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As some of you already know, I am in the process of writing a book about mental illness and the Church.  This book will focus on educating the Church as to what mental illness is and isn’t, and highlight what they’ve been doing right, as well as what they’ve been doing wrong.  It will also serve as a “guide” to ministering to the sick.

If you have a story – either good or bad – regarding your own experiences with mental illness and church/Christians, I want to hear from you.  I am currently doing interviews and would love to hear what you have to say.

You can contact me at julie.fidlerATlive.com  (Remove the “AT” and replace it with “@”.)

Looking forward to hearing from you!

-Julie

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My husband got me watching Joel Osteen years ago. I liked him at first, because he was so dang positive, and he dressed pretty slick. too. But the message got old – God wants you to have it all, and He wants you to have it now. And for someone that has always believed giving ought to hurt a ittle, that message started to grate on me quite a bit.

Then he apppeared on Larry King Live, hocking one of his books, and he was unwilling to say that Jesus Christ was the only way to Heaven, nor was he able to explain what it means to be “saved.” Now, look, I don’t know Joel, so I can’t judge his heart. He could have just been really nervous and felt that he was “on the spot.” But it seems to me that if you’re a TV preacher, those are a couple of things you ought to have nailed down.

Now his wife is being sued for being pushy on an airplane. This story dates back to 2005.

Opening statements were set for Thursday in a case Victoria Osteen’s lawyer called “silly.” But Reginald McKamie, attorney for Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown, said he hopes the trial will show “that celebrity status doesn’t take precedence.”

Brown accuses Victoria Osteen of assaulting her before the start of a 2005 flight from Houston to Vail, Colo. Brown alleges Victoria Osteen threw her against a bathroom door and elbowed her in the left breast during an angry outburst over a stain on her first-class seat. The Federal Aviation Administration fined Victoria Osteen $3,000 for interfering with a crew member.
Joel Osteen was at his wife’s side Wednesday in court. McKamie said he expected to call the couple as witnesses.
(snip)…Brown’s suit claims the flight attendants asked to have Victoria Osteen removed from the plane. Hardin says Victoria Osteen and her family left voluntarily. The incident delayed the flight about 2½ hours.
Do I buy that Victoria Osteen got pushy on the plane? Sure. But this is a little over-the-top:
According to court documents, Brown claims that she suffers from anxiety and hemorrhoids because of the incident and said her faith was affected. She is also suing Osteen for medical expenses for counseling.
Brown had previously claimed she was attacked in another incident by an airport employee, according to a deposition she gave in the case.
Sounds to me like someone just wants to empty out the pockets of the Osteen family. Hemorrioids?? Come on, honey, I can do better than that. Acid reflux, maybe, but hemorroids??
I get nervous, however, whenever we take a Christian, stick him or her in the spotlight, and give that person millions of dollars. Especially if that person is preaching a feel-good gospel to the masses, as opposed to a message of humility and repentance. Following Jesus isn’t always fun, nor is it always lucrative. Sometimes following Jesus is hard work that requires giving things up, instead of raking them in. I guess you could say I’m much more in favor of a message that teaches me how to store up my treasures in Heaven, then line my earthly pockets with gold.
I have actually lightened up about my view of Osteen. After talking to several people who feel like Osteen gave them hope in troubled times, I’ve concluded that it’s entirely possible that God told Osteen to preach the way he preaches. I guess I just wish he would at least touch on some of the things I wrote about, above.
It’s just that I believe that mature Christians are beyond the fluff, you know? Give us some meat. Tell how how to serve Christ better, not how to earn enough income to put in a pool.
You could almost say that Osteen is seeker-friendly, whereas finding real meat is something that has to be done outside of Lakewood Church.
Thoughts?

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In my first post, I mentioned that I was going to be talking about mental health/illness in this blog.  What I didn’t mention was why.  Well, I’m working on a book project about exactly that.  Let me explain a little further…

Longtime readers of my old blog, Fidler On The Roof, know that I have Bipolar Disorder, anxiety, and I’m not afraid to talk about it.  It’s a part of who I am, and I treat it as such.  I discuss it the same way I discuss having a head cold.  But now I’m going to talk about mental illness, including my own, in a much broader spectrum, and I’m doing so out of frustration, sadness, and mostly a desire to educate.

