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Hi Michele, thanks for sharing about your own journey. Your last comment prompted me to look up the stats. About 1 percent of people in the U.S. and in Canada have Schizophrenia and nearly all are diagnosed in their teens and early 20's. That's over 3.6 million people in our two countries; sadly, youth's greatest disabler indeed. 

 Yes Andrea, it is right.  In the beginning it may be only coping, or coming to terms with the "new normal."  In fact I believe that when we're afflicted with anything that changes the way we have to deal with life, we have to go through the various stages of grief.  And to be sure God WILL bring healing if we ask though not necessarily cure.  And I did find healing and peace with His help over time.  And learned the difference between healing and cure.  In the early stages after the diagnosis I didn't want to be healed because I had so many other problems that to me were unconnected to my illness but were actually related, and those problems made it very hard for me to find paying work.  And I was afraid that if I were cured I'd have to hit the pavement AND look for a job despite those problems.  Then I learned that schizophrenia has NO known cure, and that all those problems were part of the illness.  At 58 I still can't work because I never know from one day to the next at what time I'll wake up because of the sedatives that pharmaceuticals put in antipsychotics, and by now I've pretty much given up on it.  I would have liked a career in Professional Writing in English.  That's what I trained for.  But it's unlikely now.

 I have to tell you that although I had prodromal symptoms all my life that made me behave oddly, the actual symptoms of the illness only started around the age of 28, so in my case that was in the second year of my first B.A., and I was diagnosed with schizophrenia ten years later.  In the meantime I had a primary diagnosis of psychotic depression that didn't fully account for what I was experiencing.  Back then, depression was considered as the common cold of mental illnesses and expected to last about a year.  But I kept getting depressive episodes because of the voices I was hearing in my head that told me mean things. I would also suffer from insomnia, which is why pharmaceuticals put sedatives in psychiatric medications : to allow people to sleep at night.  Otherwise, you can't function the next day.  So I'd get depressed and be treated with antidepressants for about a year; then the treatment would be phased out--because you have to be weaned off those meds, you can't go off all of a sudden because of the withdrawal symptoms, which can be quite nasty.  And some months later I'd start being depressed again, and depending on the doctor I might or might not be put back on antidepressants.  One doctor I saw on campus during my second B.A. would not put me back on the medication despite my insistence that I was depressed because he thought I was just being anxious.  Then again, he was not a real psychiatrist, just a GP with some training in psychiatry.  He had never completed his residency because he would have had to move to another city to do so, and he was too lazy to do that.  I had to go and see the pastor of the church I was attending for help in finding another doctor who would be willing to put me back on the medication that I needed badly. At that time I would start crying for no obvious reason on city buses. It was this same doctor who later diagnosed the schizophrenia six months after I graduated with my second B.A., the one in which I majored in P.W.E.  Have you ever met people with schizophrenia before?  It's referred to as youth's greatest disabler.

Dear Michele,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I will definitely be thinking about the concept your put forward, "healing vs. cure."  There are so many, many, layers of healing.  We read in the Gospels of Jesus distinguishing between healing and forgiveness.  Much to think about.  It reminds me of a favorite professor at Seminary, Dr. Fuller. He said, "Lengthening a leg. Easy!  Cure me of covetousness!" 

      When you say, "heal", I think I hear you saying, peace and/or acceptance with Sovereign God.  Is that right? Being able to truly own and celebrate all the words of Psalm 139, "I am beautifully and wonderfully made", disabilities and all.





Michele, I pray for God's grace and help for you, and for complete healing for your sister.

posted in: Bring It On, Satan

I hope not either. If it does, I know that God will be with us.

  No doubt, but I still hope it won't come to that for you guys.

Michèle, the thing about disability, as you know well, is that it can come into anyone's life at any time. Life is so uncertain. that's why I'm thankful I can trust Bev's promises to me and Gods.

 Well, for my part I sure hope not.  I can't wait to be rid of my schizophrenia.  It's been hell for me, and I don't refer to myself as being schizophrenic.  If some people identify with their disability to such an extent that they can't visualize life in the New Jerusalem without it, that's their problem, but I WANT OUT.  

