Blessed Are You When They Slander You

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” – Matthew 5:11,12

I should say, first of all, that living in the United States, I don’t suffer the worst of persecution or even close to it. If you want to find actual persecution, go to the territory owned by ISIS and see what happens to Christians there.

That said, I certainly seem to get reviled a lot, and there are many lies told about the Church these days. More and more, we seem to be approaching a time when being openly Christian is not really socially acceptable. It is appropriate in society’s eyes to give lip service to God. That much is even quite desirable. But to actually follow Him and obey the teachings of the Church is generally laughed at at best.

For me, the struggle often centers around truth. I can handle people being mean to me, but when they spread falsity, I lose it and argue. This is not the Christian way. Christ said to “rejoice, and be exceedingly glad”. That’s quite a command. I’ve heard very nasty things said about all Christians. It is very hard not to list the evil things said to me about my Church and my God, but I won’t because this is not the place for arguments. I’ve been shocked by the statements that people will make about me just because of my faith.

“Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Christ gives us the answer on how to rejoice. He reminds us that when we have people lie about us and say all manner of nasty things about us, we are joined with the prophets. This is something to meditate on. I tell myself that I am lucky to be lied about when it’s because I am a Christian, but I have to remind myself sometimes even just seconds later. At my church, we sing the beatitudes every Sunday. I’m usually busy helping out at around that time, but I always listen to them when I can.

I read “The Way of a Pilgrim” earlier this year. There is a scene in the book where the narrator has been viciously lied about and whipped by the authorities as a result. His response was joy because he was suffering for Christ. I was pretty amazed at just how happy he was about it. I feel like I’d have been irate at that point. Writing all this down is helpful to me. In this light, when I think back to the nasty things said about me and my church, and even my God, I am happy. I am happy that I and my church can suffer for Christ’s sake.

It could be said that worrying about people saying nasty things is a small struggle. Like I said, true persecution is happening in many places where people are being put to death for their faith. Yet, this is the struggle I have now. This is the struggle I know. I hope these are helpful thoughts for others who feel like they have to walk on eggshells around others when it comes to their faith. I hope this is useful to those who feel tempted to argue back like I do.

My last thought for today is that our Lord specifically used the word “Falsely”. We are blessed when people say evil things “Falsely”. Behaving like a jerk and getting called out on it is not what gets us that blessing. Starting arguments and losing them isn’t a virtue. This also helps remind me to be calm and forgiving, rather than fight with people. It’s a struggle, but I’m learning.

Wellness Recovery Action Plan

I want very much to share with you something that has saved me from a great amount of turmoil, and may have even saved my life. That is Wellness Recovery Action Plan or WRAP for short. To properly understand WRAP, one needs to take a course in it that often takes weeks to fully present. While I can’t do that here, I can tell you some basic things about it and perhaps provide my Gentle Readers with some links to help find a class.

WRAP was developed by a woman named Dr. Mary Ellen Copeland. She put an enormous amount of work into it and deserves full credit. She put all the work into it because she herself desperately needed something like it and it didn’t exist yet. Dr. Copeland suffers from severe and persistent mental illness, just like I do. In her day, people pretty much assumed that if you have this sort of disease your life is just over and you will never be well. Oddly enough, however, her mother had a similar disease and was well. She had been in the insane asylums and gotten out and lived a good life. Dr. Copeland wanted that for herself very badly so she interviewed her mother and others like her and found out what they did to get better.

I don’t know whether Copeland was a PhD before that or after that, but either way, she decided to use her education and training to thoroughly test and prove what she could about WRAP. She’s listed all her studies on her website. In my opinion, she can’t really prove the major claims of WRAP because they are by their very nature not provable. Dr, Copeland claims that by using WRAP people can have fewer crises and that the crises themselves are less severe. You can never prove that scientifically, but I am a peer support specialist. My specialty is experience and I will tell you for a fact with my experience that everything said about what WRAP can do is absolutely true.

All this hype, but what is the actual plan? The short version is that in a WRAP class, people meet regularly and discuss every stage of their wellness and illness. They discuss life when it’s going great, life when it is hard to avoid committing suicide, and everything in between. They discuss what contributes to all of this. They plan steps for every stage. What actions to take when life is great to keep it that way. What actions to take when it’s getting quite hard to make it not turn into a crisis. And of course, they discuss what to do in an actual crisis to stay alive and minimize damage.

I’ll give you some examples from my plan. I need to walk regularly, I always need to do that. I don’t always actually do that, but that’s always on the plan. I strive for it. I do this because walking makes me feel good and always improves my condition. I pet dogs when I can, because that always helps. In a crisis, I have three people who can order me to a psych hospital. They did that a year ago. I wasn’t happy about it, but things improved dramatically very quickly. I’ve been lazy about my WRAP recently and it shows. I’ve not been as well. I’ve been irritable and depressed. I’m reminded by writing this that I need to go over my WRAP as I am sure it will help me to get well again.

This plan is amazing. It may sound very simple, and even I have called it “packaged common sense”, but honestly, we need that in our lives. My favorite financial advisor type person is Dave Ramsey who basically says don’t spend money you don’t have. Pretty obvious, but he’s saved thousands of people an enormous amount of trouble. Dr. Copeland is like that. She’s put a great deal of effort into proving that taking basic care of yourself actually works and that having plans is a good thing. This world is complicated enough that we need forces for good reminding us of the simple obvious truths that make life better.

