Category Archives: Empathy

Dealing with Pain and Stress

Have not slept well tonight. I listened to some worship music for a little bit and wrote a little bit on my other blog Diary of a HIV POZ Man about pain. So, you can check that out if you like from the link provided.

There are many ways to deal with pain and the stress that comes along with pain. I’m a good boy and take my pain medication and stress medications like I am told, but, that does not mean that it fully fixes the issues. That is when I turn inward for spiritual answers. I listen to some worship music to distract my mind, even if it is just for a moment. Sometimes I soak my feet in warm water or lay down to take a nap. Whatever it takes to get just a little bit more relief. If pain is a teacher, then I must have a masters degree already.

I can certainly say that dealing with pain and stress has made me a more empathic person. And while I’m not overly social, I can at least empathize with other that experience similar issues. I just wish the medical community here in Oklahoma had a stronger grip on empathy. Empathy is at the core of a real and spiritual christian life really means. Jesus’ ability to empathize with others was one of the defining characteristics of His life. Sadly, there are so many that call Him savior that either do not get it or refuse to get it. It makes me think that those in the faith that can empathize with others are like an arm that has been slept upon and lost feeling once the blood flow to the arm was cut off. You know. Then, you wake up and can not feel, then you try pushing the blood back into your limb.

If you really want to hear the Voice of God in your life, then spend a little bit of time with those in pain and stress, no matter what form it takes. Then, soak it in and feel. Truly, feel.

Hugs,

Ryan

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Depression in an Instant Society

Depression
Feeling the impact of being sad, alone or depressed is not uncommon. We live in what I call a ‘Microwave Society‘; a world where we expect everything fixed fast. When we don’t get things ‘our way right away’ it can even compound our frustration. We have microwaves, fast food and drive-thru expectations that overflow into every aspect of our lives.

We have to take time to slow down our expectations on fixing the things in life that bring us down – we need a reality check. In a world where science, medicine, social support and faith collide, we have to take time to let all of these things work together.

Many people have the disposition of having depression because of a medical conditions. I fully support and encourage people get medical treatment from a doctor and have a treatment plan for depression and the countless mental health issues people may have.

Personally, over the years, I have gone to my doctor countless times trying to find the right medications to help me with anxiety and depression. It took time, lots of trials of various medications, until I found what works for me with the least of negative side effects.

Besides medications, I also began to take personal responsibility for taking control of my depression and anxiety issues. Medical science tells us that we are nine times more likely to focus on things that are negative in our life than something that is positive in our life. So, even with medication the odds are stacked against us, but with practice and time we can increase positive energy flowing in our lives.

Romans 8:28 (NLV) We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan.

All of these things work together for our good – the medical help we get, developing friendships with those that plant encouraging words into our life, and even simply collecting and practicing positive thoughts – as we actively fight off negative thoughts, moods and energy around us.

Not every answer in life is a fast fix. If you are reading this and can relate to it, I encourage you to plant seeds of encouragement into your life everyday. Treat it like a tree that needs water everyday to grow. Take time to tend the garden of your life and create an oasis – a fertile spot in a desert where water is found.

I encourage your feedback; share something that has helped you or additional thoughts you may have on this topic.

With Love,

Ryan Nix

Appreciating Those with Disabilities

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Various Disabilities

  • There is a lack of appreciation for those who are disabled.

Many people with disabilities are misunderstood and not appriciated by the rest of society. Often being treated differently by those that do not understand what they are going through. Those with seemingly invisible disabilities are also judged by the rest of society – including by those they call friends and family.

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller

The Visible & Invisibly Disabled

Awareness is a key step in understanding those that are disabled in a very long bridge.

This is why I bring up the visible and invisible disabilities. Misunderstandings already exist, lack of compassion connected with no action already exist. We live in a world where people feel that they genuinely care and that feeling can run very deep within them and still those close to the disabled can find themselves disconnected from both appreciating and understanding.

Some people can obviously identify someone with a disability – they could be an amputee and in a wheelchair, they could have tremors  in their arms and shake uncontrollably. These kind of disabilities are visually apparent.

Those with invisible disabilities also go through the same shame game – lack of understanding, people even believing something is not wrong with them. I am not trying to convey a comprehensive list of invisible disabilities, however here are some examples – anxiety, chronic pain, diabetes, depression, autism, PDSD and the list could endlessly go on.

What does an invisible disability look like?

It can be as simple as someone sitting in a chair – trying to get off their feet for a moment because of pain, it can look like frustration for someone with autism if they are not understanding you or not being understood.

What have you experienced?

Now is the time I really need feed back. I need your help with ideas.

If I were to interview you and ask you about your disability, what questions should I ask or what would you say in about 4 or 5 sentences or 3 minutes? I’ve been thinking about doing brief interviews with people with disabilities or those with family members with a disability and I need your help with some ideas.

Thank you all my heart,

Ryan Nix

Mission Failed & Jesus Wept

The holidays have passed and we are all well on our way to our New Year’s resolutions. Personally, I’m not big into new years resolutions. The failure rate of New Years resolutions is 88 percent, according to Wikipedia. Although I’m not big about making resolutions at the beginning of the year, I do take time to reflect on the year and give time to wonder the next year might go. I guess the lesson to learn is that we’re all going to fail and not let the knowledge of our failure rate to keep us from trying.