 I think Pat Robertson is a poor excuse for a Christian.  He and others like Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed Donald J. Trump during the past campaign because he had promised to reverse Roe v. Wade and other decisions on gay marriage.  As if Christianity were ONLY about abortion or homosexuals.  Actually, those issues are often the hobby horses of some preachers with a limited understanding of the Gospel, but a disproportionate salary.  In one of his programs the comedian John Oliver discussed the obscene salaries and lifestyles of some of those preachers who pressure people in their congregations and online to give them money and God would bless the people with wealth and health, and often the people who give money to those preachers have a hard time making ends meet.  

I'm glad you can trust your wife's character if you should ever need her care, Mark, though I hope it won't be necessary.  I think you have enough of a burden taking care of your daughter without adding dementia as well.

 Hi Mark, 

 It must have been very hard to have to make a decision like that on your mom's behalf, and I think you took a load of guilt on yourselves that was unnecessary.  I'm glad that your aunt could comfort you about the decision you made, so you could lay the guilt aside.  Is your mom still alive?

  Hmmmmmmm.  I'm NOT ready to say that.  Maybe he is a goner but he's caused enough trauma in my life that I'm VERY reticent to challenge him to do more.  If you think you can handle it, more power to you, but I don't.  I'm fighting off a bronchitis right now that developed following the conference in Niagara Falls, and although I'm not coughing too much so far today I did a lot earlier this week, especially on Monday when I went to a walk-in clinic and waited for six hours on a little chair while coughing my lungs off, and the doctor didn't even prescribe antibiotics.  He prescribed pumps and stuff to clear my sinuses and told me to go back if things didn't improve.  

But last night at my mom's place my sister said that when she went to that clinic with a broken wrist the doctor did not prescribe X-Rays, and when they did the radiologist did not see the fracture, so they had her do physiotherapy on a broken wrist, and she could not sleep at night because of the pain.  She thought she was a wimp because they kept saying there was no fracture.  When the fracture was finally diagnosed at a teaching hospital they had to operate her and put screws and metal plates in, and now her movement with that wrist is restricted because of the incompetence at that clinic.

 So this morning I called my doctor's office for an appointment and got one for Monday morning.  If you would pray that I could make it without having to go to a walk-in clinic again, I'd appreciate it.  I didn't enjoy the experience.

posted in: Bring It On, Satan


  Dear Sister in the Lord,  Like you I suffer from a disease for which there is no known cure.  In my case it's schizophrenia, an invisible disorder since it afflicts the brain but that can be detected by the odd behaviour of those who suffer from it.   Some people have prayed for my healing, but if healing there was, it was only emotional and spiritual.  Otherwise, I still have to take medications every day to control the symptoms, and the side effects of those medications include significant weight gain that in turn leads to diabetes Type 2.  

As I said in a meeting of the Advisory Committee to the CRC branch of Disability Concerns, we should distinguish between healing and cure.  People can experience healing without being cured of their illness, and you have, obviously, NOT been cured since you still talk about walking with pain.  As to whether you have experienced healing according to this terminological distinction is for you to determine. Nobody can tell that on your behalf.  


Michèle Gyselinck 

Hi Francine, thanks for planning to use one or more of the slides. Also for your Sunday School program, you may want to check out the one to three minute videos we produced. For downloading the slides, clicking (Preview) will only allow you to preview but not download the slides. To download, you need to click on the filename (like Disability_Week_Community.jpg) and that should prompt your computer to open it up in the picture viewer software you have. Once you have it open in that program, use the "save" function to save it to your computer. 

We would like to use these slides for our church disability Sunday program. Having trouble downloading them. Any suggestions? You can email me at

 You should not feel bad that it took you longer to reach your goals than it did for people who are in good health and have no known disability to slow them down.  I live with schizophrenia and it took me longer to reach them than healthy people too. I graduated with my second B.A. a couple of weeks before I turned 37.  The main thing is that you can actually work for pay in your line of training, something I've had to give up on, because now that I'm well enough to function in a job I'm too old to find an employer who would take me.  

