Category Archives: Psychology and Mental Health Issues

Restoration Over Rest at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

group-of-employees-receiving-5-year-awardsPine Rest just celebrated their annual employee appreciation and award evening, gourmet-dinner-at-pine-restcomplete with a gourmet dinner group-of-people-receiving-employee-awardsand awards for employees
who have served 5, 10, 15, 20…and on up in increments of 5 years. recipient-of-55-year-service-award-at-pine-restOne lady flew back from Florida to receive her 55-year service award!
Can you imagine working at the same ministry for 55 years?!

employee-appreciation-dinner-at-pine-restThis bright, beautiful lady shared that the reason she’s persevered so long is that she has the same heart for ministry as Pine Rest: compassionate Christian care for those with mental health needs.pine-rest-appreciation-dinner-awardsAlan has been working at PRCH (Pine Rest Christian Hospital) for 23 years, so he wasn’t up for an award, but because he’s the CMO (chief medical officer), we’re always invited to enjoy the festivities and honor the faithful employees! pine-rest-ceo-addresses-employeesOur CEO, Mark, is such a stalwart, spiritually-minded leader, and he gave a brief but very memorable message about “Two Holy Moments.” He said the first is when people wake up in the morning and make the decision to go into work, even though they’d rather sleep and are weary of putting aside their own needs to serve others. The second is when they are at work and choose to be present with those who are suffering. Pine Rest ministers to over 50,000 people each year. Like all attempts at intervention, many people are helped, but not all can be healed. However, employees can all express love by their presence and efforts to assist in the healing process. This is a second “holy” moment: Choosing to love each patient and serve them with “compassion and understanding in time of need and offer hope and help through the provision of excellent care.” ceo-of-pine-restThat’s a very high calling, but I think it’s something we can all ascribe to in our daily lives, no matter what our job is, be it leading a company, serving others in hospital or school settings, working as a mechanic, waitress, hairdresser, babysitter, parent, or whatever!

Are you struggling with your job? I’m not saying you should stay in whatever job you have at present, but I would like to encourage you to feel a sense of holiness about whatever job you’re doing. Offer your decision to work as a sacrifice to God, choosing restoration over rest. As an offering to God, choose to love those you serve by providing excellent care. It will tinge what might otherwise be drudgery with the glow of Shekinah glory.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

And, here’s a verse that just struck me this morning as Alan and I were reading together: “ So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12, NIV). When we serve others in love for the sake of Christ, we are literally giving our life so that others may live. But, if we have eternal life within us by faith in Christ, then to give of our lives to bring “many sons to glory” is a supremely beautiful exchange!

Exalta’s Free Dental Day: The Joy of Volunteering

dental-director-explaining-free-dental-day-to-volunteers-exalta-grand-rapids-miIf any of you live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and can’t afford dental care, exalta-healthI’d like to introduce you to Exalta Health, volunteers-at-exalta-grand-rapids-mia faith-based non-profit (largely funded by donations) x-rays-at-free-dental-day-exaltato help with health care needs for the poor and uninsured in our area. danielarmstrongOur son, Daniel, is the dental director there, briefing-for-free-dental-day-exaltaand a couple of times every year they offer a completely free dental day. full-waiting-room-at-free-dental-day-exaltaI probably should have written this post before—rather than after—free-dental-day-exalta-dental-caretheir last free day, which occurred last Friday. dr-armstrong-explains-procedures-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miHowever, if you’re interested, I’ll give information at the end of the post daniel-armstrong-dental-director-exalta-grand-rapids-miso that you can call and find out about when the next free dental day will occur. visual-screening-at-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThe Free Dental Day includes not only dental care, free-eye-care-at-free-dental-day-exaltabut free eye exams,  triage-nurse-at-free-dental-day-exaltasome minor medical triage,chaplain-at-free-dental-day-exalta and for those who are interested, free consultation with a chaplain. president-and-advancement-director-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta Health, (these two are our president and advancement director)exalta-health-dentistrywas formerly known as H.I.S. (Health Intervention Services, belonging to HIM). fatherson-team-volunteering-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miThis charity for the poor began 20 years ago, oral-surgeon-operating-exalta-grand-rapids-miand there are now professionals from over 2 dozen areas of healthcare  retired-husbandwife-dental-team-helping-at-free-dental-day-exaltawho volunteer their time and expertise dental-care-exalta-grand-rapids-mi to serve the needs of our under-served population. free-dental-day-extractions-exalta-grand-rapids-miExalta’s motto is, “Reflecting the spirit of Christ, exalta-health-staff-and-volunteersour mission is to provide compassionate, accessible health care.” secretarial-support-and-volunteer-coordinator-at-exaltaAlthough over the past few years keeping-tools-cleaned-and-packaged-exalta-grand-rapids-miI’ve had the privilege in serving in a number of different capacities, two-generations-volunteering-together-at-exalta-health-free-dental-day-2this time I was the photographer, which was super fun. patients-waiting-for-help-at-exalta-healthIt just makes me so happy to see people come in with tooth pain smiling-patients-exalta-health-careand go out with a smile and a look of relief!  consulting-on-patient-care-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miSo, I want to encourage you in three ways:

