Leadership is a tool that allows one who has flown far to guide others in the direction of flight. Though where others choose to fly after finding flight is beyond the control of the leader, they are happy to know they have aided in the discovery of freedom that allegorical flight brings. Just as one without wings cannot be trusted upon to teach flight, a leader without values and a life to reflect said values cannot be trusted to guide. A leader leaves room with others feeling valued and respected, and finds joy in other’s success. They are the first to leap and the last to abandon the cause, showing others that their faith in their leader’s strength to protect and serve is not merely an illusion of levitation. Finding joy in trial and tribulation, leaders have the heart that is broken more so in viewing pain than receiving in place of another. This selflessness cultivates a community of trust and appreciation, with the leader hoping others follow their flight plan of compassion. Every leader has a personal catalyst, often being a singular ideal in the form of religion, a life-altering event, or experience with a leader who aided in the formation of themselves. Leaders whom identify Christ as their catalyst yearn for no more than to serve others before themselves, to love as they have been loved. In all, a leader in Christ never forgets Whom first came to give the gift of flight, the gift of freedom, and the gift of leadership.
What does it mean to follow Jesus in college? It means many things. Many sacrifices. Many values that set you apart from your peers. But it also means joy. Jesus is the one constant in this world full of changes, uncertainties, and inconsistencies.
It is interesting, sometimes it seems as though the strongest followers of Christ are those whom have gone through the greatest struggles in life. This is directly in contradticion to the belief that as soon as one gives their life to Christ, their struggles become nonexistent. This is untrue, and harmful doctrine often preached by those who teach from the “prosperity gospel”. The truth is that followers of Christ often are put under duress that the rest of society may remain oblivious of.
But doesn’t this truth contradict the claim that Jesus brings unending joy? What if joy can be found within suffering? Just as it says in Romans 5:3-5, “3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
There is hope in suffering. There is love in suffering. But unless one decides to lean on Jesus within the valley of suffering, there will only be isolation and fear to be found.
Lean on Jesus within suffering, as He has already given His life for the Beloved of the Father’s Heart. Growing and developing into the person God wants one to be will not be without challenges. It will not be without suffering. Embrace it. Embrace Jesus. Because He has already embraced you.
Congratulations graduates! You made it! But now what? Where do you go from here?
If so, where? And why? What do you plan on doing there? What do you plan on doing after that? How are you going to find success?
That’s all we’ve been asked over the past year. Some of us longer.
“So where are you going to college? What are you majoring in? What do you want to do with your life?”
There’s a pressure to know exactly what we will be doing and how the rest of our lives are supposed to pan out.
It’s okay to not have the answers right now. It’s okay to never have those answers.
Just as it says “For I know the plans I have for you…”
God has placed certain loves, certain passions, certain talents, and certain opportunities in your life.
These things can be best described as “hints” as to the path God has for your life. So follow your passions, take those opportunities, discover the joy of living a full life in Christ without having to worry about the future.
But as you begin to live your life, to discern the plans The Father has for you.. I have one request, one mission, one call to action.
Wherever You Go, Do Good.
Each one of us has the potential to change the world! If not the world in it’s entirety, we have the ability to change someone’s world!
Through acts of kindness, encouraging words.
Make everything that you do matter!
We are called to do so within so many places in scripture!
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
Do not neglect to do good and to be generous, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
God wants to bring joy into our lives, and He wants to bring joy to others!
Let him use you in such fashion!
Allow Him to work through you!
It is so easy to become caught up in this world, to let time fly by us in such a way that every once and a while we stop and look back, asking ourselves where did the time go? And what do I have to show for said time?
Living a life for nothing but yourself is not the way to live a life that matters.
Love the Lord with all your heart, and love others just as He loves you.
Because He DOES love you. More than you could ever know.
More than I could ever even dream of conveying to you.
It’s a love like no other, and there is nothing we could ever do to lose it, a love that we never have to prove our worth for. Which is something I personally am extremely grateful for.