During the holidays there is a push for giving to those in need, as there should be. After the holidays are over and our guilt has waned to a dim, so does the giving tend to fade as well. The people in need continue to be in need and many are helped though live-in organizations like The Mission also known as The City Rescue Mission in Oklahoma City.

As with most of these organizations, they are all being helped in the name of Jesus. Much of the work they do is certainly have qualities we can attribute to Jesus; they provide shelter to the homeless, they provide food to those who are hungry, and have bible related classes among other. Their mission statement says, “Our mission is to lead our community by serving the homeless and near homeless with help, hope and healing in the spirit of excellence, under the call of Christ.”

In light of all the wonderful things I’ve said about The City Rescue Mission headed up by Rev. Tom Jones, President/CEO, I am about to also share with you how it is a “Mission Failed”.

I had a friend the lived on the street for a longtime and eventually we took her to the City Rescue Mission. She was there before and through the holidays. We even told our family that were weren’t giving gifts to the family and that we were adopting a couple of families at the mission and were going to spend the little we have for gifts for them. Which amounted to a couple of gifts for two female adults and mostly for the child of one of those adults. We made sure that the little girl had a bag full of things to keep her busy and feel special. They weren’t expensive gifts – a doll, flash cards, lots of coloring books, a bible and such. Our family understood, everyone said we have plenty and this was the right thing to do – so we did just that.

Because of our continued contact with our friend at the mission, we learned some things that didn’t settle right with us – things that were unjust and down right not Christlike of Christian organization to be doing.

A morning within the last couple of weeks, Robert and I both woke early with a burden on our heart. I knew when I got up something was wrong and I couldn’t place my finger on it – I just knew the Lord wanted me up and it was about 5:30 in the morning. I walked into the computer room where Robert was sitting. I immediately knew that something was stirring within him too. It all centered on how the City Rescue Mission was treating people and how Jesus would do what we’ve been hearing about them from someone who lived on the inside. Although they tout with pride their service of compassion, that at the very core of the way they work with people they fail at compassion, they fail miserably at representing Jesus.

We’ll call this person we know “Emma”, which is really the name of one of my dogs. I’m using the name of my dog to personify the other side of the mission – because sometimes when helping people we treat them like dogs and not people.

As Robert was telling me some of the things that was happening to Emma at the mission we decided that we would caller her and get some details of he experiences there.  Emma has some serious medical conditions. Conditions that need regular attention, that affect being able to stand, work, fatigue. Here problems include having diabetic neuropathy, which in part effects the feet, legs and hands and the feeling in them – not to mention other problems from being diabetic – nausea, vomiting, timely medication and the list really goes on and on. Matter of fact, her daughter picked her up tonight to take her to the emergency room because some issues came up.

The City Rescue Mission does not know how to treat people with medical issues with compassion. To live there you have what seems like an endless set of rules – rules that give no consideration to the sick people they are helping and I’m sure the healthy people too.

As we had Emma on the phone, we asked her question and I began to take notes about her daily life there. I’ll do my best to make my notes make sense: Only free time is from 11-2, part of which is lunch, lunch is 30 mins, breakfast is at 6am, usually doesn’t go because of being too early, has to work during dinner and is given 15 mins break to get food and that includes walking time from across the street at the warehouse, extra 5 mins for taking insulin, so that’s 20 mins to eat dinner walk over and take insulin for all that. 10 mins for walking time and taking insulin for extra times from across the street.  Needs time to lay down due medical conditions but rarely gets the chance to rest maybe once or twice a week for 2 hours. Isolate person to room for being sick and give 30 mins out of room for meal time when sick and isolated as punishment and we are not talking contagious sick, the isolation is punishment style. No snakes made available for those who are diabetic, with not income, vending machines are not an option. General required activities / classes: exercise, study books of bible, addiction class, 2 hours of classes 6 days a week, 30 mins of music each day. People with mental memory issues get punished for not memorizing verses, jobs class for people going on disability seems pointless. (Sorry for my messy notes about our phone interview with her)

For people who have health issues at the mission and shouldn’t be dealing with stress, they are doing a good job at making sick people sicker…. in the name of Jesus, I might add. This is the kind of stuff that gets under my skin. So, lets say you are a person with a mental health issues and have issues with memorizing verses of the bible – well screw you…. that gets you 10 hours of manual labor, if you had labor that was easy, they put you in an area that is more difficult and harder labor, as well as not being able to leave the building – you know like leaving the building to uses your food stamps for you diabetic snacks since you don’t have money for a vending machine and it is not provided for you – as it should be. Personally, I think a lawsuit is in order. This is just the short version of the story and it is detestable.

