Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Sin and Forgiveness Resume . . .

I have found myself circulating my resume again to a variety of places, including places connected to the church. Resumes are funny things, they are but a two-dimensional, snap shots of who we are. And not just any version of who we are, but who we are at our best. 

One of the standard interview questions is, "Why are you best for this job?"  I really want to answer that, "Well, I really don't have the information to answer that. I don't know anything about the other candidates and unless I believe I am the best person in the whole world for this job, which is called megalomania, I really can't say." 

I have never said that in an interview, but I'd love to.

Every week at church, we say the Lord's Prayer.  A key phrase in the prayer is "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us."  What if we had a sin resume, where we did indeed make a list of our sins and those we have forgiven (some may say this is a critical part of the Twelve Step programs)? Some versions of the Lord's Prayer use the word debts and debtors. But you could argue that a Debt Resume already exists, it is called a credit report, but I digress.

One of the great challenges for those in Christian leadership and probably any visible role where faith or morals is expected is to live an authentic life. It is too easy to simply try to live the veneer life, that is try to live a life just for show and for other people. Authentic leadership and living is not easy, and I think that having a sin and forgiveness resume might just help.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Seekers on the Journey

Over the last couple of days, I have been reflecting on a comment made by John Hamer on a thread over on Saints Herald. John said that, "I believe that the Community of Christ is being called to provide a spiritual home of disaffected Mormons who have left their church but remain spiritual seekers." It reminded me of a series of discussions I had on the eve of my appointee career. The process of entering appointment was very different than it was now and there were more internal discussions/debates within the Council of Twelve about the allocation of appointee resources (this was before Transformation 2000, of course and there were largely no field ministers funded by the World Church, only appointees).

I was finishing seminary in Denver and Jac Kirkpatrick was my apostle and his field also included Salt Lake City. Jac wanted me to be placed in Salt Lake with part of the thrust of my assignment being outreach to these disaffected seekers that John speaks of. I was far more involved with groups like John Whitmer and the like than I am now, so he thought it was a good fit.

Grant McMurray was a counselor in the First Presidency and he reflected negatively on the proposal. Grant had a historical perspective to draw from knowing that since the early days of the Reorganization there has always been an attempt by the Community of Christ/RLDS to peel off members from the LDS. It was his observation that often the cultural ties to Mormonism were too great for any large scale (or medium scale) effort to be successful.

While there is solid connections between intellectuals between the LDS Church and Community of Christ, how would the average Community of Christ congregation do with welcoming a LDS seeker? In order for this to happen would some more specialized resources or more importantly resource persons be available to serve as a guide for those Mormons that might be open to the church?

I write this as my own spiritual journey has led me currently to be involved with both the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Community of Christ. Yet both the book of Revelation and the Book of Mormon says that in the end their are only two churches. I think it is arrogance on our part to believe that either of those churches exist in their present form today. Could it be that the Community of Christ could serve institutionally to serve as a bridge between the Mormon Church and the larger ecumenical community? It seems that the prevailing opinion of Community of Christ leadership is willing to side with those who reject the LDS claim to be Christian in order to advance the Community of Christ place in the ecumenical world (another approach which has a long history).

I don't have an answer to these questions, but instead think that it is one of those "we make the way by walking" efforts. If we are open about spiritual path and outreaching to others, it might be hard to say how the Spirit leads us.

(I did not check with either Jac Kirkpatrict or Grant McMurray before I wrote this. I don't think there are any confidentially issues here. It was 15 years ago, so I think I'm safe.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

John Hamer on his First World Conference

Over at By Common Consent, John Hamer has a great first installment on blogging about his first World Conference.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Frizzell on Veazey

Matt Frizzell presents a more appreciative entry than I did. Plus Matt's entry seems to be more poetic.

A Pragmatic and Prophetic People?

Sunday night at world conference is a little bit like the state of the union. It is the chance for the church's president to make his appeal to the delegates. In general, there was nothing new in Steve Veasey's address, except perhaps for the announcing of a $4 million gift to help fund to continue to fund bi-vocational ministries (quite a major thing in these tough times).

