Tag Archive: Christianity


“Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God…?” Romans 11:33 (MSG)

 

This was my fourth time to attend the WOF Conferences and, to be completely honest, I wasn’t planning on going this year.  They had decided to split the core group of speakers and welcome “some new friends to the porch.” While I was certain that these new “friends” were wonderful women, I was not excited about missing-out on hearing from Sheila Walsh, Luci Swindoll, and Mary Graham. Besides…I had heard their inspiring messages before.  What new messages of hope, love, and encouragement could they possibly be bringing to Oklahoma City?  Fortunately, God had other plans…I was contacted and selected by Thomas Nelson Publishing through their blogger program Booksneeze, to be their guest at this years conference and to write about my experience.

 

I am so thankful and overjoyed that I went.  As Patsy Clairmont says, “Change can be good.”

 

I have decided to make two posts regarding the WOF conference so that I can fully share the wisdom that was given during this two day conference.

If you have never attended one of these events, it is difficult to fully explain the experience.  No matter who your are, where you are from, or what is going on in your life, the stories shared here will resonate with you.  Even having heard the narratives of Marilyn Meberg, Patsy Clairmont, and Lisa Whelchel before, I realized that the stories shared at this event were different; moreover, that I was in such a different place in my life as well. I have already found myself sharing the truth of “more” and finding real contentment, as shared by Marilyn Meberg, with several of my patients over this past week.  The testimonies of each of these incredible women (and wonderful man–Andy Andrews) were poignant, transparent, and pointed fully to the power of God in each of their lives.  Each of the speakers share with such intimacy, despite being with 7,000 of your closest girlfriends, that you leave feeling like you really know each of them and share a special bond.

 

And then there’s the music…

There is nothing more moving than singing worship with 7,000 women.  I still get chills thinking about singing  Revelation Song as led by the four talented women of the Rejoice   Worship Team.  The entire Chesapeake Arena was energized as we danced & sang with Mandisa and the Worship Team. Amy Grant shared a very intimate and beautiful concert with us that concluded with the entire WOF lineup dancing on the stage with her.  I am always in awe of the incredible talent of Sandi Patty and so grateful to be able to hear her sing my favorite song, The Prayer with her husband Don Peslis.

It was an energizing weekend filled with truth, wisdom, renewal, and hope….truly it was Over the Top.

antidepressantsThe decision to seek treatment for any condition can be a difficult one.  The decision to seek treatment for depression and anxiety can be made significantly more difficult by current social stigmas and also by one’s interpretation of religious beliefs.  This question represents so many other questions that can become barriers to treatment: If I seek treatment, does it mean I don’t have enough faith in God’s healing power?  If I seek treatment, does it mean that there is something really wrong with me?  If I seek treatment and someone finds out, will they judge me in a negative manor?  I have lost count of how many believers have delayed or avoided treatment for these very reasons; not to mention how many stop treatment prematurely so they can “get back to thinking that there’s nothing wrong” with themselves.  These same people generally would not hesitate to seek treatment for high blood pressure or diabetes.

 

My response is this: Our bodies are temples that we are entrusted with caring for.  We are an incredible collection of cells, nerves, chemicals, and more that are continually changing in response to biologic, psychological, and social factors.  Sometimes our chemistry can become unbalanced necessitating the use of antidepressant medication to correct states of depression and anxiety when they cause dysfunction in our lives.  Depression and anxiety are not punishment; they are real medical conditions that can respond to specific treatments.  To not take the steps needed to maintain our bodies would be far more wrong and damaging; sometimes this might mean taking medications in addition to doing therapy and other activities.  Have faith that the God of the Universe is not limited in His capacity to heal: that healing may very well be accomplished through any variety of treatment modalities including medications. Find a physician, who understands your beliefs and listens to you, but don’t avoid or delay getting the help you need.

_225_350_Book.83.coverSo…what’s your story? I love stories–always have.  I may not always remember names, but I rarely forget a story. A Million Miles is one story I am certain not to forget.  I became acquainted with Mr. Miller earlier this year through his bestseller, Blue Like Jazz (2003)– an excellent work in itself: especially cathartic for those who might be recovering from negative religious experiences. A Million Miles is the powerful story that arose as Mr. Miller was approached about turning Blue Like Jazz into a movie.  Mr. Miller has an exceptionally engaging and easy style of writing that complements and lends credence to this insightful memoir.