When you’re open about your own mental illness, you encounter a wide variety of reactions.  When you are a Christian that is open about your mental illness, the reactions are often very harsh.  I am not the type to shrink back from a difference of opinion, but when someone thinks their opinion usurps scientific fact, I am often rendered speechless.  I often sense fear, shame, and a basic lack of knowledge in Christians when it comes to this topic.  We’re supposed to have joy, aren’t we?!?  Isn’t that what the Word tells us?  If we’re depressed, bipolar, schizophrenic, and we don’t have joy, then how can we say we’re walking with God, right?  Isn’t the problem that we’re just not spiritual enough?  Surely, mental illness can’t be a REAL illness.

The Bible describes a demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-13.  Verse five says, “Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.”  (And, by the way, how many teenagers does this apply to!)  Jesus calls the demons out of this man, and sends them into a herd of pigs nearby, who drown in a nearby lake.  I truly believe that a lot of Christians see mental illness the same way – a demon possession that needs to be driven out by Jesus Christ.  I can’t say they’re wrong, but I can’t say they’re not always right.

I’m here to say anything is possible.  Never say never.  Some people are touched by the living Christ and forever healed from what ails them.  I believe that God’s supernatural healing power is just as potent and available today as it was in ages past.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Every one of us who has claimed Christ as our Savior has the Holy Spirit living inside of us, meaning He is closer than the air around us, and perfectly capable of healing.

But even in the Bible, Jesus healed in so many ways.  He didn’t always command demons into herds of pigs.  What about the blind man whose sight was restored when Jesus spit on the ground, made mud, and rubbed it on his eyes?  For the life of me, I wish I understood why so many people are opposed to the idea that God heals with modern medicine, INCLUDING psychiatry and medication.  He is not physically here, but here spiritually.  Why is it so hard to believe that sometimes those antidepressants are a form of God’s healing?  Doesn’t all of man’s wisdom come from God?

And why is it so hard for us believers to believe that God doesn’t heel everyone, He doesn’t always rub mud in our eyes, or heal us by merely reaching out?  He doesn’t promise we’ll have perfect lives, but He promises to be our shelter in the storm.  My storm is Bipolar Disorder.  His promises give me hope, His medications give me physical help.  Why does that rub us the wrong way?

This concept was never a big deal to me until I found the right kind of medication combination to treat my illness.  Before that, I was angry, irritable, I had an out-of-control sex drive, and I was often suicidally depressed.  I lost jobs, I lost friends, I dropped out of college, and I nearly ruined my life.  I loved the Lord, when my depressions drove a big wedge between God and I, and I was physically incapable of reaching my full potential because I was so sick.

Now, if I had refused psychiatric help and refused to seek help due to spiritual reasons, and thus destroyed my life… is that any better than agreeing to take medication and turning into an extrovert with goals, dreams, and a heart for ministry?  Which one is the sin?

Going on those meds was hard.  I had so many negative questions swirling around in my mind.  Was I only a real person when I took meds  Was I really saved if I couldn’t live up to my potential without popping pills?  Then this amazing thing happened.  My medications began working.  I was no longer an insomniac, I was no longer angry and irritable for no known reason, nor was I sinking into the deep hole of depression anymore.  My marriage began to heal, I could hold a steady job, I developed wonderful friendships, and the Julie that God intended came out and showed herself for the first time.  I began developing my ministry.  I credit the Lord with my transformation.  The psychologist that diagnosed me was a great Christian lady, and I am grateful to her.  But all of her knowledge comes from God, so I give Him the glory.

I know that God brought me back to life.

Do I think sometimes people are plagued by demonic influence, and are not truly mentally ill?  Yes.

Do I think sometimes people are dealing with a painful past and need therapy and temporary meds?  Yes.

Anything is possible.  I’m not interested in dismissing any of those things.  All I want to do is educate Christians – specifically the church – on what metal illness is and isn’t, how they shouldn’t and shouldn’t address those issues, and how they should and shouldn’t minister to those that are ill.  I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist.  I’m a writer, a reporter, a mental illness sufferer who has been told many times that what I REALLY need is to pray harder and read my Bible more.  Ditch the pills!
These people mean well.  They just don’t know…

Someone has to start the dialogue.

He works in myserious ways...

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