, he closed and referred us to a Head & Neck specialist at the Buffet Cancer Center in Omaha. And that’s where this present story began.

In August 2018, Dave underwent a 16-hour surgery that removed about half of his tongue, 3 inches of the jugular vein, and most of the muscle on the left side of his neck, as well as a large malignant tumor and 40 lymph nodes. He nearly died twice more during that weekend, had two more emergency surgeries, and spent 5 days on a ventilator. A team of over 30 people worked on him, including a truly brilliant head and neck surgeon, and an equally brilliant reconstructive surgeon. They assured me it was a textbook procedure, that all had gone perfectly, and that Dave should make a complete recovery.

Eight months, 33 radiation treatments, 7 chemo treatments, countless surgical procedures, and hundreds of appointments later, the oncologist stood by Dave’s bedside with me and said, “I don’t know what to tell you. Everything we tried didn’t kill it! There’s nothing more we can do.” That was probably the worst day of our 50 years together. Five days later, Dave heard the Father call his name, and he went right around the cancer into the arms of Jesus.

So, suddenly I became a widow.

That changed every single thing about my life. Every. Single. Thing.

I had more questions than I had answers. A veritable mountain of paperwork stood before me. I suddenly felt like the most intimidated, incompetent person ever to live on the planet. An unending path extended before me, and I had to walk it alone. My kids and grandkids were wonderful…no doubt about it. But I still had to adjust to being alone and making ALL the decisions. Fifty years of marriage had created a comfortable division of labor, and now that was gone. I was now half of a couple learning how to be an “I” after fifty years of being “We”.

As I researched resources for widows, I found lots and lots of grief groups. However, I found very little that actually focused on moving a widow from looking at the past to anticipating the future. One night I saw the fascinating image of a kaleidoscope. As I watched, a slight twist moved a beautiful pattern, and it went completely out of focus. When things turned slightly again, a new and just as beautiful pattern emerged. And suddenly, Refocusing Widows was born in my heart and mind.

In these posts I’ll be speaking from my heart to your heart about the issues that we face as widows. From a faith-based perspective, I know that each of you reading this has a joyful, fulfilling life ahead of you. Faith-filled Hope will motivate you and catapult you into thriving in spite of the trauma of losing your spouse.

What does your story of becoming a widow look like? There are nearly 285 million widowed individuals in the world. You are not alone in all that you’re experiencing. I’d love to hear your story and watch the surprise ending unfold with you. Please feel free to send your thoughts and comments or share your journey with me at sheryl@freshhope.us. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sheryl Gehrls

Founder and Director of Refocusing Widows

Embracing Your Purpose in the Midst of a Pandemic Hit World

Embracing Your Purpose in the Midst of a Pandemic Hit World

I had to look twice, blink and open my eyes wide when I first read the news: “Cheslie Kryst: Former Miss USA dead at 30*”. She died by suicide this last weekend of January 2022 in Manhattan. The sad news featured a contrasting picture of Cheslie- beautiful, smiling and radiant. Among other things Chelsie was lawyer. A sister. A daughter.

 

As one who has dealt with anxiety, depression and even suicidal impulses myself, my heart was racing as I read the devastating news. It was filled, not only with the sorrow that such news brings, but also with a deep sense of the urgency to reach out to those who are being hit by mental health issues.

 

A follower of Christ, diagnosed with bipolar disorder some years ago, I had tasted the bitter waters of mood disorders and what they can do to a person and to a family if they remain undiscovered or untreated. I love Jesus with all my heart and the gospel is everything for me, and still, I had experienced the hopelessness of depression in my own skin. It was only by God´s grace that I was led to “Fresh Hope for Mental Health” and had come to know their recovery principles as well as the real life stories of those who were living full and rich lives in spite of mental health issues.

 

And now here I am living in a world hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic, with strong wake up calls such as Cheslie´s tragic death.

 

Although we do not know exactly what was going on for Cheslie in particular, it is nothing new to say that the COVID-19 Pandemic has caused a mental health pandemic. Fear of death, isolation, financial stress, are just some of the examples of things we are now having to deal with on a daily basis. The Lancet reports that cases of mental disorders have skyrocketed during the pandemic, including 53 million new cases of major depressive disorder and 76 million new cases of anxiety disorder.** At the same time, mental health services have become more and more scarce.