Love others just as God loves you.
Wherever you go, do good.
I would like to leave you with this story, it is one that has been told to me many times in the face of discouragement, and has fueled my passion for making the world a better place. There is so much negativity in the world, sometimes it seems like the only option is to lay down and let it consume you.
Be a light in this world. A lantern in the darkness.
An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, after a storm, he saw a human figure in the distance moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw that it was a young woman and she was not dancing but was reaching down to the sand, picking up a starfish and very gently throwing them into the ocean.
“Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
“The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if I do not throw them in they will die.”
“But young lady, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.”
The young woman listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves, saying, “It made a difference for that one.”
While writing this sermon, I knew that I wanted to focus on the topic of the importance of community within the church. I wanted to be able to reflect on my 18 years here in a way that showed the importance of leaning on one another to grow as followers of the Way. Then I began to look for scripture that fit perfectly into the image that I had in my head. Unfortunately, actually no… Fortunately, we serve a God that very rarely leads us on a path that fits perfectly within our imagination. In looking for scripture, I found a verse in Romans 12, and then continued within the chapter. Then read the entire chapter, then read it again. It seemed to be a sermon in itself…. And then I deleted any progress I had made in my writing and began again with Romans 12 as a focus. So allow me to read it to you.
1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
3Because of the privilege and authority. God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. 4Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
6In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
9Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
19Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
21Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
With a stretch of imagination, or maybe not a huge stretch, it is almost as if Paul wrote this chapter directly to high school graduates of this day. Think about it:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world
God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.
Don’t think you are better than you really are.
Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
Or even the advice of: And don’t think you know it all!
This chapter is a how-to on living a life as a true Christian, so that others may see it in the way that you act while living as a member of this world. Moving away from our families and into a group of peers has its challenges, and it is not a rarity to see a young person who was once on fire for Christ fall away from him during this transition. One mistake Christians make that causes us to fail in the goal in living in a Christ-like way is because we fall away from community. This isn’t an issue that only us young-uns deal with. Throughout our lives we will constantly be fighting to stay on track with God. It is not hard to fall away. The practice of Christian community, quite simply, makes the gospel a lived reality. It embodies a specific, personal way of life together in Christ. It strengthens us to live the life to which we are called; it conveys God’s life and power to the world at large. And it is necessary.
Christian community is simply sharing a common life in Christ. It moves us beyond the self-interested isolation of private lives and beyond the superficial social contacts that pass for “Christian fellowship.” The biblical ideal of community challenges us instead to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God.
It’s a process that is revealed in the “each other” language of the New Testament: Love one another, forgive each other, regard each other more highly than yourselves. Teach and correct each other, encourage each other, pray for each other, and bear each other’s burdens. Be friends with one another, kind, compassionate, and generous in hospitality. Serve one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Those who live in the Western world have a hard time imagining the New Testament culture in which it was normal to live with parents, relatives, servants, and other workers. We are accustomed to living in nuclear families—father, mother, and children. Yet, the ancient world didn’t even have a way to express what we call the “nuclear family.” We only find the word oikos, which means household, house, or extended family. God used the oikos to extend the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. The early believers modeled transformed lives and distinct values that were often countercultural. Yet, in these crowded, urban environments, people were able to see Christianity up close. They heard and saw the testimonies of those transformed by the gospel, and they desired to experience Christ for themselves. Husbands loved wives, servants were treated with dignity, married partners submitted to one another, and love reigned supreme. Friends and neighbors were drawn to this new transformed community. It was simpler to stay living in a mindset of worship and reverence for God when surrounded by others who love Jesus.
One of the most vibrant illustrations within my life of the concept of Oikos has to be my family’s yearly trip to Lakeside, the mecca of United Methodism within Ohio. My aunt Jenn is a pastor in Cincinnati, and since I can remember, each year the entirety of the Hindes make the trip with her to annual conference and live under one roof for a week. Not only do we live together, eat together and play together, it is a week in which we all grow closer in emotional intimacy, taking own walls and speaking on hardships that we would not normally share if at home. This creates an environment of support that lasts so much longer than the week.