waiting-room-at-exalta-free-dental-day*If you need help personally and live in our area,
feel free to contact Exalta Health:

dental-hygenists-students-from-gvsu*If you have some time to invest in caring for people in need, volunteers-waiting-for-patients-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miconsider Exalta Health as very rewarding place to volunteer. teeth-cleaning-zt-free-dental-day-exaltaThey need not only healthcare professionals and clinical support, learning-about-patients-exalta-free-dental-day-grand-rapids-mibut also volunteers who can help with general supportexalta-health-support(secretarial or maintenance skills, etc.).  volunteers-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miThese were the volunteers last Friday.registration-table-for-free-dental-day-exaltaAnd, they minister to a lot of Hispanics, faithful-interpreter-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miso if you know Spanish, you’d be especially valuable! caring-for-patients-at-free-dental-day-exalta*If you live in another city but are a healthcare professional or have a heart  chaplain-serving-as-interpreter-at-exalta-healthto help the poor, look around and see what you can find in your area. oral-surgeon-helping-free-dental-day-exaltaIf there’s nothing available now, volunteer-at-exalta-healthmaybe you could be the impetus to begin something.  listening-to-orientation-for-free-dental-day-exalta-grand-rapids-miIt is such a blessing to be a part of helping others in need!  🙂exalta-volunteersIn all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive
.’” (Acts 20:35, ESV) preparing-for-dental-treatment-at-exalta-grand-rapids-miFor the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor,
and to thy needy, in thy land
” (Deuteronomy 15:11, KJV). preparing-patient-for-x-rays-exalta-healthWe who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1, ESV). dr-armstrong-working-with-a-patient-at-exalta-healthAnd we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, ESV).

Rise Up, My Love (218): Feeling Blue? How About Being a Brilliant Blue?

kathi-in-field-of-rapeseed-05-15-16-france-countrysideSong of Solomon 7:1. Do you ever wish you looked different? Shorter nose, lighter frame, smaller waistline, broader shoulders…whatever? Do you know that God made you exactly the way he wanted you? I still marvel at that and find myself asking, “Are you sure? I don’t look the way I would have made me…” Do you doubt God’s wisdom? Would you change his sovereign choice? Would you like to be a piece of pottery who says to the master, “Why did you make me thus?” “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay?” (Romans 9:20-21). beautiful-ceramic-pottery-in-napoleons-apartments-louvreNo, we need to respond as the prophet did in Isaiah 64:8, “O Lord, thou art our Father, we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” May we learn to rejoice with the sweet psalmist who sang out, “For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands” (Psalm 92:4). Oh, the love and tender care our heavenly bridegroom has bestowed on us! Oh, for hearts to understand our heavenly husband’s delight in his wife’s beauty (that’s us)! And yet, we must also always remember that our beauty is really the result of his love, not the cause of it! africa-starling-in-ehlanzeni-saMay we never come to the point of becoming proud or lifted up, thinking that we are more beautiful or somehow spiritually superior to anyone else. Who makes us beautiful? “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee [emphasis mine]…behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires” (Isaiah 54:10-11). south-african-national-gallery-of-artThe next time you feel blue, remember that you are blue…deep down…for God has laid your foundation with sapphires! As a friend once said to me, “If you’re going to be blue, at least be a brilliant blue.” tanzanite-from-shimansky-diamonds-in-cape-town-saIn fact, our foundation is the brilliant sapphire, and the structure of our body (which is the spiritual temple to be filled with the glory of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us) is laid in multicolored gems…rubies, diamonds, and emeralds, etc.! If that doesn’t cheer your heart—then meditate on that last passage (Isaiah 54:10-11), and let it sink in! Finally, as we read in Colossians 1:16, “All things were created by him, and for him.” Not only did his great love culminate in our creation and redemption, he did it for his pleasure! blue-skies-with-grey-and-white-cloudsLook at Revelation 4:11, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Would you like to add to his pleasure? “Build the house [referring to the temple]; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord” (Haggai 1:8). How can we please our Lord and add to his pleasure? By “building” upon the house-temple of our body’s foundation with the gold, silver, and precious stones of faith, reverence, love, obedience… and the good works that follow in their train. Oh, Lord, may we rejoice in your work in us—the work of a cunning craftsman—and may we also do our part to build upon the foundation a temple of great beauty so that you will be glorified and take pleasure in us!

