This will help stop the violence…

I think the real issue is not too many guns but a lack of mental health care.  Let me explain.  It shocked me to find out that, generally speaking, the cities with the strictest gun control laws have the most crime and the cities with the most guns have the lowest crime.  Internationally, when comparing countries, the same principle plays out.  Conclusion? When the people bear arms there is less crime.

So if gun control will not stop “crazy” (President Obama’s word) gunmen what do we do?

The mentally ill must be offered treatment.  And, as you consider paying for that last statement, realize that one of those receiving treatment just might eventually be you.

Half of the people in the United States will experience their own mental illness in their lifetime.  That is 150 million people.  Yet voting for funding to meet this challenge isn’t popular.  Ignorance, fear of the unknown, stigma, blame all contribute to distort the perception of the disease and its treatment.  Medication and behavior therapies can dramatically help a dramatic number of sufferers of mental illness.  And it costs much less than paying for the prison stays many, many sufferers of mental illness are forced to endure.  It costs less than hospitalization.  And, if you value human life, it costs less than suicide or homicide.

But that is just the start.  Because when you treat mental illness you rescue someone from a prison of intense psychological and sometimes physical suffering.  You release the person to be what God intended them to be.  They can even stop costing taxpayers and start becoming taxpayers and actually start paying back those who funded their rescue.

Since getting the correct meds and taking them starting in 1985 I have worked for 23 years as an Advertising Designer.  I have given back in taxes and charitable giving, roughly between $150,000 and $200,000 during that 23 year period (adjusted to 2008 dollars).

I have also had the privilege to marry my beautiful wife and adopt out of foster care the two boys I love.  So much beauty can happen when someone who is mentally ill gets the right treatment.  Financially it goes from negative to positive.  And, humanly, it goes from a living death, to the light of life.

 

Jesus is healing my racism

What is “race”?  Is it possible to define one race from another?  What attributes would you use?  Are the attributes of one race possible to be found in a different race?  If those of different races can have children then aren’t we all part of the same gene pool?  If we are all part of the same gene pool then aren’t the attributes that define race arbitrary?  For example why is it that skin color is used to define different races but eye color is not?

I am guilty of prejudging people, of prejudice.  I have looked at people with mental illness labels as if they were less than me somehow.  I have believed that those with a developmental disability are less than me somehow.  I have looked at people with different skin color, language, height, weight, culture as less than me somehow.  I have even believed that some people with different attributes than me were better than me somehow.  I have allowed my fears and ignorance about others different from me to influence my perception and conclusions about them.  Fortunately there is help for me, and His Name is Jesus.

Jesus said to me in the Bible to love God with all that I am, and love all people in the same way I love myself.  I couldn’t do that until I received God’s love for me.  I have hated myself much of my life.  I have also loved myself, but in a self-serving way.  Trying to feel better about myself I despised others.  This was not a reflection on them.  This was the result of my rejecting Jesus’ love for me.  It wasn’t until I humbled myself, asked forgiveness, and actually believed what God said, that God loved me, that I experienced His love and healing.  And now I can love God and other people, not perfectly, but hopefully in increasing measure each day.

It took going "crazy" to discover what real sanity was

I am grateful to God for the mental illness He gave me.  (But I would never want to repeat it).  Looking back I was “crazier” when I was “sane” and sane now that I’m mentally ill.

Let me unpack that.

Before mental illness I wanted to be a aerospace engineer.  I wanted to impress people with how smart I was.  I wanted fame, fortune, power and pleasure.  I had bought the whole commercial-driven American media world-view.

Most of the girls in my high school graduation class wanted to be social workers it seemed.  I thought they were crazy.  Helping people seemed like a colossal, boring, unrewarding waste of time.

It was at this point that God publicly invaded my private world.  God told me I was a sinner, but I didn’t believe Him.  What I didn’t know was that I was in love with myself, looked down on everyone else, and thought the world should serve me.   That’s when God gave me mental illness.  And my life and the lies I told myself, about myself, fell with a great crash.  God humbled me.  I couldn’t get much “lower” in superficial stereo-typed status than being intermittently locked up in mental hospitals.

For the next ten years I fought God and the meds.  At the end of ten years God gave me the wisdom to take the meds.  Then He sent Bonnie, who knew and loved Jesus, to tell me Jesus loved me.  I wasn’t interested.  Then Bonnie told me that if I rejected the love of Jesus, the only thing left for me was hell.