Not only does lakeside bring the family closer, it creates a bond within our community as well. Friends stop by our porch during lunch time to grab a sandwich or chips along with a conversation and game of scrabble.
One of my fondest memories at Lakeside happened at Pastor Scott Ocke’s cottage.
You see… If you do not know me, one important thing to know is that I am an absolute animal lover. So when I was informed that a pack of baby foxes had taken up residence in a sewer near Pastor Scott’s cottage, I was delighted. So delighted in fact, that I decided to visit them during his usual cookout during Conference week. And I brought hotdogs for them. The only problem with this is that hotdogs and fingers look very much alike.
This church has been a family to me. I have story after story that I could tell about the insane amount of time I have spent in this church growing up. Sitting up in the sound booth with my grandpa until the 11 o’clock service, because 11 o’clock meant that my grandma would finally give in and take my sister and I to Mcdonalds for being well behaved at the first two services.
I can tell you the best hide and seek spots in each room of the church, the prettiest view from the roof (not that I know how to get up there or anything), I’ve been taught how to color coordinate the altar to the flowers and candles used within the sanctuary, who to call when there is water where water should not be.
One of the greatest ways to stay connected to God, to begin to live a life fully in Him, even through life’s transitions, is by staying connected to healthy communities of other believers.
Romans 12 hits on this, as well as other ways to live a life for God. Let’s go through some of it.
Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
We can worship God by being different? What’s that all about?
A believer’s character, conduct, and conversation should be reflections of Jesus, who lives within. On our own, we might place too much emphasis on behavior and get caught up in following rules and rituals that look Christian without truly reflecting Christ. But God has given each believer His Holy Spirit as a teacher and guide. The Spirit works to transform our minds and hearts so that we are markedly different from our peers. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, we speak and act in accordance with our true identity: God’s sons and daughters.
Being set apart also means not belonging to the world. To be in it, not of it. This can bring isolation away from others. This is why we need community. When the world asks us to act in a way that isn’t in a spirit of worship, we can fall back unto our community of fellow believers.
2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Good and pleasing and perfect. Can you describe yourself as good and pleasing and perfect? I can try and describe my dog as good and pleasing and perfect. But then I remember his annoying habit of barking as loud as he can whenever I’m late for curfew and have to sneak in the back door. Not quite pleasing. Coffee might be perfectly good and pleasing and perfect, but then I remember what it tastes like without half the mug being cream. Chipotle is good and pleasing, and would be perfect if it was cheaper.
But can a person be good and pleasing and perfect?
I don’t think any of us can.
But that is what God is calling us to. He’s not calling us to be, only to.
Let me say that again.
By staying away from the sins that the world tells us are desirable and fun, we are able to enter unto the path that God is calling us towards which will always be more fulfilling than any life could be. There are so many things society tells us to be. Society has imprinted upon our soul, has twisted our values for better or for worse, has skewed our image of what is good.. To have flaws is to be human. To work towards Christ is to be holy. He is the measuring point. Using anything else will cause a soul to attempt to belong in a way that is only unnatural. Attempting to fit a square block through a round hole.
Good and Pleasing and Perfect. To my peers, don’t worry about fitting in to what is expected of a college student. Worry about God.
4Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
Recently I have become a part of an amazing group of friends. These friendships started out of nothing but my mere curiosity. I heard a small bit about a group of young people all living together in a not-so-great part of Toledo in a ministry house, sharing their lives together and ministering to the people around them. That’s something you don’t hear about every day. They invited me to a bible study one night and I got to truly see what verses 4 and 5 of this chapter are talking about.
