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While I certainly don't oppose the kind of action that was taken by Obama's EO, Mark, I always wonder about the ratio of "show to go" with federal action. In my neck of the nation's woods, the biggest employers of the disabled (including a neighbor of mine that I've know for his entire life), are private non-profits.  My guess is that next to no one in my geographical area is benefited by Obama's EO (or Clinton's before that).

I think there is much more promise for increased employment of the disabled in the private sector, profit and non-profit, perhaps with some tax credit assistance from government, federal, state, and/or local even.

One thing everyone is likely to agree on is that is it better for the disabled to work, at whatever level that might match their abilities, than that they not work.  Even if they worked for no compensation, their lives are made better by working.  And frankly, I think that sentiment is quite bipartisan, and shared by those who like big or small government.

Thanks for this information and important discussion, Mark. Please keep challenging us and pointing us to those who are being marginalized. 

One other thought: the federal government influences behaviors not only by where money gets spent but also by setting priorities. My Exhibit A is Executive Order 13548. Although employment (and unemployment) of people with disabilities has (sadly) remained relatively constant ever since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the emphasis by the Obama Administration on hiring people with disabilities for jobs with the federal government has actually increased the percentage of people with disabilities working for the federal government. 

Doug, I agree that Trump is quick to lash out at anyone who makes him look bad in some way. Still, my sense is that there is an undertone to his rhetoric that diminishes anyone whom he deems as "weak." As you write, we'll need to wait and see. We're barely into his presidency yet.

I would like to be for smaller government. Yes, people closest to the ones receiving assistance are more likely to care and provide appropriate solutions, and less likely to allow waste. However, the kind of money that's required to provide supports for people like my daughter and many, many others with disabilities is not going to come out of people's pockets unless local, state, and federal government collects it in taxes. Don't get me wrong. People are generous. My daughter lives in a wonderful place that was fully paid for the day she moved in thanks to generous contributions, but providing day in day out support for her and others in group homes is not going to come solely from charitable contributions. She lives in a home that is a public/private partnership, and I truly wish it were possible for it to be funded fully privately, but I can't imagine it, not only for the place our daughter lives, but also for many other people needing supports for daily living. And that's just one example of group homes. There are people living in their own places who need some assistance. There are people in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. There are people in supported employment. There are people receiving health care through Medicaid. There are disabled vets. There are a lot of kids in special education programs. I believe that one of the ways that Americans show their heart is through providing supports (through our taxes and through charitable contributions) for people with disabilities, but I fear we would not provide this level of support to this many people if we all were simply asked to pitch in with voluntary contributions. 

 

Mark: I do appreciate concerns about non-policy aspects of Trump (his mocking a reporter), but one should really consider him an equal opportunity offender, if you will.  Trump will rant against and offend anyone and everyone -- and has.  So anyone who is looking for Trump to be always be "nice to them" or "nice to the group they are part of" is just going to be badly disappointed -- sooner or later.  Russian's Putin, and everyone else, will get the same treatment, sooner or later. :-)

In terms of the broader picture, but perhaps expanding the conversation a bit, I have always been an advocate of smaller government, and for people to look first to their local resources (first private and only after that local and state government) for solutions to problems -- all before looking to the federal government.  Why?  Because one-size-fits all solutions (solutions "from the top") are clumsy at best, and because things "at the top" can change in the blink of an eye, in which case ... well, here we maybe are, aren't we, at least for some things?

We have been looking increasingly to the "top" for solutions over the past years, decades even.  OK, but then we maybe set ourselves up for these kinds of possibilities?

Doug, thanks for your comment. I hope you are right, though this author's concern is not only with federal disability benefits, but also with the way Trump so far has used his bully pulpit with regard to people with disabilities. My sense is that she fears that the incident involving Serge Kovaleski and the removal of the disability section of whitehouse.gov bespeak at least a lack of intentionality about engaging Americans with disabilities respectfully, or worse, a degrading of these fellow Americans which could lead to even greater discrimination in employment, housing, and so on. 

My answer is part "wait and see," part "these concerns are overblown."

If Trump did everything he might have alluded to verbally at one point or another, all Hispanics unable to produce documentation of their right to be in the US would not be here anymore, but of course that hasn't happened.