Steve formally submitted his counsel to the church and went on to talk about some of the key passages. Seeking inspiration from Galatians, section 5 of the counsel says:
It is imperative to understand that when you are truly baptized into Christ you become part of a new creation. By taking on the life and mind of Christ, you increasingly view yourselves and others from a changed perspective. Former ways of defining people by economic status, social class, sex, gender, or ethnicity no longer are primary. Through the gospel of Christ a new community of tolerance, reconciliation, unity in diversity, and love is being born as a visible sign of the coming reign of God.
It is truly a lovely notion and worthy of us to live up to. And while there are some significant exceptions, the Community of Christ is still largely governed by middle to upper-class whites from the United States. And while the conference shows many multicultural elements, it is the church in US and Canada that is financially supporting the remaining international presence of the church. Significant power dynamics still exist between the haves and have-nots and it seems like little effort is being made to change those dynamics.

I also still struggle on how to understand how "former ways of defining people . . . no longer are primary." Does the reality of living in post-earthquake Haiti suddenly not become primary to church members living there? Or perhaps just as important, do nominally US Christians, who are hyper-active consumers move from being passing members of the Community of Christ to fully engaged in the prophetic call?

Then there is the part of the document that deals with "ethical behavior and relationships" with homosexuality being the issue not mentioned, but clearly at the forefront. The document presents a pragmatic approach that allows different areas/nations of the world to deal with issues at a different pace. There does seem to be some wisdom in this, but how one deals with major differences within a single geographic area then is unclear (in the KC metro area, some congregations are already open & affirming to GLBT, many are not).

Steve noted that we have been ordaining women for 25 years in the Community of Christ. Could the approach advocated in the current document had prevented the schisms from happening? And are there some issues where we can't afford to go slow? We never had much of a presence in slave-holding parts of the US, but could slavery had been tolerated by parts of the church in the Nineteenth Century? And when we consider the civil rights movements of the 1950's and 1960's, the RLDS Church's record is horrible. So the challenge is when to be pragmatic and when to be prophetic and can they co-exist?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Places to Watch in CyberSpace

The collaborative blog, Saints Herald will no doubt contain a number of items related to conference this week, including Matthew Bolton's thoughts on the importance of passing the Anti-Nuclear Weapon resolution.

Beware of the Chicken has some of the best writing I have seen lately on the reality of increasing power of the church leadership.

Velton Peabody, has a very helpful Facebook group called Community of Christ in the News.

Are there other must read places you are finding?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Required Reading Before Conference.

One should read the best, pre-conference theological reflection, What Might the Apostle Paul Say to the Community of Christ by Rich Brown, former Herald editor and emerging publisher.

Updated: Rich continues with another the blog post, Apostle Paul Thought Everybody Was Straight.

Thoughts on the Community of Christ World Conference

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 10) the Community of Christ World Conference will begin. For many the activities have already begun. Yesterday and today, the Restoration Studies Symposium has been held over at Graceland University, Independence Campus. Scholars of both Community of Christ and LDS persuasions (and others) are joining together to reflect on a variety of theological and historical issues facing the movement.

The International Leader's Meeting is also going on. Delegates from around the world have arrived early and participate in these pre-conference classes and workshops. It makes sense from a logistical point of view because the travel expenses are so high that one needs to really use the time wisely when these leaders are here, but one also wonders if this is a subtle way for Church Leadership to shape the opinion of the international leaders.

Because of the increasing size of the international church and the fact that financially and logistically, it is impossible to field a full slate of delegates from most countries, the international delegates will cast weighted votes giving them voting power much greater than a typical US delegate.)

On the numerous questions before the conference on full inclusions of gays and lesbians in the church, it is understood that the strongest opposition comes from the so-called Third World (countries in Africa, Haiti and others). Yet the challenge for these international delegates is that they are largely financial dependent on the US Church for their existence.

In general there does seem to be an increasing movement of more and more control to the top levels of leadership in the Church, even though the church theologically is moving, more and more liberal. I made this point when I spoke with a writer of the KC Star today. I don't see any thing on the conference agenda to move that trend, though I believe it is largely not helpful for the church.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Stigma Alert: Anti-Kobach Web Site

My friend Dan over at Gone Mild linked over to my blog with the entry "Courageous Mental Health Blogging." He says that even supporters (like himself) "tend to lurk in silence because it's not a topic we're accustomed to being honest about." That describes part of the reason stigma about mental health issues exist. I understand Dan's feelings and I have been there myself.

NAMI (The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) has a great network of Stigma Busters. Stigma Busters watch for images that portray mental illness in a particularly offensive and outmoded way. I have a site to recommend.

Krazy Kris Kobach showed up as a Google Ad on Gmail the other week. The site is a blog which seeks to negatively attack Republican Kansas Secretary of State candidate Kris Kobach. Sometimes politics is a full contact support. And Kobach is clearly an intelligent candidate who can more than defend himself.