I'm 57 and will turn 58 in November.  Some of my cousins have actually retired from their jobs by now.  The fact is that just as people with disabilities compete in Paralympic Games rather than the regular Olympic Games, people with disabilities training for professions are not in the same race as people without disabilities.  About the time of my graduation with my second B.A. I was having another episode of depression, so the night before the graduation ceremony I asked my mother for money to buy a frame for my diploma, which she was reluctant to give me at first but still gave me, and I was able to frame it and place the diploma where I could see it and think, "Oh yes, I actually did this," every time I passed by and saw the diploma.  This may not seem important to people who don't doubt their own self-worth, but to people who either get through college on probation or can't get a reference from a professor because her marks are too average, it can be capital.  You should rejoice that you made it in spite of the obstacles you had to overcome rather than feel diminished by those obstacles.  You have more merit than people who had no hurdles in their paths.  BRAVO.  And keep up the good work.

  That's nice, but in the wrong country, and at my age (57 and six weeks away from 58) who's going to hire me when I can't even commit to getting up at the same hour every day?

In a post about living with Cerebral Palsy, Chantal Huinink says, "The prospect of an eternity where everyone is fully known and understood by God and one another is more meaningful to me than that of  a perfectly functioning body."

 Nice, although saying that David's adultery puts his disability on the same level as someone who uses a wheelchair to get around trivializes genuine disabilities.  I'm not aware that David's adultery prevented him from using a sword or walking, or even caused him to experience hallucinations for that matter.  if this congregation needed to be told about David's adultery, either they aren't even at Disability 101 yet, or the pastor needs to read my blog about chronically normal people.

posted in: Differently Abled

As someone diagnosed with MS and unable to continue working, I too have had to find joy and contentment in the midst of suffering. For me it was Eph 2:10, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.". I realized that God knew I would need hours of rest, that I would be unable to work and that he still had a plan for me to serve him. I learned and still am learning the joy of being rather than doing, the joy of being in God's presence and the joy of prayer. God has brought healing that has primarily been emotional and spiritual. I have found new purpose in life and a new way of living that I never would have found had I been healthy and working full time. As much as I wish I didn't have MS, I don't know that I would trade where I am now with God and with myself either. God is good and he is faithful.

  Dear Sister in the Lord, you MAY experience healing without being cured, and I imagine that it's a cure you're looking for.  I pray that God will cure you, but even more that He will heal you.

Thanks Larry. I hope that our work is a step toward addressing the concerns you raised in your insightful blog posted last year: Why Denominational Leaders Need to Address Clergy Mental Health Issues

Kudos to Mark Stephenson and the entire team who assembled the guidelines for requesting a leave of absence for pastors with mental health issues.

This document/toolkit will serve Pastors, councils, and churches well.

Thank you immensely,

Larry Van Essen


 I forward to Council members everything I get from DC that I feel they ought to know about.

Jack, I hope so too. We're using multiple ways to get the word out, but it can be challenging to be heard above the roar of communications to churches. I'll attach to this post a communication we are sending this week to CRC deacons. Feel free to share these materials with anyone you wish. Thanks for your work in ministry with people with disabilities!

Thanks so much for these resources and information about this year's Disability Week. Hopefully, pastors, worship planning teams, church educational leaders and others will use and share this so that our churches and ministries will become more accessible and inclusive . . . as we should be. 

Just heard about this webinar that may be of interest too: Autism in Our Youth Group. Janeen Bertsche Johnson, campus pastor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and parent to a young adult daughter who is on the autism spectrum, names common characteristics of autism, addresses how these factors might affect a youth group, and suggests ways leaders can try to address them.

