Mental Illness: Helping the Church Help the Hurting

A blog written by MFTS Board member, Shelly Beach:

“We are called to be Jesus’ hands extended to the hurting. May our prayer be to see them, to know them, and to know how to love them.”

Sandscribblings

fog

In the last decades of my father-in-law’s life, he slipped into a fog of mental illness from which he never returned. We did our best to help him–to find a diagnosis and effective medications. The years he lived with us were a constant battle of second-guessing, as we debated whether or not we were doing the right thing, doing enough, seeking out the “right” mental health professionals for his condition.

In my most recent book It Is Well with My Soul: Meditations for Those Living with Illness, Pain, and the Challenges of Aging, I devote a number of selections to the topic of mental illness. Dan and I both grew up in homes where mental illness was discussed in our homes and our churches as often as we heard about the mating habits of squid

This was probably a reflection, in part, of the generation we grew up in (a…

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NOT LISTENING: Writing a song in my head

inspirationpicTaking a look into the intricate world of songwriting, most people who haven’t done any – or who’ve just done it as a hobby – think songwriters are struck by inspiration and that great songs just ‘happen.’

A professional songwriter once said, “Inspiration won’t do you much good if it strikes while you’re on the golf course.”  In other words, one needs to invest the time in order to be present for “inspiration.”

A music publishing executive was much more direct. “If you don’t spend ten hours a day at the writing desk you aren’t a writer.”

When speaking to a group of aspiring writers at a Gospel Music Association teaching conference, I shared with them, “You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than you do of becoming a successful songwriter.”  Friend and follow songwriter, Grant Cunningham, was standing nearby and piped in, “And being struck by lightning feels better!”

A common misconception about songwriting is that it isn’t work; however, like anything worth doing, becoming a good songwriter is really hard and takes a long, long time.

What many may not understand about it is that songwriting is also the kind of job where you are never off.   It is not a 9 to 5 songwritersmusicians (640x547)job where you punch the clock and go home.   Once you are in a song you are in it.   Everywhere your brain goes the job goes too.   The Write about Jesus conference which meets every October in St. Louis has a great T- shirt that says: NOT LISTENING: Writing a song in my head. Unfinished songs follow us into our dreams, our family time, even into the bathroom.

Songwriting is typically an all-consuming task that takes a deep and sustained commitment to studying the craft, listening to music and to language, observing life, and investing the time.

Occasionally God will touch us on the shoulder and grace us with a song that feels like it was written through virtually no effort of our own.

One of the sonchofGgs I’ve written that was quite a profound experience for me as a songwriter is Child of God. This was written after living with the dark topic of sex trafficking for several weeks. This song, written for victims of this horrific abuse, offers a voice and a message that these ladies can’t quite speak for themselves, but need to believe. It can be found on our Child of God page.

At Music for the Soul, we believe that music is one of God’s greatest gifts of communication.

It is also our belief that Jesus is the compassionate healer who loves us unconditionally, and is always with us especially in our times of greatest challenge and darkest despair.

It is these two core beliefs that thread through every song written and every resource created, along with the hope that the light of Christ will shine in any darkness. It is our desire that our music will help hurting people feel known, understood, and supported by others – and by God.

ponderingAnd so while we, at Music for the Soul, think, dream, and pray about future projects, we anticipate times of ‘not listening’, which only means that new songs are being written and new projects are being created – ones that we trust God will use to touch hearts as the words offer hope and healing, blessing lives for years to come.

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Music: a charm to sadness this Lenten season

  musiccross Do you love music?  Do you love Jesus?

If you’ve answered yes to both, then I believe that as people who love Jesus, and who also love God’s glorious gifts of music and song, we’re called to a response.

We may be called to the act of personal worship.

We may be called to joy.

We may be called, through the act of more intentional listening, to re-examine the way we’re living our own lives or to the need for our own spiritual or emotional healing.