My issue with the blog is the photoshopped image of Kobach in a straitjacket. This is a classic stigmatizing image for people with mental illness and the site should remove it immediately.

I would like to email the creators of the site, but they are anonymous and a check of the domain whois shows they have used a service to hide their identity. I don't know Kansas campaign law (or should I say kampaign law to keep with their kute use of the letter k?) but I wonder if they should have a disclosure (paid for) statement on the page.

I'm not a voter in Kansas and if I was, I probably wouldn't be a supporter of Kobach. I also recognize that by putting this blog entry up, more people will go the page. Still, the image, if not the entire site should come down.

The image is not funny. It is offensive in the extreme and critics of Kobach can do better.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Coming Out of the Mental Health Closet

In the spring of 2007, I found myself checked into Research Pyschiatric Hospital. The same hospital that I had received my initial diagnosis of bipolar some 11 years before. There were a number of interesting encounters that week, but one of them was with a young mother who had been suicidal after the birth of her child. The mother happened to be a member of the LDS Church and I noticed that I was the only person in the entire wing who had any clergy visiting them. When talking with this LDS woman, I asked her why she had not asked for the bishop or one of the other elders to come visit her and she responded, "Some things are best handled within the family."

There was a lot of wisdom in this woman's response. For many, hiding mental illness is the best option for ones career and interactions with friends and family. Yet I have also come to believe that the shame and stigma of mental illness then also contributes to further depressions and new cycles of shame and stigma.  Mental illness is a huge killer in our nation. Twice as many people in Missouri die of suicidie than die of homicides. Yet why isn't there an outrage and a demand for better access to mental health services? Because too often those that suffer, suffer and then die alone.

Andrew Sullivan is one of my favorite bloggers. When I realized that this gay man who happens to be HIV+ can be honest about his status, perhaps so can I.  It is perhaps one of the reasons why I have found myself spending Sunday evenings at Stonewall Ministry. A ministry of the Community of Christ that is open and inclusive for gay, lesbians, bisexual and transgender individuals and their advocates. One of my lesbian friends said that I would find that hanging out with a bunch of "queers" would toughen me up a bit. Perhaps she was right.

I hope so, because as a part of me coming out of the mental health closet, I have received many positive comments and appreciations. (Especially from those who struggle with mental illness as well.) But I also have encountered some anonymous haters. 

Here in Missouri we have had one of the first cyber-bullying cases in the nation, when Megan Meier completed suicide after a classmate's mother sent her threatening messages.  Well, I'm not a 16-year-old, and I can handle the haters, especially because it feels like it takes little or no courage to attack a person with an anonymous comment.  I'm glad to be out of the mental health closet.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Google Ad Watch: State Rep John Burnett

When I searched in Google today for "Kansas City Board of Election," one of the Google Ads came up is:

State Rep John Burnett River Market, Columbus Park and Historic Northeast areas of KC
It is interesting to see who is purchasing Google Ad space at this point in time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

30 Day Drug Journey, Day 21: The Seroquel is here, The Seroquel is here

So, my package of Drugs arrived from AstraZeneca. I'm almost out of samples too, so this is great. I now have 90 tablets of the Seroquel. I am staring right now at the pills that have a retail value of $806, and I can't tell you how secure that makes me feel.

The meds were shipped directly to my doctor's office and I stopped at the store on the way home. I had my digital camera out and I decided to simply cover my digital camera in the car, but I carried the drugs into the store with me. Yes, I was far more worried about having my drugs stolen (very unlikely, right?) than my digital camera (more likely, but I did lock the doors).

I assume under the recently passed health care plan, these drugs will not be free from the manufacturer anymore, but the company will be getting some portion of the $800 retail cost, which is probably why the drug companies supported Obama's plan. I do care about the big picture, but right now, I'm just happy to have a 90 day supply of Seroquel.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A view from my window

The Community of Christ Auditorum & Temple view from inside my apartment in Independence, Missouri.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 22, 2010

30 Day Drug Journey, Day 17: $12 is $12 Bucks

So, I am currently off the Stavzor and have moved over to the Divalproex. As I have mentioned before, the drugs are very similar and I feel better than I have felt in a long time. A friend of mine commented on how productive and stable I currently seem. The best mood stabilizers allows one to more smoothly navigate the highs and lows that one with manic-depression (or bipolar) experience.