Trump's communication style drives me beyond nuts,  but it is only style.  One cannot simply find an off the cuff point in an off the cuff speech he may have made and conclude that is what he'll do.  

The best approach to Trump is to take almost everything he says with a lot of salt, especially when he talks to his hard core supporters or the public in general (and most of us are not privy to Trump's private conversations so this is very difficult), try to decipher major themes amid all his verbal noise, and then, ultimately, wait and see what he actually does.

I think the chances of federal government disability benefits being curtailed because Trump is President, at least across the board, are slim.  And it isn't at all impossible that those benefits would increase because Trump is President.  In all the things he's said, support for that possibility is more easily found than what some in the disabled community may fear.

Thanks for your words, Michele.  It was just over 6 years ago that I had to stop working at a job that I loved because of my disabilities.  I was advised to apply for CPP Disability, which I did.  I dipped into my personal RRSP to supplement my income to meet my needs, and purchased additional Blue Cross benefits.  My mistake is that I did not explore other avenues of income for persons with disabilities, specifically Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) in Alberta.  It would have paid the health care expenses, enabled me to attend therapeutic pool exercises for free, and provided me with an income that would have taken into account the mortgage I am still paying on, plus saved my RRSP funds for my retirement years. 

Late last fall I turned the page into "seniorhood", and things have changed again.  Between CPP and provincial seniors' income, I take in several hundred more a month, have many more health and lifestyle benefits are available to me at no or minimal cost, and I am now in a position to decrease the rate at which I use up my RRSP funds.

The point is, there is financial discrimination against persons with disabilities, even in Canada.  If you are facing job loss due to disability, take the time to research income strategies that will best meet your needs.  An informed social worker can be a huge help.  Research charitable organizations (e.g. Heart & Stroke, Parkinson's Society, Mental Health Society, Arthritis Society) that can assist you by providing items or services that would be helpful to you for free at significantly reduced cost.  They can also provide a wealth of information on how to go about meeting your needs at minimal or no cost, as well as plan effectively for the future.  If you are unable to do all this for yourself, seek out a trusted family member or friend to assist you.

Great question! You sure can. Simply click on the Facebook share button on the left side of the page and Facebook will open up :) 

Thanks for sharing! 

Can you post this story on Facebook?

Ken, while personally I have many concerns about Donald Trump as president, even supporters acknowledge that he's made lots of claims and promises that do not include specifics, or that he's changed his mind about later.

I respect Paul Ryan and, like you, believe him to be grounded in the Christian faith. I wasn't attacking Ryan as much as summarizing what I have heard him say repeatedly — promises and claims lacking specifics. Whether he's a Christian or not, it remains troubling that details of an ACA replacement have been so long in coming. Along with many others, I'm still waiting for the evidence that Trump or the Republican Congress will come up with a plan that maintains the positives of the ACA and "leaves no one behind."

Here is a post by Ed Stetzer who writes a blog for Christianity Today on some of the implications of a "repeal without a replacement" approach.

And, just yesterday I received an email from another denominational disability organization — the Anabaptist Disabilities Network — noting that one of their field associates, Rebekah Flores, will be impacted if the ACA is repealed without a comprehensive replacement plan. Rebekah wrote, “I can only afford to see my doctor and pay for my medications to treat my Multiple Sclerosis because of the Affordable Care Act.”

I don't feel it's unreasonable to ask for a replacement plan before repealing.

My heart goes out to Mr. DeYoung. Some of those near and dear to me have disabilities so I can sympathize. Nevertheless, I would like to respectfully point out why I think this post is an excellent example of "good" and "not-good" in a church publication. It might have been useful to edit this item just a little before posting it. I think it's "good" to submit a list of features one might hope for in legislation; I think it's "not good" to attach that list to rumors, baseless accusations, and other such statements such as those in the first three paragraphs of this post, in a denominational magazine or website such as this.

This post begins with a vague "Multiple reports suggest..." and goes on to a derogatory comment about the President-elect well before the inauguration and follows that with an attack on Rep. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House. (Ryan was depicted in political ads a few years ago pushing grandma over a cliff in her wheelchair, but some view him as one who lives his Christian beliefs, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit.) This introduction concludes by questioning the morality of legislators in the early weeks of a new term for not providing evidence that legislation still being written will be completely satisfactory. This makes one wonder if it isn't just a tad politically oriented.