We may be called to the giving of our own gifts to lead others into a deeper experience of God and God’s life-transforming power.  This might mean being a worship music leader or being part of a worship music team, singing in a choir, becoming a performing musician, or a songwriter.

This last category might manifest itself in various acts of service.  In rare instances it might even manifest itself in a career ministry path.

guitarnotepadFor me the calling has presented itself in all of these ways at various times. Being the founder and director of Music for the Soul, a ministry bringing the light and hope of Christ through song to people living through life’s darkest, most difficult moments adds a whole other layer of perspective to this.

I believe many have yet to discover what God’s purpose for music, and more specifically Christian songs, may be in this time in which we live.

So, let me ask you this: why is music, as represented by the gift of song, God’s greatest gift of communication?   

There is actually a biological reason.  Language is processed primarily in the left hemisphere of the brain.  Melody is processed primarily on the right.  So, if I want your total attention to convey a message to you, my best bet is to sing it!  Advertisers have known this for years – that’s why they sing to you about cheeseburgers and car insurance.

Secondly, music is a memory devworshipice.   Studies have shown that people remember more of what they read than what they are told, and more of what they hear in music than what they read.  Why do you think we teach the ABC’s with a song?  My guess is you couldn’t forget that melody if your life depended on it.

So, with a song your whole brain is engaged, your heart is open, and there is a better chance that you’ll remember whatever I sing to you.  This has massive ramifications for us as people who wish to share the Gospel, and offer hope and healing to a hurting world.

During this season of Lent, reflect on those lyrics, songs, and music that “gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, gaiety and life to everything; It is the essence of order and lends to all that is good, just, and beautiful.” ~ Plato

Which piece of music or song speaks to your heart of Christ’s love for you during this season?

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One of my favorites is ‘Twenty-Three’: listen here.

Post written by Steve Siler / Director, Music for the Soul

 

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Dignity – A Lifeline Reviewed by Caring.com

DignitySteve Siler, founder of Music for the Soul, producer of Dignity, was honored to read a recent review from Caring.com, and shares:

“I’m so excited to see the wonderful new review of Dignity.  It is truly a blessing to hear that it is resonating with the people for whom it was intended in such powerful ways.

Doing the Dignity project was such an honor and a privilege for me.   I heard story after story from courageous, selfless people who had sacrificed everything to provide the kind of love and care they believed their loved ones deserved.  I heard from professional caregivers who, for a season, became a lifeline for the ones they served and came to love them in the process.

I have to admit that until working on Dignity I never realized just how difficult the caregiving journey is and what a price it extracts from those who choose to walk that road.  In interviewing people about the topic I heard one profound and compelling story after another.  The constant effort involved – often given with little or no acknowledgement at all – seemed staggering and all consuming.

For me the story of every caregiver was a story of the triumph of the human spirit; people doing more than they thought they ever could – people choosing to love even when it cost them dearly of their time, their money, their job, and even their own health.

It is my prayer that the Dignity project will provide hope, encouragement, and a sense of companionship for those doing one of the most lonely, most difficult, and most selfless jobs imaginable in this life – caregiving.

Through this project may they feel supported and loved – by others – and by God. ”

Read the review now…

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Are you Protesting the Darkness with Beauty?

bwflower “You can protest the darkness and brokenness by balancing with  beauty.” – Dr. Catherine Hart Weber

A wise counselor advises those who work on the front lines of issues related to sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and pornography to add beauty into their lives and their world whenever possible, and on a regular basis; for such dark, burdensome topics can become overwhelming, sometimes seeming as if there’s no end to the bad news that comes through the media and across the internet every day. It can make one’s heart actually hurt some days.

 At first, this suggestion stirred up feelings of guilt and a sense that this is unnecessary; after all, why should any of us enjoy beauty and comfort and security if those being victimized cannot? And in reality the beauty and security in their lives is stripped and ripped away from them?