That got my attention.

I chose to turn around and follow Jesus.

He forgave me, loved me and gave me a heart that cared about other people.  Now I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist working with others who themselves deal with mental illness.  I encourage, give hope, and care.  And I love it.  It took most of my life to discover my life’s work.  And it took going “crazy” to discover what real sanity is.

Why God allowed suffering in my life (for both before and after becoming a Christian)

I grew up obeying rules and secretly (secret from myself, that is) thinking I was better than other people.  At nineteen, as I was beginning a slide into depression but didn’t know it, I was “called” into my bedroom by what I was hoping/afraid might be God.  I told Him I wanted to be like the Christians in the Bible.  God told me through the Bible that those who are forgiven little, love little.  But, those who are forgiven much, love much.  I thought I had little to be forgiven of so I told God I wanted to be forgiven of much and I thought it might be fun to sin.  God impressed on my spirit, “You’re a sinner!”  He wasn’t talking about your everyday church-going sinner that we all are.  He meant I was vile, evil and depraved.  I replied, “No, I’m not!”  He said again, “You’re a sinner!”  I said again, “No, I’m not!”

Then God did the kindest, most loving thing He could do for me:  He “blessed” me with mental illness (that would not be correctly treated for ten years).  The mental illness caused indescribable psychic pain, anguish, regret, and shame.  My emotions left me (but I didn’t know it) causing me to feel like I hadn’t really talked to anyone for ten years; I literally felt alone for all of those years.  And, my Pride was assaulted:  I was in and out of mental hospitals, I was humiliated because I lost many jobs, I could not do some of the simplest of things (like count money), and I despised being labeled mentally ill and a failure.

Why did I call it God’s “blessing?” because that was the only way for my Pride to fall.  I came to realize I was vile, evil and depraved; just like God had told me.  God called me again after ten years and I grudgingly accepted Him.  And God began the continuous work of changing me so that eventually I will have the beautiful loving character of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus.

But bringing me to Jesus wasn’t the only value of the pain.  God allowed that pain to go deep within to allow me to care deeply about the hurts of others; to be able to empathize with others, and let others in pain know I that have hurt deeply as well.  I use the pain God gave me every day in my job, as I walk alongside those dealing with mental illness.  (And, I also use the pain to understand others who have experienced pain, such as my children, who were traumatized before we adopted them).

I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone.  I wish I could have learned without the pain.  But God used the pain to win me to Himself and change me; and help me to care about, and be willing and able to serve, others.

And for that I will forever be grateful.

Why does God allow Suffering in the Christian’s life?

I just got done watching InTouch with Dr. Charles F. Stanley.  I was convicted that I may have been sending the message that once you are rightly related to God, through faith in His Son Jesus’ death on the cross paying for your sins, that everything after is peace, joy and love.  Dr. Stanley said that some things we can only learn as we experience pain and suffering; suffering from obeying God, and suffering from not obeying God.

Suffering from not obeying God makes sense.  God has the best planned for us.  If we don’t do what He says we can suffer the natural consequences of not positioning ourselves for His best.

But what about when we obey God and there is pain and suffering?  Does that mean God has abandoned us?  Does that mean it is pointless to serve God?  God says through Jesus in the Bible that when we suffer for doing good there is blessing.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Jesus, Matthew 5:11-12, NKJV

I have personal experience of this being true.  When I first became a Christian I told a person close to me about Jesus and what He had done for me.  They hurled their vehement anger towards God, at me.  Later, they told me a very sad cynical sexually-themed joke and when I didn’t laugh they accused me of thinking the joke was funny but being a hypocrite and not laughing.  They continued to insult me personally and Christians in general as evil, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, hypocrites.  The experience was painful, God insulated me from the worst of it by taking it upon Himself, and I didn’t say anything negative back to this person. (I wasn’t strong enough at that time to return good for evil, the best I could do was not retaliate).

What was my reward?  Many years later I was thinking about what happened and I realized, that by obeying Jesus, and doing what did not come naturally, I had loved this person. I had done what was in their best interest.  I had told them about the love of God and demonstrated it by not returning evil for evil.  And that was worth more to me than gold or homes or cars.  That truly was a “great reward”.