Rise Up, My Love (217): The Fisherman Creator

female-baltimore-oriole-in-our-cherry-tree-05-10-14Song of Solomon 7:1 “The joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.” Who made this beautiful bride? Have you ever heard the little nursery rhyme that goes, “Little bird, little bird, who made me?” Ah, the Scripture gives the answer. “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalms 139:14). The word translated “cunning workman” in the King James (translated “master hand” or “skilled craftsman” in other texts) is the Hebrew amman, which is only used this once in the entire Old Testament, although the verbal stem amam is common and means “faithful; true” (Lloyd G. Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 157). Who crafted the bride’s wonderfully soft and rounded thighs? The ever faithful and true one, the Lord Himself, as he reminds us in Colossians 1:16, “All things were created by him [the Son of God], and for him.” Our Lord not only gave us the shoes and made us a prince’s daughter…he created our entire body…and a beautiful body at that. “In the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me” (Isaiah 49:2). A polished shaft…straight, true, and beautifully rubbed to a lustrous sheen…“the work of the hands of a cunning craftsman”…carefully made and lovingly kept in his own quiver. dragon-fly-near-victoria-falls-zimbabweI have never seen a man make an arrow, but I have seen a man tie a fly in preparation for a trout fishing adventure, and I believe what an arrow is to a bow hunter must be similar to what a fly is to a fisherman.
fishing-on-rogue-river-miGeorge was my husband’s best friend from college days, and he was an avid fisherman. When he went fishing, he didn’t just buy artificial flies to attract the fish, he made his own. One time he showed us how he did it. He had a special mechanical contraption to help him and all the finest, specially selected materials. Everything had to be “just so!” He explained the whole procedure as he went along, but at the critical point, he stopped talking…his mouth open just a bit…and his tongue slightly out and curled up at the tip as he tied off that fly. It made me laugh to see such utter abandon and enthusiasm over making an artificial fly, and I had to get him to do it again so I could take a picture. It wasn’t the fly that intrigued me (not being a fisher woman), but his absolute precision and his delight in that funny little creation. fisherman-in-zambezi-riverNow, a tiny artificial fly is hardly to be compared to the creation of a human being, nor the art of a man to the wonder of God…but do you get the picture? God created us with absolute precision and total delight. He is the Almighty One, and his Son, Jesus, was the ultimate fisherman who made us exactly the way he wanted us! Isn’t that precious?!

Third Presidential Debate: Abortion Made Easy

10-20-16-abortion-third-presidential-debateA blog follower from down under asked me if findings from recent weeks had caused me to change my opinion concerning for whom to vote in the coming election. Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who mentioned that on her flight home from Israel she’d sat next to a Zionist who asked who she was planning to vote for in the upcoming election. In response, she asked who he’d vote for, and without missing a beat he said, “Well, Trump’s crazy, but Clinton’s a lying cheat.”  And we, fellow Americans, have put these two on the ballot. Regretfully, we deserve them, although I’m praying for personal and national repentance. May God forgive us and heal our land!

I’ve been trying to keep my mind and options open until I heard this last debate, which occurred last night. I thought Chris Wallace asked the perfect, pointed questions, and I wish Trump and Clinton had answered them all straightforwardly, but I felt they were clear enough on most issues. Over the next few days, I’ll definitely be mulling over the various questions posed at the debate, but today I want to discuss abortion, because the two candidates have polar views, and both articulated them very clearly.