Each of these guys are unique and bring their own set of skills to the table that bring light and life to their mission. They have a big 4-car garage that they have turned into a skate bowl for like skate-boarding. Sundays they have “skate church” for local youth in the bowl that was started by one of the guys, other nights they slide instruments and sound equipment into the bottom of the bowl for worship, and other nights you can find them across the street in a community garden they have newly created. Its amazing, something I’ve never experienced before, and oh my gosh I wish this way of life wasn’t as “different” as it is.
Here, my grandma is the queen of hospitality. She is also the bane of visitors. You might think you’re keeping your head down, visiting this church for the first time… but I promise you, she’s already recognized you as a friend and will be zealously welcoming you after this service. She’ll make you feel at home, care about you, and then do her best to find a place here where you will be filled and will be able to fill others.
The queen of hospitality has a special knack at figuring out exactly where someone can fit in the body of this church. Its fun to sit back and watch her at work. If the church is a body, she’s the tongue telling everybody where to be. Sit back and watch it sometime, you’ll see exactly what Paul was talking about.
Let’s jump to the next piece of advice Paul wanted to give to the class of 2017, as well as every believer.
9Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically
John Wesley summed it up in this way: Whatsoever ye do, do it with your might. In every business, diligently and fervently serving the Lord – Doing all to God, not to man.
As Christians, we are called to work hard for the Lord. To do everything as though we are doing it for Him. If God asked you to do a personal favor, I’m guessing you wouldn’t do it half-heartedly, there wouldn’t be any “lazy” in your name. As a proclaimed Christian, everything we do is in the name of the Lord.
Working at a coffee shop, there are certain people you enjoy being scheduled with and people you aren’t too happy with. This has little to do with personality, and all to do with work ethic.
There is very little you can do in life to make up for a bad work ethic.
Love others, and show that love by working for them as you would for God.
17Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
21Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Fun fact about me, I was voted most savage of the class of 2017. What is savage you ask? I was known for being quite ruthless when it came to revenge once someone hurt me. There was definitely a time in my high school career when I allowed evil to conquer me rather than me conquering evil by doing good.
If someone does something nasty to you, they should have to own up to it, right?
I had to learn to lean on God, trust Him and have faith.. that revenge was not necessary.
When I am asked to explain what faith is, its hard for me to say anything more that ‘it is to believe.” But that definition is so incomplete. I believe that the Earth is round, but that doesn’t mean I have devoted my life to it as I have Christ. I do not do good works in the name of gravity or global temperature changes. I have enjoyed Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans 12, and in that, his definition of faith when it comes to Romans 12:17-21.
Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see that no moral improvement and no good works result from it, they fall into error and say, “Faith is not enough. You must do works if you want to be virtuous and get to heaven.” The result is that, when they hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves with their own powers a concept in their hearts which says, “I believe.” This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it is a human fabrication and thought and not an experience of the heart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.
Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God . It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn’t ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn’t do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn’t know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.
Faith. Community. Sancitity.
To my graduates, but also to my not-graduates: Love each other, love God, and purposely and intentionally pursue a relationship with Him through life’s transitions. Romans 12 is just one passage in the New Testament that can be used as a guide to life. The roads the early disciples do look different than the roads we walk today, but the word of God is the living word of God. It holds true and passes the test of time. We have to actually read it and study it to get anything out of the Word. We must want to live in a way that glorifies God. Sometimes its not easy, and its easy to become distracted with all that glitters. But it has been promised to us that there is no joy greater than what is found in Christ.
Contemplating writing this post, I decided to track down the original Facebook post that began the uproar that has put Bowling Green State University in the headlines over the past few days. I had heard most of the second-hand information splattered across social media platforms, and I believed that I knew what this post’s main topic would be on.
I had heard multiple people dismissing this case as “she didn’t want to take this farther,” and “she asked the University not to investigate.” I figured I would be writing a post on being brave. On sacrificing a slammed door to the incident for the sake of the rest of the female community as a whole. I figured this girl took the route I was so tempted to take. Declining an investigation allows for what happened to be put aside, it allows for the mirage of it never actually happening. I wouldn’t have blamed her if this had been the case. But it wasn’t.