 

But this is not a blog to highlight how dire the situation is- instead, I would like to speak in the name of Hope. It is not by chance that you and I are alive during a time like this! And it does not matter if your life´s circumstances are not perfect. The truth is, the Lord wants to use you just as you are. Just like Noah, Moses, Ruth, Esther, you and I have been born for a time such as this…! We are meant to make a difference in our little corner of the world.

 

First of all, take care of yourself: spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. We cannot help others unless we first help ourselves. For instance, when you travel on an airplane you are instructed to make sure you get your oxygen mask on first should oxygen levels drop in the cabin. You then help those around you. Similarly, you must make sure to take care of yourself so that you can then be of help to those around you.

·        Don´t isolate. Connect with other people through meaningful relationships.  

·        Keep strong communication with God.

·        Feed your mind with the truth of His Word.

·        Make exercise a part of your daily routine.

·        If you take medicine for your mental health, don’t miss a doctor´s appointment and take your medicine as prescribed.

·        If you still don´t attend, consider attending a Fresh Hope Group. Here you can find a list of available groups www.freshhope.us Or you can email me at samantha@freshhope.us so that I help you find one online.

·        Request connecting to a Hope Coach. You can do so by going to https://freshhope.us/hope-coach-connector/ and filling out the form so that a Hope Coach contact you.

 

Once you have taken action to care for yourself, go ahead and embrace your purpose by spreading the hope! This might mean for example that you:

·        Keep your eyes and ears open to opportunities to help those around you.

·        Are intentional about checking in with your loved ones.

·        Say a prayer for those who are sick

·        Do an act of kindness for somebody working in our Health System

·        Send a basket with basic items to that neighbor who has lost a job.

·        Become a Hope Coach. ´Fresh Hope offers a Hope Coach Training. We train you to become an exceptional listener who knows how to ask the right questions to help the other person process their pain and, in doing so, go from a place where they are feeling stuck and hopeless, to a place where they can actually see a way forward. Visit https://freshhope.us/product/hope-coach-training/ to access our training today!

·        Offer a Processing Together Group.

Processing Together is a curriculum by Fresh Hope consisting of a 4 Sessions Study in order to help overcome a shared crisis or natural disaster. You can access it here for FREE https://freshhope.us/product/processing-together/

 

Embrace your purpose…!! In doing so, you will be strengthening not only the mental health of those around you but your own mental health as well! I propose you start now by taking a moment to say a prayer for Cheslie`s family, and by sharing this blog with people you love.

 

How are you Taking Care of Yourself? How are you Embracing your Purpose?

 

 

 

*https://www.bbc.com/

**Institute for New Economic Thinking (ineteconomics.org)

October – Attention Deficit Disorder Awareness and Mobilization Month (ADHD) By Christian Coleman-Jones

October – Attention Deficit Disorder Awareness and Mobilization Month (ADHD) By Christian Coleman-Jones

Every year in October, ADHD Awareness Month is celebrated. The function of this month is to promote awareness among the public of what ADHD is, its causes, symptoms and treatments. 

I’ll be honest with you, before writing this blog, I didn’t really know what I wanted to say. Perhaps the pressures and push and pull of my life led me to think that it was not a topic of much interest among you. But I was wrong. I had the wrong topic. I was so busy with my own ADHD care, of understanding where it comes from in terms of neuroscience, that I had been distracted from what was most important. The issue is not ADHD awareness, the issue is the awareness that we must have day to day, that our lives are governed by Christ, if we are in Him. The main theme is Christ.

Yes, definitely the main theme, the preeminent theme in our complete and whole lives, is Christ. Once we have the main theme defined, we can then go back to what we thought was the main theme and let all the truths be filtered through Christ.

It is important that we know scientifically how the symptoms we suffer from are understood. We are used to use in our conversations, among ourselves and among family or friends, words like: deficiency, ailment, disease, disorder, among others, that do not really help in our growth or recovery process. For example, we use the word “disorder” before “deficit” as part of the acronym ADHD.

The most recent and most credible studies among first world scientists suggest, in some cases, that there is not a disorder or a deficiency, but a difference between those of us who are neurodivergent and those who are neurotypical. The word neurodivergent is used to describe the mind that is neurologically atypical or different from the mind that is seen in greater proportions in neuroscience. The word neurotypical describes the mind that falls on the typical spectrum. I will use these words to avoid having to adopt the terms: deficiency, disorder or irregular – although it is important to note that there are neurological deficiencies that require treatment, as we will see below. However, the words are important. Let us use those that are edifying and let us not use those that do not edify us, within the truth given by the Word and science.