If we are going to have political statements here, perhaps we should seek some balance. Would the monitors consider a post that reported that, for the first time in history, a U.S. president spoke at the annual meeting of Planned Parenthood, leading abortion provider in the U.S. and dealer in body parts of aborted babies? This would be the same president who, as a state legislator stated that he trusted doctors performing abortions to provide necessary care for viable infants surviving abortions. These are doctors who believe a dead baby is the best solution to an unplanned pregnancy. As the adoptive father of two grown daughters, now the mothers of five terrific grandchildren, I beg to differ.

No, Michele, I don't either.

 Why do people blame that attack on Obama, even indirectly?  He has never done or said anything to encourage that kind of behavior.  Because he himself is "black"?  I don't get that sort of reasoning. 

Thank you so much for sharing your experience here, too, Jill. I really like Paul's example of praying for his "thorn" to be removed; tho God told him no, yet Paul could share with the rest of us that in his weakness, Christ made him strong... and be an example for the rest of us. I've also leaned on that message during struggles. Thank you for your own encouraging words. Blessings to you too!

We were talking about this struggle at the ministry where I volunteer.
Our clients are often chronically ill, disabled and/or struggling with addictions.
When preparing for a study using Philippians, I understood that these chronic illnesses etc are like prisons for us, similar to Paul being in prison. (My own PTSD &chronic illness included.) So how do we act in our prisons? Can we find a way to be like Paul? Rejoicing in the hard circumstances, still being thankful, finding good things we can do to help people. . . Since I shared these thoughts with our group we have come back to them often. We ask Holy Spirit to enable us to apply our lessons in our own individual prisons.
A few weeks after this we had  a teacher come who taught and prayed for us about healing. Some people did receive a measure of physical healing. Some of us had questions about why not us.
The following week  the devotional was about Paul's thorn in the flesh. Which he asked God to remove 3 times and the answer was no.
This was encouraging and comforting because Paul -the amazing evangelist, teacher, leader- also questioned why he was not healed. He came to acceptance of it.
As you wrote here and as Michele responded God uses our 'struggles' to enable us to have compassion for others with similar struggles. And yes, raising awareness and encouraging sensitivity with those who are 'healthy'.

Thank-you Linda for sharing here and for being transparent.
Peace to you and your husband.
 

  Unfortunately, since I live in Canada, I can't do much about this.  However, I have shared it on Facebook for my American friends.

Linda, thanks for this. Your article wrestles with something that nearly all Christians have to confront at some point. I certainly have! I appreciate the way you have addressed this difficult topic so biblically and transparently. 

New friends! Beautiful! I think we miss out on a lot of life, and we are less Christ-like, when fear is the primary approach we take when encountering other people. I assume those are two of the reasons the apostle John wrote, "Perfect love drives out fear . . . The one who fears is not made perfect in love." What a radically different message from the one we hear from so many leaders, commentators, and loud voices on social media today!

 

   Mark...........Thank You ! There are some Muslim friends I got to know back in 2000, who know the Aramaic language. [the language Jesus spoke.] I would ask them to speak it, and they did ! It is very close to the Arabic language. It's amazing how getting to know each other works out ! Thanks to Jesus ! Like you said, ....".out of respect for others, rather than fear of others."

Dean Koldenhoven

 

Thank you for your kind words, Angela! and thanks for sharing how God has used you to reach others, and may He continue to bless you richly, too!

Dean, thanks for your comment. I pray that people can demonstrate the kind of courage you demonstrated yourself in 2000 when you were mayor. We live in a pluralistic society, and increasingly diverse. Unless we are willing to see the image of God in each individual and make decisions out of respect for others rather than fear of others, incidents like this one will only increase. 

  

   The churches and its people better keep on trying to help the physically and mentally challenged people everywhere, because the President -elect Donald Trump openly mocked a physically challenged reporter at one of his outings ! He is now trying to deny he did such a thing, but all you have to do is watch the video which was viewed worldwide for weeks on end !

This is not a political statement, but a true fact of life of the people that we have to live with! The Christian Reformed people are very dedicated to helping all the challenged people among us !