The only reason she stopped fighting was because the university never began fighting for her in the first place. Yes, there are legalities and processes and other such things that I could not pretend to understand, but how hard would it be to say “I believe you. I am sorry this happened to you. Let’s work together to make sure this never happens again.” Sexual Assault victims are not looking for personal gain. They are looking for hope and security that what happened to them might not happen to others.
That is my message to you, friend. Tragedy brings a feeling of hopelessness that is seemingly impossible to fall away from. Hurting the person who hurt you will not free you from despair. Revenge is as useful as it is sweet. It is not. Fight not for justice, but for the abolition of what is happening around us in this world. I chose to pursue prosecution of my attackers because I wanted to show others that treating another human being as they did is not acceptable in today’s world. I chose to instigate due to a hope that I could play a small role in making the world a better place.
Make Sure The World Knows This Isn’t Okay.
Victory. What is victory? We find one’s victories to often amount to their value and perceived success in life. We define the words used in daily language in the actions we take while speaking them to others. We define words in the tone found in our vocal chords as we speak. We define words by the person who can be described using such word. We have the power to define. This ability is a power that few have discovered. And even fewer have chosen to act on given power. Words are nothing more than sound, echoing around the room in which we speak them. What the room is conceived of is also in our realm of choice. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it truly make a sound? If a person speaks powerfully, yet no soul is stirred, have they even uttered a word? Victory. It is only what we make it. What the individual makes it. There is no victorious committee. No person to set rule, no person to give value to an achievement. The value given to a personal victory directly corresponds to the image we have of ourselves. To value us is to value our doings. Coming back to the question, what is a victory? It is what an individual decides is a victory.
I hope that with all my heart, each and every one of you had a season full of small victories. I hope that each and every one of you look back at what we achieved this year as a victory. If nothing else, I believe each and every one of us grew as a person, discovered things about our character, and persevered through tough situations we didn’t know if we would get through. And that my friends, is a victory.
Band is not the meaning of life. Surprise. I know. But the things that we have learned in the past season and years prior is the meaning of life. You will walk off the field for the last time with skills and experiences that is impossible find any other place on the Earth. The dynamics of this vibrant group of students is unlike any other group that you could be a part of at your age. Sometimes the only connection we have with our neighbor is a love for music, and luckily, that seems to be just enough to hold us together. The glue that is nothing more than vibrations of metal and air, is just enough to inspire a work ethic like none other. Band is just enough to allow us to find our own personal victories within the family that we call band. Stay victorious fam, I’m rooting for you.
After completing an investigative inquiry on the relationship between sexual assault and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I asked myself what a possible solution could be. Psychiatric Service Dogs were a possible solution that I discovered, yet they were not being used in any amount of mass popularity though they proved to be helpful in a victim’s healing process. This paper delves into the question, “Why are service dogs not widely used to improve the quality of life for sexual assault survivors?”
Visible Support for the Invisible Pain: Psychiatric Service Dogs and Sexual Assault Survivors
Over the past few decades, the mental health industry has grown in understanding phenomenally. Much of this is due to breakthroughs in medicine and technology. But what if there was a method of treatment that has been accessible for centuries, yet is ignored and underfunded in today’s society? One may ask how this could be, and the answer is capitalism. If this treatment is not an object “big pharma” can profit off, it has very little hope of widespread popularity without intentional awareness being brought to the public’s attention. Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) have been proven to lessen symptoms of mental illness and allow their human companions to become less dependent on drugs, they show promise in improving the lives of sexual assault (SA) victims yet because of lack of research funding and the high cost of training the animal they are not widely used aside from military veterans suffering from PTSD.