City Rescue Mission – You Fail – You fail in treating people with dignity, fail at assessing individual peoples needs and have systems in place to react responsibly to those individual needs, you fail in forcing a diabetic with leg problems to sleep in a top bunk and she falls and has to go the the emergency room – you fail with the others as well because the frequency of the ambulance showing up in regular, which means you have full knowledge of health issues in your facility. I call that negligent, chances are gross negligence. Because what is negligent is for organizations to support you without having this personal story echoed – and all the other stories echoed that haven’t been told to all the financial providers and donation providers. Because then the force of your real god the dollar would make you bow and while your head hung low you might just see the face of Jesus and start acting like Him. You’ll probably never see this post, but if you ever do – review yourself. Because the last time I got treated poorly from a hospital that I still get treated at that gets government grants to pay for their work – I followed the money trail up to the top and my doctor got a call from Washington, DC from the government office that pays her.

What can you do when you see “Justice Waiting”? You make justice stop waiting. So, what Robert and I did was to tell Emma at the end of the call to be packed and ready for us to picker her up. That if it was okay with her, we were offering to take her into our home. That Jesus would not treat her like they have treated her and neither would we. She took us up on the offer. No more punishments for being at the ER during time to recite bible verses, which blows my mind happened.

What in the world are we doing – attaching the name of Jesus to such things? Who are we when it is easier to write a check than to know someones name? If you write a check, someone can be an evil Jesus on your behalf. They can demoralize the people you desire to help — all because we’ve make Jesus into a ‘brand’ that you can sell and package up instead of being personally invested in someone.

And all the church wrote a check and said…. “Amen”… and Jesus wept.

~ Ryan

Faking Authenticity

Authenticity is difficult to come by these days. It is so easy to respond to people in a superficial way. For some people, having a transparent heart is simply a hard thing to do. A glass of clean water comes to mind when I think of transparency. Transparency or authenticity can so easily be clouded in our lives. Although, I don’t just go around sharing every problem, difficulty, or sorrow that comes my way, there are times when I am able to open up. The problem is – I feel as though I’ve been programed by society and even the church to put on a mask when it comes to sharing my pain or sorrow or just being real with people.

For several years, I was attending Westmoore Community Church (WCC aka the flock that rocks) in Moore, Oklahoma. I started attending this church after an exchange of emails with the head pastor. I addressed my concerns about how we would be treated by attending there, my husband and I being gay. The pastor stated his position on what he believes the bible says about being gay and gave a blanked statement that we are all sinners.

I made it clear in the emails we exchanged that I have come to a different interpretation of those scriptures. I was not specifically attempting to change the pastors mind on the topic. I just wanted him to know where I was coming from in my belief. So, I was not wielding for a theological battle, but I did want to be known for who I am and what I believe. I wanted to be known, therefore, I had to be transparent in an authentic way as made my attempt to reach out and make a connection. We started attending the church for a few years.

The pastor commonly greeted people before the service. One of the things I told the pastor is that I liked the transparency of his heart he shared in one of the services. His response was that kind of transparency was difficult. This is one of those things that I figure most pastors try to avoid. As a pastors fight the authenticity of the heart, they will produce a heartless flock.

While being greeted by the pastor before a few of the services and being asked how I was doing, I responded with something like, “Having a rough week, but I’m hanging in there.” There were a few weeks I answered with variations of that response. It seemed uneventful and we entered the service. Little did I know, the pastor was about to take the time to educate the flock on the right way to respond to “How are you doing?”. His cold response and way to put things into order was to tell the people the correct way to respond to such a question is, “I’m fine. How are you?” – Wow! The authenticity I had previously thanked him for was apparently out the window. We were well on our way to the fake church of the petrified society. I’m sure my husband and I weren’t they only ones that greeted him and express our burdens. Overall the church was okay to attend; good rock style of worship music and decent preaching. Due to getting a home further away we eventually stopped going to The Flock that Rocks.

When we moved, we were within miles of about five gay affirming churches. We considered attending one of them. I guess the reason we did not attend one of the gay affirming churches was that we were looking for a church that was integrated more. It makes me think of the black and white segregation and Jim Crow laws – the “separate but equal” feeling did not set right with us. We most just worshiped on our own and kept our faith intimate and personal. Looking back, I see that God wanted us to have the season to teach us. Even when we come together in groups of corporate worship, if we loose our focus on direct intimate worship, then we create barriers between us and God.

Authenticity in faith comes from going where Jesus would go in faith. Jesus faith was authentic because it was direct fellowship of His humanity to His Father. When He took that fellowship to the weak and the broken hearted, the presence of God was there. He told us that when we are authentic to those who are poor in spirit that He is there in the midst of that pain and brokenness and He shares not just time, but His presence with us when we do not turn away the burdens of others. When we have sorrow, He shares in our sorrow and gives us hope for the a future.

Even when I’m going through joyous times, my personal worship time includes worship songs that say things like “Sometimes, I can not hear your voice, my God.” We have to connect emotion to our worship and our fellowship with God. It gets too easy to worship with songs that show no human emotion. Some of those songs are very beautiful say things like “You are Holy…. like no other … You are Holy … there is no other like You”. And we need those kind of songs too.

Our fellowship with God, as well as, our fellowship with others has to reflect both our emotions of being lost as well as our thankfulness of being found, else it will become hollow over time. When we begin to connect our emotions back into our faith, we will over time undo the emotionally dissociative disorder that has held so many churches captive all over the world.

~ Ryan

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