Thank you for this article to keep us abreast of what is really happening ! I live just south of Chicago, and as hardened we are hearing of crime almost every night on the news, this tragic incident of the mentally and physically challenged boy hit us very hard ! I hope that out of this tragic incident, we can do something that could stop this tragic violence!

Dean Koldenhoven  

Thank you for your understanding words Linda! While I would never "want" the disability I have, I have over the last years become thankful for the blessings I've received because of it. I am also amazed at how God uses my needs to bless others. God's world is certainly an upside down one. Some people are rather put out when I say I don't expect a cure but I have received healing. May you and your husband experience God's soft and kind grace in your lives.

Thank you so much for your comment. I'm so sorry about your husband's illness, Cindy. Yes, that's exactly the element within our small rural community that has affected us, too. But I'm glad to hear you and your husband can also encourage others from your journey, just as we're able to do. It's such a blessing to know God has grown us and uses us in ways we never could have imagined without the difficulties, just like He uses you and your husband!

Thank you for your comments, Michele - well said. 

Thank you for your kind words, Staci! I appreciate hearing this was encouraging to you, too.

Thank you for these encouraging thoughts. My husband became a Type 1 diabetic following a bad case of flu that affected his pancreas. The church we were attending at the time had "name it, claim it" leanings, and we were frequently told we were not praying correctly or that we should "take authority" over illness. Someone even offered to cast the "spirit" of diabetes out of him. Needless to say, we are no longer with that church but have found comfort in the scriptures you mentioned and in learning to be thankful for our many blessings. In addition, his illness has given my husband opportunities to encourage others, in ways that he might not have otherwise had.

 

Thanks for posting this, Mark. It was such a disturbing event. I pray for healing for all involved.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have recently struggled to gain a better understanding of these verses and how sometimes healing does not come in the way we think it will. I appreciate your soft heart and wise words. Your faith is an encouragement to me! 

  Once again we need to make the distinction between healing and cure.  What this couple did NOT get in answer to their prayers was a cure.  That does not prevent them from experiencing healing emotionally and spiritually.  I did not find a cure to my schizophrenia despite people praying for me.  That turned out to be because I could help people more by having the illness and living with the side effects of the meds I have to take to control the symptoms than by being cured of it.  Having this illness moved me to want to learn what it is, what are its symptoms, and how we can best cope with this illness in addition to striving to sensitize those who are healthy, so that they don't add to the burden of those who live with schizophrenia or other psychiatric illnesses.  

Maybe the Lord is waiting for this couple to find a purpose for their lives going forward in the fact that the husband has the particular disease he has.  It might give a new meaning to their lives.  Accepting this illness and striving to help other people with psychiatric illnesses and their relatives has led me to participate in stimulating and challenging activities.  I hope for Mr. and Mrs. Roorda that they can find this purpose for their lives.

 Yes, I get that, and I'm sorry for the guy, especially because he had nothing to do with Donald Trump, and this attack was totally gratuitous.  I suspect those four young people to have been high on some drugs to think of doing something so mean.  Either that or the devil finds work for idle hands.  If it was a hate crime it was probably because the victim has a disability and he was a convenient prey.  Some fools think it's big fun to beat up on defenseless people or animals.

Michele, I noticed the same discrepancy in news reports. He had "mental illness", "mental disability", "intellectual disability". It's not just the media. The original police statement said that he had mental illness, but later reports suggested something different. I decided not to focus on the type of disability he had, because that really doesn't matter. He was a human being who went through a horror most of us will never have to endure.  

 I had heard of this attack in the news, and at this point I'm still in shock at the stupidity of those four black young people that they virtually handed the evidence against themselves on a silver platter to the authorities.  Also I heard conflicting reports about whether the victim was mentally or intellectually deficient.  Not that it changes anything to the ordeal he went through or excuses his attackers in any way whatever the diagnosis turns out to be. I would just like the media to be able to make the difference between mental illness and intellectual deficiency once and for all.  Maybe to emphasize the difference more we should talk about psychiatric illnesses instead of mental ones.  Clearer terminology would help avoid confusion.  I'm very sorry for the poor guy because this was SO unnecessary.  What were they trying to accomplish by abusing a poor, defenceless guy?  He had nothing to do with Trump.  If anything Trump would have made fun of him as he did with the journalist.  Right now, I'm still too upset to pray. 