Introduction of Psychiatric Service Dogs
A common image of a service dog is a seeing eye dog, yet there are many other disabilities that can be mitigated with the help of a service dog. Marshall specifies a PSD as the following: “A service dog trained individually to mitigate the effects of their disabled partner’s psychiatric disabilities by performing specific tasks” (Marshall, 1998). The intention of including PSDs in mental health treatment is to mitigate the handler’s symptoms and improve quality of life through independence (2012). There are different tasks a PSD can be trained to perform. One of the most relevant tasks is an alert, which is an extremely important action to many who suffer from seemingly random panic and anxiety attacks. An alert is an immediate and obvious change in the dog’s behavior, often manifesting in an act of barking, jumping, or pawing to attract the owner’s attention. The dog is trained to alert once they sense a rise in the handler’s blood pressure or heartrate, or sporadic breathing. An alert allows the handler to realize what is happening and to curb the effects before they become full blown (Marshal, 2012). Reports were made specifying how have a service dog has changed a person’s life. One testimony being, “Robert discussed how even signing up for the training with Amy had pushed him to go back into public spaces and to attempt things that he had not been comfortable doing for years. He also discussed how having a goal to work towards gave him strength” (Marshall, 2012). Another testimony states the following, “I mean, it’s been life changing. It’s given me more of a clear path and direction as to where I want to be a few years from now. It’s given me more hope and light at the end of the tunnel. I can accomplish things; I can get back to some type of normalcy” (Marshall, 2012). Though these animals bring great joy, a “conservative estimate” of the number of PSD-handler teams determined by the PSDs equaled 10,000 (NIMH, 2017). This number is minute compared to the amount of PSDs that could possibly be used today.
Psychiatric Issues and Current Relations to PSDs
Mental disorders are prevalent in today’s society. Studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health found that major mental disorders cost the nations at least $193 billion a year in lost earnings alone. Combined with disability benefits and health care expenditures, the total cost of major mental illness to the nation is over $300 billion a year. According to studies by the National Institute of Mental Health, 46.4% will be expected to experience a diagnosable mental disorder in their lifetime. Only 39.2% of those with a diagnosed disorder receive mental health services (2017). This should lead to asking the question, would PSDs lower this cost? PSDs are a small investment that could save this nation billions of dollars annually, yet private insurance agencies do not currently subsidize PSDs for mental health treatment though they have been proven to alleviate symptoms. This is worrisome as PSDs have been proven to be beneficial to those suffering from mental illness. Studies have been done to look at how PSDs may help those with PTSD.
Newton’s research found that:
“On July 22, 2009, Senator Al Franken introduced bill S. 1495, the Service Dogs for Veterans Act (SDVA) of 2009, as his first piece of legislation. The Act requires the VA to begin a three-year pilot program “to assess the benefits, feasibility, and advisability of using service dogs for the treatment or rehabilitation of veterans with physical or mental injuries or disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Another issue those whom rely on PSDs face is discrimination due to the lack of visible disabilities. Due to the invisibility of mental illness and PTSD, PSDS are often discriminated against in public, illegally being barred from access to locations protected by the ADA. There is also no certification that proves a PSD is legitimate, and a rise in fake service dogs has caused suspicion against anyone who is not obviously handicap (Newton, 2014). In a study, Newton observed that, “Every participant had experienced having someone ask them to leave their place of business or tell them that they were unable to bring their dog with them inside. For some participants, it was a small inconvenience that could be dealt with either by going to another business that did not object or by explaining their legal rights to enter as the dogs were licensed service dogs (Newton, 2014).” This issue, though not wanted, should not effect how many people look to PSDs to improve their quality of life.