It can be very painful following God, but God always works everything out for our good.  And He also works out everything so that the world can know who He truly is.  As Dr. Charles F. Stanley says, “Obey God, and leave all the consequences to Him.”

A Father’s Gift from God

I cannot imagine being a father to our two sons without their mother (my wife) and her godly influence on my life.

I am a listener.  I don’t have the need to talk all the time.  But when I need to talk it is an intense need, and the one I want to talk to the most is my wife.  She listens then.  And she lets me vent my heart without jumping in and “solving” my frustration.  I then ask for her opinions and we give and take; or she just gives and I take (when necessary).

When we are having trouble with one or both of our sons she doesn’t try to tell me how I should respond to them.  She doesn’t micromanage home life.  She asks me questions to help me see what is truly important in the situations we experience with our two sons.  These questions help me see critical things I am missing on my own.

My wife prays for me.  She knows that only Jesus can help me be a better father.  She knows the only one who can change me is God and she puts her time and effort in with Him.  She spends time with Jesus on my behalf.

Honey, many women do noble things, but you are my gift from God.

You can choose to go to Heaven

To me the best salespeople aren’t the ones who try to pressure me into doing what they want me to do.  To me the best salespeople are the ones who give me the facts and respect me enough to let me make up my own mind.  One of my former pastors, Rev. Dave Terhune, used to say that he’s in sales and God is in management.  My pastor presented Jesus, told how much Jesus loved them (by dying in their place, and rising from the dead to give them new life forever), and their response and the consequences of their response (surrender to Jesus and live with Him forever; decide not to surrender, or decide not to decide, and be separated from Jesus forever (Hell)).

Pastor Dave never saved a single soul using this method.

But God saved hundreds of people, using Pastor Dave, using this method.  Give people the truth.  Give them the options and consequences of those options.  And let God do the rest.  Because only He can do the rest.

Contrary to what much of what our culture believes, God loves you and everyone else.  In eternity past He thought: I want to make a Jim McNaughton.  Now God knew before He made me that I would reject Him and need to have my mind taken away from me for ten years before I would be humbled enough to accept Him.  He knew that I would hate Him when I was in that pain, for what He had done to me .  He loved me enough that he was willing to endure me and my rebellion, until at last I surrendered to Him.  Now I realize that all that indescribable pain was worth it.  On the other side of ignorance and pain is the realization that God suffered with me and for me and I was never alone.  Mental Illness was a gift packaged in pain that changed my attitude from pride to humility.  Looking back the pain was infinitely worth it.  And I would go through it again if that was the only way to know Christ.  But… I definitely would not want to go through it again if I didn’t have to go through it again.

I think it was King David who said, “Strike me, it is a kindness.” And his son King Solomon that said, “The wounds of a friend can be trusted.”  Just because I was in the worst pain I have ever experienced didn’t mean that God didn’t exist, that God was powerless to stop the pain, or that God was evil.  God exists, He gave me the pain, and He made it work together for my good.

Millions of people suffer infinitely more than I have.  I don’t know why God allows so much pain.  But, I believe that when someone hurts, He hurts.  I watched the movie, God’s Not Dead, a few hours ago and they brought up our Free Will.  God chose to give us a choice as to whether we believe, trust and obey Him.  Or, whether we do not believe, trust and obey Him.  When we believe, trust and obey God we experience peace, joy and love.  All that is going on around us may be chaos.  But, on the inside, we enjoy God’s presence.  When we choose not to believe trust and obey him we experience evil, or the absence of God.

God wants you to choose life, to choose Him because He knows He is the best thing for you.  He made you because He wanted to love you and wanted you to experience His joy in receiving and giving love.  But He respects you and your right to choose.  He will not force Himself on you.  When He made you He placed you in times and circumstances that would best influence you to search for Him and find Him and realize that He loves you.  But He also allows you to choose to ignore Him, and pretend He does not exist, and die without Him, forever.  He is not wrong for allowing this.  It is the outflow of having a Free Will.  If you say to God, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone,” (active rejection), or decide not to decide, (passive rejection), He will do what you want.  And an eternity without God is Hell.

God is desperately pleading with you to choose Life, to choose Him.  But the only guaranteed time you have is today.  His arms are stretched out to you, His hands open wide.  But it is up to you.  Will you return His love?