 Thank you, but my mom doesn't consider herself unhappy.  She often tells me that she thanks the Lord for her good fortune several times a day.  Compensating for a loss of taste is relatively easy to do, and at 89, she still drives her own car and does pretty much anything she wants without depending on others for help.  Of course, because of her medications's side effects there are days when she feels more dizzy, but even that depends on the days.  Some days it's worse than others, and if I'm with her she lends me her credit card, and I do the grocery shopping for her.  There is a joke going around that with advanced old age, if you wake up and nothing hurts or is missing it's because you're dead.  But thank you for your prayers on behalf of my mom's friend.  She really needs it.  My mom suspects that the poor woman wouldn't mind dying to get a relief from everything's that's wrong in her life.

posted in: I Cannot See

I'm so sorry about your mom's losses, but also about her friend's difficult situation. Praying for them.

posted in: I Cannot See

 At 89, my mom says she's pretty much lost the senses or smell and taste, so I have to make food more spicy for her to notice.  Not a big problem since we're used to eating our food spicier than average.  But on the whole she doesn't complain because a friend of hers since university is blind, has Diabetes type 2, Parkinson's Disease and almost constant pain.  Unfortunately for my mom's friend her daughter and granddaughters who live with her constantly move stuff around without telling her, so she can't find what she needs, and it has happened that the poor woman ACTUALLY brushed her teeth with Preparation H! They don't mean to but I have seldom met more thoughtless people in my 57 years of life.  Now the eldest son of this lady has told his sister that she needs to find herself a place to live, and she's panicking because she and her daughters have lived in her mother's house for 20-odd years without contributing a penny to pay the Hydro bills, the phone, or other utilities except a bit of groceries once in a while.  In short they've been freeloading on her, and now they're upset because the eldest man in the family called a halt to the free lunches.  The husband oof my mom's friend could see, and so could she before she developed macular degeneration, but he passed away in 2005, and she was already too blind to live alone, so her daughter moved in with her daughters who were little kids at the time, and who are now young women, the youngest at 21 is studying Pharmacology at the University of Montreal. This woman is well off financially, but my mom often says that despite their difference in material wealth she would not trade places with her friend for all the gold in the world.  Can you imagine being so handicapped and having two of your kids PLUS THEIR kids mooching off you for that long? They're not even helpful! The daughter does cooking on the weekend but she puts it in containers without identifying the contents in any way, so when my mom's friend opened the fridge door all she could see--if we can call that seeing--were lids, so she'd give up, close the refrigerator and eat a banana.  So this man is fortunate that at least his family isn't being a nuisance on top of having to live with restrictions caused by his blindness.  My mom's friend is a practicing Catholic, but not the rest of her family.  Not that there are any guarantees of finding consideration or thoughtfulness in all Christian families, but that's another story.

posted in: I Cannot See

  I watch a service by the People's Church in Toronto when I can't make it to church, and when I see this service on TV, the congregation is NEVER SINGING but only members of the praise team.  If we use the approach that worship is only what's going on up front, then that is borrowed from another tradition, which I hate, by the way, because those singers put on a performance with tremolos in their voices as if they were giving a paying concert or something.  It turns me off no end.  The sermons are good, but the rest must make ordinary congregation members or even people with more limitations so inadequate.  I would not feel welcome in such a church that doesn't consider its people's input good enough to be broadcast on the air.

Tom, thanks for your comment. The way most services are structured, and the way most sanctuaries are constructed, we send the message that "worship" is what happens up front, even though that's not a Reformed perspective of worship as a dialog between God and his people. As a result, any "inappropriate" sounds by people in the "audience" are "disruptions". I hope that we who are connected to disability in various ways can help all of God's people recognize and celebrate that worship is EVERYONE participating, not just the people up front. 

The Lighthouse in Rock Valley, Iowa, is a second campus of Faith Reformed Church where often around 20% of the worshippers are people with various abilities/disabilities.  Several years ago, as I was leading worship, a person got up and walked out to the restroom, coming within three feet of me.  Not a problem, I was totally okay with that.  But then a few weeks later, as another person was leading worship, a young man who could not speak but would "yip" uncontrollably from time to time, was seated very close to the speaker and was vocalizing quite often.  My thoughts were, "Oh, I wish his caregiver would move him to the back... or take him out..."  And then God spoke to me in as nearly an audible voice as I've ever experienced, "What if that were Nathan? (our son) Wouldn't you want a place for him to come and worship??"   I was convicted.  And the folks at the Lighthouse have always been welcoming to every person coming to worship, no matter "disruptive" they might appear to be.  

