Excerpts from Inter Faith service conducted by
George K. Tregaskis, Ed.D.
at NAMI New York Conference, Albany, NY, October 30, 2005
Informal responsive reading
Our God, whoever we conceive him or her to be I don’t believe is impressed with flowery or pompous language nor impressed with our being able to piece together a responsive reading that quotes liberally even from holy scriptures.
What brings delight to our God is when we worship Him or Her in Spirit and in truth; with words and actions that are simple and sincere. You will find our responsive reading this morning to be conversational and in keeping the theme of this service: Talking with God.
Good morning, God. We have come together to talk. Sometimes, like now, I shall represent the people but mostly you will find that they speak eloquently for themselves. Sometimes I shall be translating for you. I trust I capture your spirit and thoughts.
Yes. We too say good morning God.
We’re here because we were confident that you, our God, whoever we conceive you to be, would be here to meet us.
That gives us great comfort and we’re glad we came for this time together, to meet with others who share our journey of faith in the world of psychiatric disorders.
The Lord responds: Thank you for setting aside this time and I don’t mind you establishing an air of informality as I have for a long time desired to speak to you as friend to friend.
I know you have reverence for me, properly so, but we do need to talk, don’t we? In common language we both understand. Mental illness? Psychiatric disorder? Name it out of the DSM and it’s not new to me. Speak freely. No language is foreign to me. If what you say comes from the heart I understand.
Good, Lord, I need to tell you some things that weigh heavy on my heart and I need to hear from you. There is a great deal of unexplained pain and grief in my life because of mental illness. There’s my own struggle with depression and the HMO’s are denying my loved one services, and this social worker wants to commit my son and my brother is suicidal and….. .
Wait! Peace be still. I know all that. And I suffer with you. Believe me I suffer with you. I created all things but some things have gone astray; some say because of sin; some say because a greater good will emerge from suffering; some say because all things are not always perfectly as we would have them to be.
Do you have faith that I am in control? You do call me Lord- God. Right?
Yes, Lord. Let us not be so proud as to assume that we govern the universe. We acknowledge you as a God who controls all things. And that’s our problem. Then why do you allow illnesses? Why do bad things happen to good and innocent people like me or my son or daughter; my loved one?
Bottom line, my child, you are not given to know. Faith is a difficult thing to grasp but essentially it means trusting in me – it may be raining now but the sun will come out and soon there will be a rainbow.
We have so many questions, but so did Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and Jesus’ disciples and all acknowledged that they were seekers.
So, here we come before you, and in one hand we have a measure of faith and in the other a bundle of questions. And quite frankly, the hope of rainbows doesn’t help us much when our loved one is in the psychiatric ward.
My rainbow was once thought to be a miraculous sign from me; now it is explained in scientific terms of light refraction.
The wonders of nature and the body are mine to reveal in my own time. Someday schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, OCD, and all disorders of the brain will have a solid scientific explanation. Have faith that a cure will follow. Some of you have begun to see this possibility already.
Yes, we do see the promise of improved treatment. We thank you for that. And we are going to continue lay our burdens down before you but you know, sometimes in talking with you our thoughts become muddled and we wander and really don’t know how to talk with you or what to say.
I understand, and prefabricated, ritualistic prayers don’t bring much comfort do they? I suggest you sit back, enjoy your coffee and listen to the message of the morning. My servant will share with you a simple plan that might make our future conversations together more gratifying to both of us.
Of your servant we know not, but this we do know and acknowledge: the Lord’s mercy and kindness endures forever.
True and this I also want you to know: I have not been offended by your honest inquisitiveness but respond only that I want you to have faith in me, in my plans for you and the fact that someday all things and purposes shall be known; that someday all despair shall be blanketed with gladness, all tears shall be wiped away and bodies and minds shall be made whole; all spirits and souls united in love and humble worship of me. In the words of Jeremiah:
For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jer. 29:11
Talking with God
All spiritual leaders claimed to have conversations with God.