In society in general, historically and culturally, ADHD has been known as a neurodivergence of children with inattention or hyperactivity. It had not been recognized, until recently, that these symptoms could persist into their 40s or 50s, undiagnosed. In addition, it is beginning to be recognized that the real and characteristic symptoms of ADHD are:

  1. Poor emotional regulation.
  2. Impairment of executive functions.
  3. Dysphoria sensitive to rejection.

You may have noticed that none of these three characteristics mentions inattention or hyperactivity. It is being recognized that the ADHD sufferer has a unique ability to pay attention to things, to things that are rewarding. In fact, I can be in front of the computer for 4 hours non-stop dedicated to a subject that gives me a lot of satisfaction to explore. On the other hand, it costs me horrors to start a task and finish it, if it does not satisfy me. It is not as easy as saying: “if you were more dedicated, you could do it” or, “give it your best shot”, you get the point. No, the mind that does not respond to the lack of gratification will not generate enough motivation to start and sometimes finish a boring task. This is not a matter of behavioral motivation that can be modified with personal effort, any more than a person with a broken leg can alter the pace of his recovery with words.

Lack of emotional regulation is a hallmark among people with ADHD. Have you noticed it? Perhaps you know someone with this diagnosis who has difficulty controlling their anger or controlling their impulsivity. In addition to the lack of emotional control, we feel all emotions intensely. If something gives us joy, we feel it very intensely, to such a degree that sometimes we do not know when it is time to stop. When we feel or perceive that someone may have rejected us, we feel that rejection with great intensity, immediately and for a long time. 

The executive function of the brain is what regulates organization, timing, the ability to prioritize, determine the consequences of our actions, and the list goes on. When the executive function is impaired, it can lead to procrastination, procrastination, procrastination, failure to recognize the importance of tasks, in short, it is an extremely important function that can determine the course of any neurodivergent person’s life.

The brain is also no longer recognized as an organ that places its functions in separate compartments, but rather operates in a manner similar to the way networks function in computing. When one network cannot transmit information to another network, all the associated networks may fail. In a very general way, this is how it is beginning to be recognized that our brain works. It is a network of networks, working in an integrated way, so much so that when one network fails, the others can be affected in the same way.

¿Observaron cuánta información puede haber en tres simples características? ¿Pensaron que el TDAH sería más complejo de lo que se imaginaron? No soy científico, ni médico, ni psiquiatra, ni psicólogo. Solo me interesa saber qué es lo que está pasando. Por favor, tomen lo que he descrito arriba como un ejemplo de la cantidad de información que se puede obtener con dedicación. No es mi intención reemplazar la opinión médica y profesional que tengan, no se apoyen en mis observaciones como verdades absolutas. Ustedes también pueden recopilar información para poder entender y para poder explicar. 

Did you notice how much information can be contained in three simple characteristics? Did you think that ADHD would be more complex than you imagined? I am not a scientist, not a doctor, not a psychiatrist, not a psychologist. I am just interested in knowing what is going on. Please take what I have described above as an example of the amount of information that can be obtained with dedication. It is not my intention to replace whatever medical and professional opinion you have, do not rely on my observations as absolute truths. You too can gather information to understand and to explain. 

Perhaps you do not suffer from ADHD, but you will have personal questions that could be clarified if a little more research were done, or perhaps you want to break down the cultural barriers that exist in our societies about mental health. The key is in the study. 

This brings us now to the main topic of this blog – Christ. For by Him, for Him and through Him all things were created (Colossians 1:16-18). No exceptions, no compartments, everything was created by and for Him. That includes our minds. He is the one who governs and controls the functions of our brain. Every one of those functions, millions of them, occurring simultaneously in fractions of a second, respond to the sovereignty of Christ. 

Yes, we believe that God is good and that He does everything for a good purpose. That our God is a God of love (1 John 4), is our peace (John 14:27), who commands all things to work for our good (Romans 8:28) and our hope (1 John 5:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-6; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; John 4:13-14).