A Million Miles is the story about “Story”: what makes a good story; the transformational power of stories; and most of all, about our ownership and responsibility for our own story.  In many ways, Mr. Miller’s story is not unlike the stories my patients share with me on a daily basis: the quest for love, meaning, adventure, forgiveness, and purpose; these elements making up some of the pillars of most good stories.  As Mr. Miller faces his own conflicts and demons, he inspires the reader to take a chance and live “a better story”.  Mr. Miller shares so much of himself in his writing that a sense of familiarity and intimacy is conveyed:  he feels like a trusted friend that you want to succeed.  His narration is both humorous and poignant. A Million Miles balances being instructive and encouraging, avoiding being dogmatic or “preachy”,  while demonstrating that significant life-changes are both possible and worthwhile.

As a psychiatrist, I am blessed to get to hear individuals’ stories on a daily basis: to reflect back these stories (as a type of whiteboard) and help my patients make course corrections as desired.  I have already begun recommending A Million Miles to many of my patients as well as to my friends.  I find it to be a most entertaining guide to assist anyone in “speaking a better story”.  I share Mr. Miller’s basic precept: all human life is meaningful and the best path finding meaning is by doing.  I am grateful to have read this wonderful book.  I recommend A Million Miles highly and without reservation.

_225_350_Book.68.coverAll you need is love? Not according to Dr. Eggerich:  Love & Respect, based on Ephesians 5:33 and culminating from Dr. Eggerich’s vast experience in pastoral and marital counseling, focuses on the transformational power of unconditional love and unconditional respect in marriage. Although it is certainly not the most entertaining or captivating book, Dr. Eggerich does successfully capture one of the primary sources of conflict in a majority of marriages: unmet needs.  Dr. Eggerichs postulates that women have an innate need for love and that men have an innate need, not for love, but for respect.  He explains that the failure to have this essential need met results in a cycle of reacting and withholding the other from one’s spouse, dubbed the “Crazy Cycle”.  While this may seem an overly simplistic distillation, it does have merit.  In a highly unscientific poll, I queried my patients over the past week that were experiencing challenges in their marriage: 100% agreed, not only that “love & respect” were an issue, but also that the converse had the potential for restoration.  Dr. Eggerich presents his thesis in the first section, accompanied by many relevant and supportive Biblical quotations.  He follows in the subsequent sections with suggestions for creating an “Energizing Cycle” including specifics on how to express your love/respect in a way that the other spouse can receive; then concludes with the “Rewarded Cycle” and several appendices with practical exercises.  While Eggerich tends to be redundant in his writing style, his message is both valid and useful in application.  I recommend this book for couples that are experiencing difficulties in their relationship or those who want to take their relationship to a higher level through improved communication and greater understanding.

I consider myself to be a Christian Psychiatrist.  To me, this is a distinction that implies something more than the mere fact that I am both a practicing Christian and psychiatrist.  As such, I incorporate spirituality into my treatment when appropriate:  this can manifest through discussion of appropriate verses from scripture to suggestions of daily personal quiet time and meditation.  I will pray before (and sometime while) seeing patients for God to give me the words to relieve suffering, to shed light on a situation, or to give me discernment in the proper path.  I believe fully that I am an instrument of healing and that God is the true healer.  I also believe that our bodies have an innate capacity for self-healing that we are to facilitate.  This does not mean that I consider myself a “spiritual healer” or that I don’t use psychopharmalogic tools; in fact, I would estimate that 95% of my patients are on at least one medication or another.  Nevertheless, I am convinced that God is at work: I have experienced times when I felt the Spirit was present and times when I have had responses that I couldn’t attribute to anything from my formal training. 

 

I do not consider my position to be one of proselytizing:  while I fully acknowledge the “great commission”, I think it an abuse of my position to do so in my practice, especially directly.  Beyond “bearing the burdens of another” (Gal. 6:2), I endeavor to reflect Christ in all that I do.  One risk inherent in promoting oneself as a Christian Psychiatrist is that of alienating patients of differing faiths and viewpoints.  I have noted patients’ comments “I know you’re a Christian but…”;  I welcome such opportunities to reassure patients that I am not here to judge and that my only ambition for them is whatever ambition they have for themselves.  Another responsibility inherent in Christian Psychiatry is the same for all who practice medicine:  continuing education.  I frequently say, “Whatever you feed grows”.  My own spiritual lifei is fed through a non-denominational bible study:  BSF (Bible Study Fellowship).  BSF is a seven-year, intensive study that I find both spiritually and intellectually fulfilling. (www.bsfinternational.org) 

 

Is it necessary for a psychiatrist to share the same religion in order to effectively treat?  As was referenced by the Shrink Rap blog-post “A Shrink Like Me”, (http://psychiatrist-blog.blogspot.com/2007/05/shrink-like-me.html) I agree that shared religious belief is a preference… not necessity, much like the preference for male or female therapist; but also something more…it speaks to a desire for more complete understanding.  In “my neck of the woods”, it is certainly more common than not.  Overall, I like to think that spirituality represents another tool to be utilized judiciously and I am pleased to have it as a part of my stratagem.