Perhaps even you and me.
So what do you talk to God about? Why do you talk to God? Do you believe God listens? Do you believe he or she answers?
My orientation is to the Old and New Testament and the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and ultimately Christ. It may not be the basis of your system of faith and I respect that. But here in my spiritual structure, here I find a God who says, let’s talk. Let’s communicate. I’m willing to have a discussion. Are you?
The story is told that conversing with God began back in the Garden of Eden and the first conversations were quite confrontational. Seems Adam and Eve failed to follow God’s directives. Subsequent conversations between God and man and women are recorded in the scriptures and they vary in tone.
Abraham received promises; Moses received directive after directive; Joshua heard words of encouragement; some of the early prophets are found arguing and bargaining with God for mercy. King David talked with God about his personal problems but spent as much time as well in praising God. Christ spoke to God as Son to Father.
Regardless of our beliefs, we must, must hold that we worship a God that is in touch with us and understands our pain. Otherwise the heavens are as brass and we kid ourselves.
Now what? So talk with Him or her. Tell your problems; lay them all before a more significant power than you. And rest; rest; rest that there is a someone who knows you and your problems and cares and loves you.
So when you talk with God, what script do you follow? Talking is a two way street. I suggest in talking with your god you keep in mind the following acronym: ACTS
Acknowledge who you are talking to. How we refer to our God is a very personal thing. But you do have a name for him or her or they, don’t you? Perhaps you’d also like to mention a virtue of your God that you hold dear. Magnificent, mighty, merciful, loving, gracious, all come to mind.
Confess your shortcomings, perhaps your inadequacies to meet the needs of your loved one; perhaps mistakes you have made in dealing with mental illness in your family; perhaps less than righteous indignation which you have vented on well - meaning health care providers, law enforcement officers or HMO representatives who were just doing their job.
Perhaps some of us need to confess that with our family and friends we have met ignorance with anger rather than enlightenment. In dealing with our loved one perhaps our patience ran out and there were words which we regret having spoken.
Perhaps there is a need to apologize for failing to show tolerance and compassion. So, say you’re sorry and put it behind you.
You’ll find forgiveness
Thank the person to whom you are talking. Take time to inventory your blessings. If you are a consumer, be thankful you were able to attend this conference, that your five senses are working though your brain might be stumbling and you can relate to others who share your pain.
Be thankful for a mental health system that is in place for your benefit – and yes, yes it could be better but if you were living in some other societies or times you’d be an outcast with no hope for effective treatment.
If you are a care giver your list of blessings is lengthy indeed and too numerous for me to hint at and the resources for you to deal with the mental illness in your family grow richer each year.
Supplication: Speak boldly in describing what you need.
Some would say that this is simply a catharsis; a self analysis; an introspective time to get things in order. If that is what is to you so be it and take the comforts it offers.
Perhaps as you examine your needs your goals for your loved one will become more realistic; perhaps a still small voice might suggest a course of action you had not considered before. Some call this time together with your God prayer, some meditating. None who have tried it call it a waste of time.
So there you have a plan for talking with your God: ACTS- acknowledge, confess, thanks, supplication.
Lighting of candle
Sometimes our manner of communicating with God is not verbal but by a gesture, an act of faith. the sharing of a piece of bread or a glass of water, or driving a suicidal person to the mental health crisis center or taking a meal to a depressed neighbor.
Or the lighting of a candle for those valiantly fighting the good fight or for those who chose to take their own life rather than continue the struggle, or for caregivers and for providers who grow so weary...
Thus we light a candle of hope.
As the candle glows, feel free to speak the name of someone you know who has or is struggling with mental illness.
Please rise for the benediction
Go in the knowledge that there is a God who loves you.
Go in peace which means that you are reconciled to his will you and can accept any blessing or burden that this resignation holds.
Go in peace and with a renewed confidence that God listens and God speaks to you.
The Lord bless you and keep you. Your Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. Your Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
Amen and shalom