 About 10 years ago I was on a certain anti-psychotic, and my psychiatrist at the time felt we should switch to another one from the latest generation because the side effects would be less severe.  However, because I still had psychotic symptoms at the time he recommended we start me taking the new one before phasing out the old, so for about three weeks I was taking the full dose of the old PLUS 100 mg of the new the first week then 200 mg the second week etc.... That made me feel very sluggish, and I imagine it slurred my speech a fair bit too because at about the same time I had joined a writing workshop where the assignment was to write a novel, and one of the ladies in the group assumed I was drunk.  Until the following week when I read the chapter I'd written in which my main character was going through exactly the same experience I was going through, and then she learned that it was not drunkenness that affected my speech but the medication I was taking to treat my mental illness, schizophrenia.  At it happened, this woman has a daughter who suffers from Bipolar disorder, so she readily understood that I needed to take my medication and we became friends.  I write you this to tell you that although people may make assumptions at first, when you explain the problem most people will understand.  And don't be discouraged.  Recovery may be slow, but with persistence your condition should improve.  A man in our congregation also had a stroke, and now whatever remains of it is barely noticeable to outsiders.  I asked about it some months ago, and his wife said he was back to normal.  I won't promise you that though.  I'm not a doctor, and I don't know you. 

 A psychiatrist who studied neurology extensively and who lectures about the brain and how various conditions affect it said in one of those lectures that patients who have a stroke in the left hemisphere, which controls the right side of their body, have a better chance of recovery than the other way around even if speech is affected.  I won't go into details here, but if you look up on Youtube lectures by Dr. Iain McGilchrist, you can probably come across the one in which he spoke those words.      

 At a time when, especially south of the border, some people put feelings and myths ahead of facts, this text is an important reminder that feelings and impressions ARE NOT facts ans should not be put on the same footing.  Feelings are transient : sometimes they're up, sometimes down, and you can't rely on them to direct your path in life.  As Reformed Christians we believe and have been taught that it is better to rely on what we know about God's character and what He did for us than on how we feel at any given moment.  We should extend that to dispelling myths about people with disabilities.

Bekki you don't know me but you DO know well some of my family members Doug, Leslie, Kiel, Liz and Jack. Jeri is my husband Bill's oldest sister. You, my dear sister in Christ, are a blessing to so very many. I forwarded this write-up to Doug and family, as I'm not sure they get the weekly CRC Network. THANK YOU for your beautiful testimony, your sunshine nature, and for being such a blessing to the Hoek family, in particular over the past six months through their loss of Jeri. You have indeed been "baptized in sunshine"!! :) 

Love this article!!  Thank you Bekki for sharing with us.

This is an amazing testimony! I am truly left without words.

Thank you, Bekki and Staci, for sharing this very special and purposeful story! 

  Apparently, it already has.  According to John Oliver, not only do black people have to contend with bureaucratic obfuscation but with logistics as well.  Some of those offices are not opened every day of a business week but only a few hours in a given month, so if you don't have the right papers at the right time, you can miss several opportunities to vote in primary elections thereby being effectively denied your right to vote.  In the mean time some of the politicians who supported this sort of legislation have been seen on TV voting in someone else's place for or against a bill in the state's congress.  We're supposed to support justice, so if there is such a law in the books of your state, then you should work to have it repealed.  If you don't know, find out. It might not help black voters this time around since governments are NOT known to turn on a dime, especially if they adopted such a racist policy in the first place, but at least they may be able to vote without hindrance next time.

Michele, I too have heard similar reports. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision three years ago to invalidate several parts of the voting rights act may make matters worse for African American voters this time they vote for president. 