Some links:

Dr. Copeland wrote a book that pretty well covers WRAP. It doesn’t replace going to a class but I recommend it to anyone. It’s 10 bucks, so not a major investment. The purchase page is here.

While you’re at it, just check out her whole site at mentalhealthrecovery.com

For those in Kent County, Michigan, there are two places I can think of off the top of my head that offer instruction in WRAP. I call it a class, but it’s not formal. It’s laid back and friendly. I happen to know the people who work in both of these places and cannot speak high enough praise of them to do them justice.

Recovery Academy  The phone number is (616) 233-0884. Email is mike.recoveryacademy@gmail.com

Our Place The phone number is (616) 389-2734

If you’re interested in WRAP but don’t live around here, let me know in the comments. I’m pretty sure I have the resources to find a place near you. That was part of my job as a peer support anyway.

Overcoming Resentment

A few days ago there was a relatively important game in sports. There are two college football teams in my state that are minor rivals. I feel like I favor one of them, but really, I don’t care at all. I didn’t watch the game, but I heard all about it on the internet. Apparently, due to a mistake by a player on one team, their apparently certain victory turned into a loss with less than ten seconds left. I was initially happy because the game went to the team I pretend to favor, but then I saw the ugly side. People supporting the losing team were extremely angry with the player who made the mistake. Some of them suggested that he commit suicide. Others offered to do the deed themselves.

So what is the lesson to be learned here? I am arrogant. It is very easy for me to see the ugliness of people who are driven to sin regarding sports because my anger and wrath are activated by different things. It is easy for me to point a finger here and see myself as better, all the while ignoring what St. Paul says: “consider others as better than yourselves”. Ironically, I find myself resenting these people, and fortunately for me, the homily given yesterday at church was about resentment.

People filled with resentment cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Christ makes this clear when he tells us that if we have resentment toward a brother, we should not make an offering until that is made right. I’ve heard in all groups of Christianity that if one has a terrible issue with a brother, he should not take communion. Combine that with Christ’s teaching that “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves”, and we see that those holding resentment have a pretty bleak future, unless they find a way out of this sin.

Fortunately for me again, the priest offered a solution: love. He says that only love can conquer resentment, reminding us of Christ’s command to “Love your enemies”. I find myself turning back once again to my past blog post about the Anti-Grudge. This is necessary. In that post, I listed people whom I intend to never forget for their kindness, yet I, at times, slip into resenting some of those very people. Fortunately, those people have made it easy to remember positively. They were very good to me for a time.

My spiritual father teaches that the origin of love is development of humility and obedience. This makes sense to me because those are two very hard things. Humility is elusive because it is a very difficult balance to strike. It is to think of oneself very little. It is NOT to think little of oneself. Humility doesn’t say you are bad. It doesn’t really talk about you much at all. Humility is truth, but it is interested in others around you. I struggle very much with this. This is the opposite of selfishness which is so natural for me.

Obedience is also very difficult. Obeying something you want to obey isn’t really obedience. That’s doing what you want to do, with the added benefit that it makes others happy. Obedience is hard. Obedience is doing what I have no interest in and doing it well. I hate sleeping at night. My spiritual father wants me to sleep at night. That is obedience, when I do it. I could write an entire blog post about all my excuses for being awake at night. I’ve acquired a lot of them, and I usually listen to them instead of my spiritual father. When I learn to sleep at night and focus on others, then I’ll know something about love. Maybe then, I won’t care that some random church said some mean things to me nine years ago. Maybe then, I’ll have something nice to offer to God on the alter.

My Image

A few posts ago, I wrote some unpleasant things about myself. I suppose one way of looking at it could be to view me as a dangerous madman. I imagine some people do. I very badly wanted to take the post down, as I was worried for my image, especially as I’m meeting a lot of new people now and have been thinking of telling them about my blog. I keep coming back to something said by one of my closest friends.

A good story

“The best kind of story is one that makes you look like an a—hole and God look as amazing as He really is.” The man who said that to me that knows well what he’s talking about. He’s on a sex offender list, which means that many people, probably especially his neighbors, know nothing about him except that he did something awful at some point. Some would then be surprised to hear that he is one of the more righteous people I know. I actually befriended him because his sin was public and I know what a cross to bear that is. Pretty much everything awful I’ve done is well known to the point that when I make new friends, they find out about all of it. In the years of my friendship with this man, he has consistently been a voice of wisdom and godly love. Even as I have moved a very different direction from him in theology, he has always been a good influence on my thinking in spiritual matters.
So what use is this? I spoke of another dear friend recently at his wedding. Actually, I accidentally spoke too harshly because people did not understand my point. I said he has need to apologize often and has gotten extremely good at it. In my mind, this was the highest praise because we all sin horribly all the time, and my friend has become a master of making things right. I like to think that while I have done some pretty awful things, the Lord has used even those failings as a way to encourage others and inspire recovery and faith in people. I suppose some might inspire others by being righteous and amazing, but if I’m going to inspire anyone it’s going to be as an empty vessel that the Holy Spirit fills with grace in a weird way. It was horrible suffering and oftentimes horrible sins that were on my path to being a peer support specialist. As a peer support, I was able to affect hundreds if not thousands of lives for the better, every time by sharing my own struggle and the victories I had in it. The victories, like all good things, came from above, just as Saint James, the brother of Jesus, said.

So this is sometimes the struggle of a peer support. How much to share and how will making this public affect me? In the end, I suppose I have decided to be a public fool. I always did appreciate Saint Xenia of St. Petersburg.