We place our hope every day in Christ, not in science as an autonomous and sufficient solution. We need science to understand, we need medicine to heal, and we need understanding to converse with others. 

God is sovereign. He uses the means necessary for His purpose to be fulfilled (Isaiah 43 and 46), not a word He utters flies back to Him void. God’s purpose is always fulfilled. Therefore, it is important to study and know what we suffer from, for that is where we can begin to see what God’s purpose is in the condition of our mental health. God does not make mistakes.

Let us celebrate World Mental Health Day and ADHD Awareness Month, knowing that Christ rules all and that, therefore, with or without knowledge, we are guaranteed our hope, the only hope that, like His mercy, is new every morning.

Christian F. Coleman-Jones

Note: This blog contains information about suffering from ADHD. It is a personal experience and should not be taken as scientific or medical observation nor should it replace the opinions and recommendations of a physician. Seek the advice of your physician or professional at all times.
Information compiled from various documents issued on www.additudemag.com.

“Breaking the Ice” By Christian Coleman-Jones

“Breaking the Ice” By Christian Coleman-Jones

I’m going to break the ice with this post…

We protect our identity so much, spend so much time devising strategies to keep “them” from finding out, that we end our days exhausted, blaming it on work or the heavy day.

I’m not going to make excuses for who I am anymore. This is what it is, and I plan to live it with those who appreciate it, from now on.

I am a person who has great difficulty concentrating on work I don’t enjoy, nor on conversations that are not stimulating. I am easily distracted, which may suggest that I am superficial and not interested in what the other person has to say. I avoid mistakes in social situations, for fear of not being seen as perfect. I have always had difficulty associating with people I don’t know. If I feel that I have been or will be rejected, I can feel sad and angry for hours or days. I don’t have a great ability to control my emotions, therefore, I give the impression of being very intense. I feel everything in excess, there is no in-between.

All of this has a medical name. It is called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is how I was born and even though I am working on ways to improve that, I still maintain the patterns. This is who I am, by the grace of God.

Many of you reading this haven’t seen me for years. Perhaps they were left with ideas, estimates of who I really am. Well, this is it.

What’s more, my 30 years of corporate experience were years I could have devoted to my true passions: Christ, above all things and people, giving myself to those in need of compassion and understanding, writing, music and anything that involves creativity.

But, with the best of intentions, I was instructed that being a businessman would bring financial and emotional stability. The truth is that there is no financial stability that brings emotional stability. I reached my goals and when I was at the top, there was nothing, everything was empty. I found full and permanent satisfaction in the name of Jesus. It doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. It’s who I am and I don’t make excuses for it.

The man with the short hair, suit, tie, and everything else has been a big mask. That’s not Christian, that’s an image of what society expected of me.

Today, I am a man free from the chains that bound me to an electrified cell. I have found that freedom in Christ. With Him I don’t have to pretend, or dress well, or have good relationships, or be efficient in my work, or be excellent in my career, no, I just need to believe, and He takes me as I am, without prejudice or conditions.

This authentic Christian was awakened 6 months ago when I was drastically diagnosed with ADHD. The first day of treatment changed my life completely. But am I the ADHD diagnosis? Not at all, that is one of several adjectives that define who I am. I am different, very different from what the social norm expects by that diagnosis, but it is what it is and that is not going to change unless God has other plans for me.

The invitation to you, who appreciate me, and I appreciate very much, have that pure and authentic freedom. Be genuine, be transparent, put yourselves at risk to love those you do not know, just as we have been loved infinitely.

My great life experience is that when I identify and understand what God created me for, and I carry it out, I find infinite and permanent satisfaction and joy. He wants me to be who I am and what I was created to be. And I find that that is precisely who I am – I am not ashamed of my eccentricities or my controversial ideas (which I always hope to convey gently), and above all, I … am … not … ashamed … of … the … name … of … Jesus!!!

I hope you are not ashamed of me, just the way I am.

I love you all very much.

No Place Like Church

No Place Like Church

Not In Kansas Anymore

Amidst the pandemic of COVID-19, it isn’t news that the mental health of many has suffered. For those of us in the tradition of gathering in the church, it has been a struggle in many ways. We are in unfamiliar territory, as if we were Dorothy transported to the land of Oz.

But what about getting back home, to church?