So, I found an extra 3 pills of the Stavzor, with a retail value of about $12. It would be 1 days dose of pills. I shouldn't switch back and forth between meds. I probably will never be on the Stavzor again unless I have great insurance, but I'm having a hard time throwing out the leftover pills. I kind of feel like someone who has lived through the great depression and is very reluctant to throw out anything, because they have lived through lean years. Maybe I have lived through a great depression: a great manic depression. Today that feels very much in the past.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

30 Day Drug Journey, Day 15: Gotta Love the Drug Companies

And no, I'm not being ironic about loving the drug companies. Because most of the major drug manufactures have assistance programs for low to moderate income individuals who have no insurance. I have already been enrolled into the the AZ&Me™ Prescription Savings Program. They are the ones that make Seroquel, which is a great drug. According to their page, "If you are an individual making $30,000 or less or a family of four making $60,000 or less you may qualify."

Why do drug companies do this? One could guess:
  • Genuine Concern for those that can't afford their medicine.
  • To receive a needed PR boost in the public's mind.
  • By providing free or low cost drugs to the neediest in our country, they soften the push for real health care reform.
Honestly, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, since I am benefiting from their program. So, since I was already enrolled in their program, I had to mail my new script to their processing center in St. Louis. According to their phone system, they have the script and should have it processed in 7 - 10 days. I knew I qualified for this program when I started this blogging, but until I have the drugs here, I'll still be a little worried.

I have to fill out another form to receive assistance with the Wellbutrin and that requires the most recent tax return, so that hopefully will be finished today or tomorrow. Plus, where Stavzor didn't have a corporate program, the makers of Depakote (Divalproex) do, so I'll explore that option too.

Day Drug Journey, Day 15: Shop Hy-Vee

Today, I was going to go to my psychiatrist and see if he would substitute the Stavzor for Valporic Acid (apparently they are very similar). The script that he had written though was for Divalproex, the generic version of Depakote. At Walgreens, they could not use the Valporic Acid as an approved substitution without a new script and my doctor wanted to talk with me before that happened. (Are people still with me?)

To continue to comparison shop I took the Divalproex script to CVS and they quoted me the price of something like $250 for a 30 day supply, the same as Walgreens. Yeah, that wasn't going to work. And then I went over to Hy-Vee and they said the cash price for the Divalproex for someone without insurance is $42.31. Yes that is right over $200 difference.

I considered shopping around some more, but there is snow on the roads today and I need to finish my taxes and lots of other things. While I hope these blog entries are helpful to people, I have to live my life and I can't do everything I might like to do if I was an investigative reporter on this topic. And honestly once you see that you are saving over $200, don't you think you are pretty far ahead?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One Way to Obtain the Meds You Need

I heard on NPR today that:
Thieves in Enfield, Conn., stole $75 million worth of anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs from a warehouse belonging to the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Stephanie Reitz, a reporter with The Associated Press, says the drugs could end up overseas or in the legitimate drug market.
I am continuing on my project of finding the best way to obtain the meds that I need and am actually making some good progress, which I will share in the next several days. For those concerned, yes I do have a current supply of medicine and a good support network.

I also wanted to assure my readers, that I had nothing to do with the heist in Enfield, but can I confess that I really don't feel bad for the drug companies? I'm sure I'm wrong about that, just wanted to share.

Communion on the Train

Just over two years ago, in the month before my divorce was finalized I was taking the train to Michigan. This train had a dinning car and I was seated for dinner next to an older gentleman who was taking a trip alone that he had planned to take with his wife, who recently passed away. He had asked if I was married and I fumbled out that I was separated, or divorcing.

He nodded his head. As we finished the meal. He remarked, “You know what I miss most?” I looked up politely, assuming he was going to make a wisecrack about our dinner. “I hate eating alone,” he said.

I felt my throat tighten and I knew he has touched a nerve with me. I wanted to make a chatty remark and move on, but was afraid if I speak my tears will find their release. Instead I met his eyes and nod.

I looked down at the plastic fork and think, “This man deserves more than to share his deepest feelings with a total stranger while using disposal utensils. Hell, I deserve more than that too.” Yet here we are. Two men, without wives, breaking bread together. Alone . . . but not really. He had told me earlier he was Episcopalian.

“I don’t know how people get through a crisis without faith” he said.

“Is it faith, or the faith community” I wonder to myself. (As if faith can be separated from its community.)

Perhaps I am the one who is feeling like a disposable utensils right now. A spork perhaps?