I am familiar with Ushers as it is related to my disease, but mine does not carry the hearing loss. I pray your son finds a mentor too, but if you ever want to talk, I am always willing. One of the biggest joys of my walk on this earth is helping young people with disabilities find their way forward.

Dogs are great. I'm working with my fourth guide dog right now. All have blessed me richly.

Clearly Kathy has stuck a chord. I really appreciate her comment, "That pastor planted a seed: my value was not in “doing” at all. He showed me that each of us has innate value in being a child of God." Amen!

Thank you for sharing your testimony.

Thank you very much.

Thank you for this. My son has Usher Syndrome, so in addition to already being hard of hearing and possibly going deaf, he will continue to lose functional vision until he is also blind due to retinitis pigmentosa.

There is so much hope out there for DeafBlindness in the form of "success stories" that showcase what a person can DO with their disability. There is not enough out there that reminds us, all of us, that our primary identity shouldn't be in what we DO but instead in whose we are.

A parent is one thing, and I'll try to lead as God allows, but I so hope that when he's in middle school my son has someone else, someone like you did, to guide him as the darker days come (or the days grow darker sooner, as is the case with RP). I hope he has someone to point him like a beacon to the One on whom all our identities should rest -- so that he can do as we all should do and NOT discern what he "can do" but RATHER what God would have him do.

Thank you for sharing.

 Glad to hear that this pastor helped you "see the light."  I was half expecting to read another story of abuse, but no.  This pastor encouraged the author.  I just read about the five ways in which pets bless us.  Ever considered getting a seeing-eye dog?

Michele, thanks for your comment. I do not live with a disability yet, though I assume I will someday. Our daughter taught my wife and me about living joyfully with disability, and in fact God used her to lead both my wife and me to the callings we have today. I serve the CRC as Director of Disability Concerns after 17 years as a pastor in parish ministry, and my wife once taught German and now teaches special education. I would have opted out of our daughter living with disability, but she has had a profound impact on many people because of and through her disability. 

 No, no one would ask for a disability.  The most you can hope for is to come to terms with it.  If I'd had to opportunity to chose, I would have opted out of schizophrenia but in so doing I would have missed what I learned from having it, and I might still harbor prejudice towards those who suffer from mental illnesses, whereas now I strive to help them and their families with information and resources.

This link should bring you right to Prof. Gibson's article. 

Mark,  Thanks for your kind words.  It is my prayer that this is a first step toward some honest dialog on this subject between more than just you and I.  You see I am nearing the end of my career and doing my best to maintain my balance.  My concern is for those who have many years to come and as you cite Gibson's article, which I need to find by the way, the idealized pastor is part our collective history and is not likely to change to quickly, unless we as active clergy find ways to support and encourage that kind of self-differentiation which is not generally rewarded. 

I would also like to offer my help to be part of the solution rather than someone complaining.  I have some theories and ideas I am pondering and hoping to put into practice in the near future.  Once again thanks for the willingness to at least raise the issue.

Rodney, thanks for your comment. Your suggestion that pastors have periodic mental health checkups is intriguing and strikes me as wise. However, you are suggesting something much bigger and even more anxiety-producing than a guide for what congregations and pastors can do once the pastor is dealing with an acute mental illness. In Danjuma Gibson's insightful article, "Trauma: Suffering in Silence" in the Fall 2016 Calvin Seminary Forum, he argues that congregations have a need for their pastor always to be emotionally and spiritually strong, which would get in the way both of pastors getting treatment and of looking for signs of mental illness among pastors before symptoms become acute. Gibson writes,

Th­e congregation’s need for their idealized pastor to “be well” will in many cases compromise the pastor’s actual ability to recover from trauma or loss. ­The reality of their pastor falling victim to a trauma and possibly displaying human weakness and spiritual ambivalence may be too disruptive to the collective psyche of the church.

I would guess that unless a pastor has good self-differentiation, he or she will succumb to that need of the congregation and do his/her very best to pretend everything is fine. I hope that this clergy guide, and especially the accompanying materials, will help move the dial just a little for church leaders to acknowledge that pastors, along with everyone else, have struggles, and the whole system is healthier when we acknowledge that and even take preventative steps (as you suggest) to prevent challenges from becoming train wrecks. 