Whether your church took a reserved approach during 2020 with remote online services and virtual gatherings, or continued to meet in-person despite local jurisdictions’ mandates, church has not been the same. Not only has our routine to meet to worship and fellowship in person been unexpectedly interrupted, our minds have been strained.

The introduction of this new virus put unprecedented pressure on our minds to stay isolated to try to “flatten the curve” as the world health officials encouraged. All of the media voices concertedly stoking fear came at the cost of mental health because of socially isolating and suffering “alone together.”

During these times, the consequences of our choices haven’t always been straightforward, predictable, or easy to handle. We can probably agree, there hasn’t been much of anything “easy” about how to respond to the pandemic.

If anything, we’ve all had to reorient and adjust to the changes, akin to how Dorothy had to adjust to Technicolor!

Something Like a Twister

COVID-19 put the burden on each of our plates individually and corporately to make those choices to either meet together or stay home and isolate. Most of us stayed home, I believe, to the detriment of our mental health and the church’s wellbeing.

The question of how to respond as the body of Christ has not been easy to answer.

Many have returned to the sanctuary in the past few months as mandates loosened only to find an emptier, sparser congregation, or be the victim of the virus like my family and I were in January 2021.

While our own church stayed open for in-person services throughout the pandemic, many parishioners did not mask up. As a result, even though my family wore masks, we came down with the Coronavirus. Thankfully, we survived. I had a mild case of symptoms of slight congestion and loss of sense of smell and flavor. Nothing over-the-counter medicine couldn’t handle.

However, for all of us yearning to return to our church families, normal has left the building.

Don’t Forget Who Has The Answers

No matter how confusing, intimidating, infuriating, stressful, or risky these times have been, let’s remind ourselves of what has not changed.

There remains the constant, never-changing goodness of the one we gather for — God. His sovereign nature is to shepherd His sheep as He leads us through the valley of the shadow, into green pastures.

If we should follow our Good Shepherd who calls each of us by name, we will find ourselves where the Bible promises us: anointed by God, who prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies.

Since “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind,” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV), let us employ that manifestation in our gatherings.

In doing so, we should see that the church will rise to worship her groom, Christ, “to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Ephesians 5:26, NLT).

When we continue to walk in the ways He is leading – together — we will find healing. The healing that comes from a spirit of unity, love, and peace between God and His children.

Can any of us be careful enough around a pandemic’s invisible virus that God foreknew would take many frail and vulnerable lives?

Neither our cautious efforts, nor the virus, can diminish or dissolve God’s goodness and mercy.

God remains the same, even though it would figure that such a strategy would be the Enemy’s attempt to steal the power of our gatherings and the ability to experience God’s omnipotent presence.

“You Always Had the Power My Dear, You Just Had To Learn It for Yourself”

-Glinda the Good Witch, The Wizard of Oz

Similar to Dorothy asking Glinda how she could have gone home all along, frankly, we as the church could have gone home all along. But for many of us, this tornado of a pandemic threw us for a loop and we became bewildered. It’s as if the CDC recently declared like Glinda, “You always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”

Let’s guard our minds against the fear of gathering in person when there is so much at stake. If “nothing can wholly replace the benefits of positive human touch,” as this article explains, then we are sorely in need of some long overdue contact. We are struggling alone at home, and even in the fabricated ways we try to connect as we do like in video calls and social media.

If anything, the church needs to return to fellowship and share our burdens with one another in the spirit of Christ – who suffered and yet “He was beaten so we could be whole.  He was whipped so we could be healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NLT).

Jesus risked his life touching lepers, healing the sick, delivering those serious about his call to the kingdom at hand. If the shadow of Paul could heal, what would keep us from the power of God by fellowshipping in person?

God clearly mandates his family to meet together, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV).

Fortunately, we can gather safely, guarding against the spread of infectious diseases by

wearing masks, physically distancing, spacing pews farther apart. Most churches provide hand sanitizers and sinks with soap and water. If you want, you can get a vaccine.

In moving forward into the freedom of God’s healing presence at church, I encourage us to remember and apply the following thoughts:

  • Let us not be ignorant of our Enemy’s schemes to “steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10)
  • Let us not forget our First Love, as the reason we gather together as the church (Revelation 2:4)
  • Let us gather to worship, and we will find we are stronger together (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  • Let us not be short-sighted: if we die, we die; our security and peace of mind is ultimately locked up in Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven (Philippians 1:21)

May God lead you back to your church family in a safe way and may you return to a healthy state of mind in the spirit of Christ’s peace. After, all, there’s no place like church.