Yet circumstances created a demand to heed this wisdom. And so, after spending a couple of days in acute awareness of the beauty of creation, the often unnoticed intricacies of nature, the warm blessings that come from enjoying family and friends, a discovery was made! With a sense of renewed energy and strengthened resolve the darkness lifted, dreams began flowing again, a sense of courage was reintroduced, and a fresh vision for justice reemerged!

Beauty. Whenever it comes alive in us we will find new energy to live it out, right where we are…

A few suggestions for instilling beauty into our world might be:

  •  Listen to the kind of music that captures your attention and causes you to look beyond your current horizon.
  •  Buy a bouquet of flowers for the room you spend the most time in.
  •  Take a walk in the snow.
  •  Have a photo shoot with your pet!
  •  Treat yourself to lunch with a friend in a nice restaurant.
  •  Watch a sunrise. Watch a sunset.
  •  Take a break outside, look up at the clouds, and breathe deeply.

Henri Nouwen reminds us that “every time we show compassion to a suffering person, every time we arrange a bouquet of flowers, offer care to tame or wild animals, prevent pollution, create beauty in our homes and gardens … we are making the vision come true…Whenever it comes alive in us we will find new energy to live it out, right where we are….this beautiful vision gets us involved.

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How are you keeping beauty in your world and protesting the darkness?

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The Music Of What Is Happening

There is an old Irish story about Fionn Mac Cumhail. Fionn asks his followers, “What is the finest music in the world?”  They suggest answers: the cuckoo calling from the hedge, the ring of a spear on a shield, the baying of a pack of hounds, the laughter of a gleeful girl.

“All good music,” agrees Fionn.  “But what is best?” they ask.

Fionn answers: “The music of what is happening.”

Being present in the here and now, aware of what is happening in and around us is the music Fionn was speaking of.

Watching the first snow fall of the season as large snowflakes cover the ground, feeling sad as thoughts of my neighbor who will be moving away soon filter through my mind – and this is just the first verse! – yet this is the music of what is happening in and around me this very moment.

We all experience times, though, when the music of our lives is forlorn, painful, and threatens to overwhelm.  And many of us often feel that we are walking through those times alone.

I was reminded recently of the familiar footprints in the sand story, and while it often is overused, I could appreciate the comforting reminder that we are not alone during painful times, for we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and promises never to leave or forsake us.

At Music for the Soul, it is our desire to create music that blends with the music of what is happening in your life; to remind you that you are not alone and to help you feel understood. Whether it’s recovery from an addiction, grieving a loss, journeying through cancer, caring for a loved one, or healing the innocent child within from abuse, we want to walk the difficult path with you.

While no one may be experiencing exactly the same music you are right now, we trust that through our resources, you will find a song or spoken word piece that will help you live out what you are going through, restoring hope and opening the door for healing.

~ T. S.

Listen to the music of TWENTY-THREE:

The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures. 

He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death; I will fear no evil,

For you are with me.

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me; All the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord,

Forever.

~  Psalm 23

Explore our resources and listen online today.

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Into the Heart of God

“The most precious gift we’ve ever received in our entire lives has been Sylvia. In her uninhibited expression of affection, she revealed to us the face of God as no other human being ever has. Did you know that several Native American tribes attribute divinity to Down’s children because in their utter simplicity they’re a transparent window into the Great Spirit?

Treasure your child, for she will lead you into the heart of God.”

~ Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, The Ragamuffin’s Path to God

She can see all things through the eyes of the spirit
She is whole in the sight of God

Whole In the Sight of God is designed to offer encouragement and support for those who face the challenges and triumphs of loving someone with a disability. It brings an inspiring message of hope and deep comfort, with a reminder that though all of us are broken in some way the path to wholeness begins when we see ourselves and others through the eyes of our loving Lord.

(Download now for a gift of any amount or consider giving ‘Whole In the Sight of God’ as a gift this holiday season)

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