“Do this in remembrance of me” I think as I sip the Sierra Mist in my glass. I have no idea how to make this man feel better, or what to say, I just know I need to be present with him. I think that is what he needs, or is it me, or . . . does it matter?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

30 Day Drug Journey, Day 2: Acid, Valproic Acid

I found a coupon that I had thought was lost for 2 free weeks of pharmacist Stavzor. I had tried to use it when I was in Michigan around the holidays, but they did not carry Stavzor in stock. It is a newer drug and actually both Walgreens and CVS that I visited didn't have it.

So, I put the order in for 2 weeks and it should be in on Monday or Tuesday. But the great thing is that the
that I spoke with said that bipolar illness is kind of a speciality of his. He told me about a number of family members that have the diagnosis. I won't put his name down, or even what Walgreens I went to, but I am so impressed with Walgreens right now. Honestly I have never had a better encounter with a pharmacist. Never! So I am happy to plug Walgreens all day.

He confirmed what I thought was true about some alternatives to the Stavzor. The active ingredient is valporic acid, which does come in a generic. If I switched to the generic (with my doctor's approval, of course) it would only cost $42.36/month, or $119.08 for a three month supply. That figures out to be $39.70 a month, if you buy ahead. Now you need a Walgreen's Discount Card to get this and there is a yearly fee of $10 - $20.

Still, I was very concerned that I might have to find a different drug from the Stavzor. Still, what does the consumer get for paying $300 more a month for Stavzor, than for generic valporic acid? Stavzor is timed released which helps keep a constant stream of the meds in one's system. You don't need to take it as often, so that is a helpful benefit. And Stavzor is a pretty, easy to swallow coating.

Is it hard to swallow that those benefits (which aren't insignificant) should cost $300 more a month? Right now, I'm just not sure.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sample Drugs from the Doctor!

I should also say that my psychiatrist has been great about giving me samples. I left today with 40 tablets of the Stavzor, almost half of month. I guess the retail value of $159. He also gave me 8 tablets of the Seroquel (retail value: $100). The Seroquel is actually a little higher dose than I normally take, but it seems the doctor thinks that is fine. He is a private doctor and I paid $70 for the office call, pretty good for psychiatrists.

While the samples might help for a bit, obviously sustainability is of a key concern too. Seroquel has a good manufacturer's program (I'll write more about it later). Stavzor does not seem to and I need to do more research on this. This is a relatively new drug for me, so I'm still learning about it. One option might be that the most expensive meds have to be taken out of my "drug cocktail." Yet there is a lot that is working well for me right now in all of this.

Total Retail Price of Meds:
Value of Discount Card
Sample Prescriptions
Still Needed for the Month:

So, we are coming close to the end of Day 1 of my quest and we still have a long way to go before this will work!

30 Days -- Paying for Medication

I recently watched the movie SuperSize me. In it,Morgan Spurlock, decides to eat nothing but McDonalds for 30 days. It was a great concept and a very entertaining film. Spurlock went later on to a TV series called 30 Days were one is faced with a change of some kinds for 30 days (living on minimum wage for 30 days, or an evangelical Christan living in San Fransisco with a gay roommate. The show is worth checking out.

Well, I'm going to start to work on my own 30 day challenge. How can I afford the perscription medication that I need for the next 30 days? I just returned from my psychiatrist today with a 4 fresh scripts for drug cocktail we are using to treat my bipolar disorder. And I am one of the 30 million Americans who are uninsured.

So I started today at a local Walgreens in Independence and just got the cash price. Here is where we start:

Cash Price

Stavzor 250 mg -- 90 Tablets

Seroquel XR 200 mg -- 30

Wellbutrin XL 150 MG -- 30
(Generic subsisuted)

Ativan .5 mg -- 30


Now, I don't have an extra $780.89. I do have some resources and ideas about how to make this affordable and I plan on blogging about this process.

So, first a couple of early methods to bring the cost down. I have a Walgreens Prescription Card and a Together Rx Access Card, though the associate said the card would only save me $2. I also have a card from Stavzor to take off $50. So with those savings, that brings me down to: $728.89.

The mental health safety net in our country has been hit hard in the past couple of years, especially here in Missouri. I hope that my experience in the area can be helpful to others especially as our lawmakers continue to try to pass some type of comprehensive health care reform.

I should also point out that I currently do have adequate meds and am not in crisis, so I have the mental and emotional resources to deal with the challenge. Your thoughts and comments are welcome!