About the author:

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.

Why Now is the Time to Explore Your Mental Health Katie R. Dale for Fresh Hope For Mental Health, PastorBrad.blog

Why Now is the Time to Explore Your Mental Health                                           Katie R. Dale for Fresh Hope For Mental Health, PastorBrad.blog

Now is the Time

May is Mental Health Awareness month.

With so many of us in isolated status with COVID 19, the affects on our mental health have been evident.

Just take one look at your news feed in social media accounts to see what the mentality of our world has come to.

It should be no shocker that a lot of us have been emotionally taxed throughout the past year (plus) of lockdowns and weakened markets.

Certainly the world hasn’t seen such a shadow cast from stormy clouds of a pandemic in a long time.

Tomorrow is Coming

There is no better time than now to explore the way your mind has been working.

Before the world gets back on track, give your brain the time and knowledge to understand why it’s been so challenging to live in lockdowns.

When things start to open up again, it will not only be more “business as usual,” but some people might struggle a bit to return to “usual.”

Once most people get vaccinated, and governments lift all the mandates, things will inevitably pick up in pace and pressure.

People’s state of isolation and suppressed energy levels without outlet will dump us out into the freeway of life at the speed of life.

Unless you’re calibrated to a healthy mental state of being beforehand, life may get tough in the adjustment process.

I predict that returning to the world as we knew it won’t happen. The world as we knew it will never be that way, at least, not for a long time. We’ll be straddling to walk in the comfort of how things used to be, and how things have become. The new normal.

Take Inventory Today

We can’t afford to miss the opportunity to tune into our mental health in this window of time.

Not only have attempts on taking one’s life become more prevalent, but depression and anxiety aren’t such taboo notions to most anymore because of the indirect social effects of COVID-19.

If you’ve been unable to function to a relatively normal degree of output (which is skewed with all of us because, what is “normal” anymore?), I’d encourage you to grow your knowledge about your mind and its state of well-being.

Recommendations

I would strongly suggest looking at resources for your mental health, if you’re:

  • tempted to go to sleep at a new day, instead of waking up and being productive
  • not as social as you once were and you avoid going out or connecting with a friend virtually
  • making impulsive, unhealthy choices
  • overloaded with expectations and demands on you, and need healthy ways to cope
  • having low moods of depression
  • moving and/or speaking slower or quicker than usual
  • eating and/or sleeping more or less than usual
  • believing you’re a burden to others or not wanted
  • considering unhealthy ways to end your internal pain and discomfort
  • having thoughts that you would be better off dead
  • overreacting or irritable in response to others
  • having unexplained changes in thoughts, emotions, and/or behaviors

After seeking out a trusted friend or family member to talk about these things, here are a few places to help guide your journey back to a healthier state-of-mind:

  1. Pastor Brad’s blog as a peer and pastor: Fresh Hope blog
  2. A Game Plan Resource Guide as a road map to wellness: BipolarBrave.com/resources
  3. A couple good books to read: I Love Jesus But I Want to Die by Sarah J. Robinson; Depression, Anxiety and other Things We Don’t Talk About by Ryan Casey Waller
  4. Some websites on all-things-mental-health: PsychCentral.com, Psycom.net
  5. Places to find a good Christian counselor: aacc.net, christiantherapistnetwork.org

As always, if you are experiencing a crisis and need emergency care, call 9-1-1

If you are wanting to talk to someone urgently 24/7, call the suicide prevention hotline at 800-273-8255 –     or text the suicide prevention text line at 741741

Hey there! I’m Katie Dale, familiar with the storms of mental illness, and I blog about my faith and how it has informed my brain-based disorder at BipolarBrave.com. I also have a memoir out about my journeys through the psych wards and how I found peace of mind with psych meds (by the grace of God) – you can find it on Amazon here. Since my former profession of case manager at a behavioral clinic, I’ve stepped into the role of stay-at-home mommy to Kylie. And I get to travel the world with Chris, my man in uniform. Aside from that, I could live off mac ‘n cheese, and I still hold onto my aspiration to run a sub-20-minute 5k. Come find me and say hi on social media @KatieRDale. Stay bold, brave, and real.