Clinton defended her vote against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 (although it was ultimately enacted anyway), hiding behind rhetoric that it was about a woman’s health and that the legislation would not have done enough to protect the “life and health of the mother.” She said, “The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are  often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who have toward the end of their pregnancy get the worst news one could get, that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.” (I just transcribed what she said; I recognize that the rhetoric isn’t perfect grammatically.)

Trump was also clear in his position. He described partial-birth abortion as “ripping the baby out of the mother’s womb” and said, “Honestly, nobody has business doing  that as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth. Nobody has that right.”

Clinton referred to Trump’s stand as “scare rhetoric” that “is terribly unfortunate.” This, folks, is where I have to take a stand. Have you read about partial-birth abortion? If I may quote Wikipedia:

“The statute includes two findings of Congress:

(1) A moral, medical, and ethical consensus exists that the practice of performing a partial-birth abortion… is a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary and should be prohibited.

(2) Rather than being an abortion procedure that is embraced by the medical community, particularly among physicians who routinely perform other abortion procedures, partial-birth abortion remains a disfavored procedure that is not only unnecessary to preserve the health of the mother, but in fact poses serious risks to the long-term health of women and in some circumstances, their lives. As a result, at least 27 States banned the procedure as did the United States Congress which voted to ban the procedure during the 104th, 105th, and 106th Congresses.”

So, I vehemently disagree both with Hillary’s support of a woman’s right to partial-birth abortion, and to her opinion that Trump was just using “terribly unfortunate” “scare rhetoric.” Partial-birth abortion is nothing less than murder and should be banned. I have a grandson who was a micro-preemie and survived at 27.5 weeks. Almost all babies survive well after 36 weeks if their skulls aren’t crushed inutero before being delivered. I personally know dozens of women who’ve paid $15,000-$20,000+ to adopt a baby from some foreign country because not enough babies are available in America. Many childless couples would love to be able to adopt a child that might otherwise have died through a partial-birth abortion procedure. (Six percent of American women are now considered infertile, and I’ve read that one in seven couples are infertile.) Let’s be honest about one thing: Partial-birth abortion is the immoral and evil killing of viable human life, and Hillary defends it.

Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” ~Mother Teresa

“The greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion, which is war against the child. The mother doesn’t learn to love, but kills to solve her own problems. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.” Mother Teresa

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has shown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father’s role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts ~ a child ~ as a competitor, an intrusion, and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the independent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.”
~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta , “Notable and Quotable”, Wall Street Journal, 2/25/94 , p. A14 ~ (from Faithful Catholics)

Is it True that “Everything is Possible”?

everything-is-possible“A life without fear is a life without limits” (Jen Bricker). Have you ever heard of Nick Vujicic or Jen Bricker? I’d never heard of Jen Bricker before I read her book, Everything is Possible, which was just released last week, but she really does give me the feeling that with God, everything is possible…at least everything that God calls us to!  jen-bricker-with-her-adopted-brothersBorn without legs, Jen was abandoned by her parents at birth. Thankfully, an incredibly nurturing family adopted her and brought her up to love God and embrace her life and her body, learning to overcome what most of us would consider impossible barriers to become what she is today: an aerialist, a motivational speaker, an author, and best of all, a joyful, healthy individual who has turned her liability into an asset and lives an incredibly rich, fascinating, and fruitful life! jen-bricker-performingEverything is Possible has made me re-evaluate the way I look at challenges. If Jen could overcome huge physical, emotional, and spiritual obstacles without legs, it makes me realize that I’m a wimp by comparison. If you’re down in the dumps about your life problems, take a break to be inspired by Jen’s life story, then get to work realizing your dreams. As Jesus taught us:  “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).   jen-brickerA few of my favorite quotes from Jen’s book:

“As we try new things, we discover how strong we are and realize the only limits are the ones we impose on ourselves.”

“Our physical presence is only part of who we are as human beings. What’s inside is just as important, and maybe more so.”

“You too have talents, gifts, and abilities (I like to think of them as your personal superpowers) you were born with that are unique to you…The beauty of how God made us it that we don’t have to be jealous of someone else’s superpowers, because they weren’t meant for us. This one thing I would tell you to keep in your back pocket at all times: know that you are significant, you do matter, and what you have to offer is powerful.”