 Some time ago I watched an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in which he talked about voting and how some states make it extremely difficult for black people to vote with the Voter I.D. laws they have passed in which those poor people NEVER have the proper documents to be eligible to vote, so I'd suggest that in some states being black is a disability that the state government makes no attempt to help.  If anything they deliberately complicate the voting process for coloured people. You might want to watch this episode just to see the hypocrisy of the politicians who pass this sort of legislation.  You can find it on Youtube.

Cindy, thanks for your comment and for your plan of action. Please post another comment with the results! One other way to encourage citizens with physical disabilities to vote is to make absentee voting not only easier to do but also intentionally promoted by election officials. If citizens knew that absentee voting was available to them, and if they had an easy path to receive a ballot and send it in, that would go a long ways toward giving more people the vote. 

Goodness, reading this and thinking about my polling place has me rather horrified, as well as a little embarrassed that I hadn't thought about it before.  I live out in the country and we vote at a small community center with a dirt parking lot, narrow door with concrete steps to the threshold, and a porta-potty bathroom.  I am planning to call our county government and ask what accommodations are available for someone who can't handle that situation--I'm guessing that they would have to make special arrangements to go to the courthouse, but it's probably safe to say mine isn't the only rural county with similar problems and many rural citizens with disabilities are probably effectively discouraged from voting. 

 I've worked as poll secretary in some provincial elections, and in cases like that the person who is blind can be accompanied by a friend or relative who will tell them the names of the candidates and what party they stand for.  Usually, the candidates are listed in alphabetical order since that is neutral.

Michele, thanks for your mother's story. You are right that most accessibility thought is put into accessibility for people who use wheelchairs, but other challenges must be considered too, such as the struggle your mother has walking long distances. I also wonder how well people with visual impairments are able to place their vote. 

 Not me personally, but my mom did at one municipal election.  She has angina, which is a form of heart disease, and she went to vote at an advance polling station that required a lot of walking one year, and when she got to the desk to vote she complained about having to walk all that distance, and the person in charge said she was taking note of the complaint.  You see, a lot of the accommodations when they are made, are almost always only in terms of wheelchair-bound people, who are assumed to be able to wheel themselves around to any distance as long as they don't have to overcome the hurdle of steps or stairs, but people who have heart problems often find walking long distances very hard because they get out of breath easily.  And that day, when my mom got back to the car after voting, she told my dad not to bother because it was too far, and he had even more difficulty walking than my mom. I can't think of the proper term right now but it has to do with the heart not pumping hard enough and fluid accumulating on the lungs.  In Canada, we don't vote for everything at once.  Federal, provincial and municipal elections are held separately, and municipal elections are governed by provincial laws, so they vary from one province to another.  Then we also have to vote for school-board officials. However, we don't vote for judges or sheriffs or any law-enforcing officials.  Judges are appointed by governments; police officers have to do a three-year professional junior college program (in Québec) after which they go to a police academy and are picked by municipal or provincial police corps upon graduation from said academy.

 But what I want to emphasize here is that not all disabilities require the same accommodations, and what works for people in wheelchairs is not necessarily good for people with heart or respiratory problems.  It's NOT a one size fits all. 

Thank you for this, Mark. This past Sunday I commented on our dependence on God, playing off Independence Day as you said in the comment above. I appreciate how you also write of our dependence on others, too! ~Stanley

Independence, like freedom and happiness, are complex subjects which seem to confuse many people. The Declaration Of Independence, for example: under which economic or political system can't a person chase after happiness? When some people complain, "We are losing our freedom," I respond, "If you had more freedom then what would you do differently?" The response usually is something about taxes, guns, or smoking pot.

Reformed Protestant Christianity is the only system that guarantees catching happiness with the only proviso being that one is "elect" before he is born. How can this be? Because Freedom and happiness are mental states. I think therefore I am free and happy. <G>

Hi Michele, yes, independence for nations is much different than independence for individuals. I was playing off the U.S. celebration of Independence Day to make a point about how much each of us needs each other and God.