I would second Larry's commendation, it is time we recognize that something is wrong and take steps to address it.  However, like many other things I encounter in both the RCA/CRC and churches in general, we are incredibly slow to recognize a problem.  Over 10 years ago I was tasked with investigating malfeasance by a fellow pastor.  During that investigation I had several conversations with police detectives, and at one point I was asked how often clergy are expected to have a psychological evaluation.  I had to admit, that once we are are ordained that kind of check up is no longer called for.  The detective told me every time he was promoted, a psychological evaluation was required.  Given that one in four clergy suffer from mental illness, maybe it is time we took a look at getting ahead of the problem rather than providing resources at the end.  I also wonder that since 1 in 4 clergy will admit to some sexual indiscretion with someone other than their spouse, if there is a connection? 

My perspective is that of a long term, "old guy" clergy and a licensed therapist.  I hope, that this is just the beginning of the process of looking at clergy health.  A few years ago we decided that most of us were overweight and a physical fitness regimen was encouraged, maybe it is time we looked at mental health the same way, and looked closely at what is negatively impacting a group of men and women who in previous generations would have been some of the healthiest people in the population.

  There is an assumption in this post that I want to address because I find it pernicious.  It is the assumption that people develop severe mental illnesses because of a traumatic childhood, and while that can and does happen occasionally, it is NOT a sine qua non requirement to trigger the onset of the illness.  Actually, the current hypothesis is that a genetic mutation occurs at conception setting in motion a series of factors that will cause the illness to develop either in the teenage years or young adulthood.  My father was abusive verbally while I was growing up, but my schizophrenia did not start then.  I only began to experience auditory hallucinations while living on my own after a summer of working night shift at a mail sorting plant.  It was the odd hours that screwed me up and made me vulnerable to something that was already in my system.  

I think this assumption is related to the mistaken notion that psychosis leads to a Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde phenomenon and that psychotic people will stab you in the back if they get the opportunity to do so.  That is not the case.  There is a possibility that someone with psychosis might do that, but in reality the break occurs between reality and the patient's perception of it through hallucinations which can affect all five senses, or delusional thinking or a combination.  It is not rare for someone with schizophrenia to have both hallucinations AND delusions.  In my case, those delusions often took the form of religious delirium causing me to think I should engage in risky behavior.  For example, I would fast for days on end, which is a BAD idea when one is taking anti-psychotics, or any medication actually.  Or I would think that because someone felt they had to stop taking sleeping pills I should stop taking my anti-psychotic medications.  And that led to an even riskier notion that moved my mom to call my doctor because she could not talk sense into me.  At the time I felt that I should go off my disability income and depend solely on God's providence, and my voices were literally screaming in my head that I should do so.  This or other variants is what psychosis is about.  So people who fear that their mentally ill relative might pull cheap tricks on them should probably look elsewhere to find a deliberate intent to betray them.

posted in: My Silent Enemy

 This woman is fortunate in that she received excellent care both in and out of prison, which in the States is exceptional.  And she acknowledges that.  I'm glad for her.  And this man whom she quotes is right.  In his case it may not have been a mental illness, but in the author's case and mine it was.  And it is true that the aftermath of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is the "new normal."  I studied to become a professional writer, but because of my illness I can only use my skills in non-paying environments.  It isn't necessarily the potential employer's fault either.  I was offered freelance positions in the past and had to turn them down after consideration because anxiety paralyzed me.  Freelance work is extremely stressful work when you're frail mentally.  The kind of job I would need is a 9-5 position in a closed office, and at my age it's unlikely to happen.

posted in: My Silent Enemy

 Hi Mark,

Yes, it's estimated that schizophrenia afflicts about 1% of  the population world wide with about equal distribution between men and women.  In men the average age of onset is between 15 and 25, and in women, it's between 25 and 35, so at 28 I was right in there.

But men with untreated schizophrenia tend to be more violent than women in  the same situation.  I read a very good article in the March 1987 issue of Saturday Night Magazine about the different ways the illness manifested itself depending on gender.  It's title was, "Of Two Minds" I believe.

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