“God shows us the opportunities and puts them in our path, but we have to be strong enough to grab them and then hold on for all our worth.”

“I’ve learned that the more I surrender and let God take care of things, the better off I am. I get out of my own way, I get out of His way, and then I let Him do His work….My dreams are laughable when compared with God’s plans for my life! His gifts, ideas, and blessings are so much bigger and better than anything I could possible imagine!”

“CAN’T is a 4-letter word.”

“I finally realized something: God didn’t owe me an explanation. Sometimes He’s simply protecting us, and we have to trust that there is a lesson to be learned.”

“Sometimes you have to be your own hero. What I mean by that is that you have to fight for what you believe in and for what you want to happen.”

Anyway, Everything is Possible has a treasury of inspirational ideas on how to overcome what appear to be tragic circumstances. It also gave me many insights into how to interact with those who have body shapes different from the norm.  Baker Book House has graciously given me an extra copy to give away, so if you’re interested in reading the book, I’ll give it to the first person to contact me via this blog, email, or Facebook. If you have a story to share about yourself or someone you know that might benefit us, please add it in the comment box. Thanks!!

Working Hard on Labor Day to Arrest the Rest Areas

Hovels in rural AsiaOver twenty years ago, I remember taking a train from Shanghai to Bejing, China. Having tidy American instincts, I was careful to make sure every scrap of garbage went into the trash basket on my car. Now, I do confess to being a bit queasy about the fact that our “restroom” was simply a tiny, private compartment with room to squat over a hole in the floor, but I wasn’t shocked outright until I woke up the next morning and watched an efficient little stewardess whisk open a window and heave the contents of the trash can out onto the track. More horrifying yet was watching a  group of curious children running toward us from the hovels near the tracks, competing for any bits of left over apple cores, sandwich crusts, or other tiny treasures among the garbage. I saw one child hold up a rubber band with glee, obviously feeling triumphant over his new toy.   Italian CountrysideOver ten years ago, I remember taking a car ride along the sunny highways of rural, southern Italy, only to discover that a “rest area” meant a place where you could park your car long enough to eat a picnic or go in search of some privacy for relieving yourself. Toilet paper was strewn everywhere, and the heavy scent of relief without rain gave the idea of “savin’ up for a rainy day” new meaning and appeal. Small lake in MichiganI suspect both of these countries have more modernized ways of dealing with waste now, but I bring up this gross subject because the waterfowl on our lake (who haven’t yet conspired to provide rest areas along their flight paths) have taken to fouling our dock!

When the kids were younger, we didn’t have a dock, but there’s always been a raft in the middle of the lake, which was so dirty it was unusable. The kids nicknamed it the “Rest Area.” This summer, we didn’t have much trouble with waterfowl trashing our dock, but now I realize it was only because Stephen was staining the dock in his spare time over a period of weeks, and the scent must have deterred the geese and ducks from partying down at our house.   Kayak on dockNo longer true, it seems like every night Alan and I can scrub the deck after our swim, and the next morning it’s trashed again. SO FRUSTRATING! So, this morning I scrubbed it down mightily, will let it dry and then start staining it again…only about a sixth of it each week, hoping the toxic scent of preservatives will keep the migrating flocks away. (If it doesn’t work, I’ll let you know, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to.)

Getting rid of the spiritual waste in our lives may bear some similarities. It’s a challenge! It takes constant vigilance. And, often our methods are totally inadequate. For instance, it doesn’t help to bottle up my sinful thoughts in a spiritual trash can overnight and then heave everything out the window in a flow of vile speech the next morning. Likewise, I’ll just make the whole area around me “stink” if I simply relieve myself wherever I happen to be when I feel the urge.  Better to wait for the proper time and place.Dock on lakeThe stain for our dock is “redwood” colored, and as I worked it occurred to me that the best way to deal with evil is to wash it (with the water of the Word), scrub it clean (partnering with the Holy Spirit, who’s the only One who can really cleanse our hearts), and then applying red stain (the blood of Christ).   Dock for swimming in lakeIf you, like me, find a constant need to wash away debris from your mind, I hope we can be both be encouraged to keep working at it and consciously applying the blood of the Lamb as a preservative from sin!  Blessings on your “Labor Day!”  May we “arrest” the rest areas of our lives!  🙂

Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me” (Psalm 40:11).

For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
(2 Corinthians 2:15-16)