Sexual Assault and Psychiatric Disorders
Rape is traumatic because it includes a loss of control over one’s body during assault. This can lead to a shattering of women’s beliefs about their own safety in the world. In a study done by Chang et al involving female college students, it was discovered that female victims of sexual assault, compared with nonvictims, reported significantly greater depressive symptoms (2014). General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is another mental disorder alike PTSD that SA victims often acquire after an assault due to the change of perspective while looking at the world around them. GAD often affects a person’s quality of life as “individuals with GAD experience frequent feelings of anxiety and worry about several events or circumstances, which they find difficult to control. This condition has lasted for at least six months prior to diagnosis (Holmes, 1998).” In her research, Kolk found that victims rarely suffer from flashbacks like war veterans and instead their symptoms mainly include being unable to be present and calm, being “out of it,” being overwhelmed by rage, and lacking meaningful involvement with their current lives (2013). A large majority of rape survivors suffer from intense psychological reactions directly after the attack, and often lasts for up to three months. Severe symptoms lasting longer than this acute phase is what most diagnose as PTSD. The definition of PTSD has newly changed, the greatest difference is the shift from an anxiety disorder to a new category of trauma. The diagnosis has remained mainly stagnant with symptoms including recurrent, involuntary and intrusive distress memories, avoidance of distressing memories and thoughts, as well as hypervigilance.
Many victims begin to show symptoms of PTSD after losing important societal connections and ties that are severed after an incident. Individuals blame themselves for the assault due to making choices that allowed the incident though legally they cannot be faulted for. This type of self-blame often comes up in dialogue as “I should have left the party earlier,” or “I could have parked somewhere else.” It is completely irrational, as no one could possibly know the future. These thoughts are illogical, but often put much weight on a victim as they try to discover what could have possible prevented their assault. No one is at fault except the person who decided to prey on another. In Miller’s paper, “Self-Blame Among Sexual Assault Victims”, ‘‘The locus of violence rests squarely in the middle of what our culture defines as ‘normal’ interaction between men and women.’’ (2007) She found that in her study, 73% of rape victims directly denied that they had been raped. One theory to explain this curiosity is that because violent and crass behavior is expected of young males, female victims do not believe their experience was anything out of the norm nor anything worth reporting. The tendency to blame women for their victimization is internalized by victims, leading to statistics reporting of hiding victimization rather than reporting it. When initially seeking help after an assault, these women report of disturbances in sleep patterns, sexual function, appetite, and spoke of assault-related fears. Even with these severe and often life-altering symptoms, only a total of 31% of victims returned to a follow-up visit, most never seeking psychological help again afterwards (Holmes, 1998).
The Possible Benefits of Paring PSDs with SA Survivors
Animals are known to serve as social lubricants by stimulating conversation and facilitating human-interaction. The study done by Holmes showed that female abuse survivors who were paired with a PSD after being diagnosed with PTSD resulted in increased self-esteem, feelings of empowerment, decreased anxiety and decreased depression. One argument for the use of PSDs is the fact that they are a non-invasive form of therapy (1998). PSDs are able to reduce their handler’s symptoms without the use of medication or allow their handlers to become less dependent on traditional medication. This allows those affected with mental disorders to avoid unwanted side effects and reducing or removing medication can increase the treatment options of possible other health conditions. Animal therapy is not widely used in western-medicine, though there are many types that have been proven to do wonders for those who utilize the human/animal bond.
Marshal references a study by Meinmersmann that looked at the cost effectiveness of Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy with female abuse survivors. Participants found that they experienced much more dramatic results within a short time period compared to traditional conversational psychotherapy. Though the equine therapy did cost more per session, the fast results made it less expensive overall to get the same results of conversational therapy (2014). Service and therapy animals are used in many different situations. The cost would not differ greatly from traditional therapy if insurances covered the same amount as they did for conversational therapy.
One type of therapy dog that has become popular in recent years is a Residential Mascot (RM) (Marshal, 2012). These dogs live in a facility, often nursing homes, and provide emotional support for residents. Not only do they offer support, but they create and facilitate an atmosphere of social bonding within the facility. One issue many SA survivors struggle with is withdrawing from society after the attack and the use of dogs in this context would surely mitigate symptoms.
PSDs are trained to perform tasks to assist their handler in everyday living and many tasks these dogs are trained for would be beneficial to SA survivors. Some of the most often seen tasks include: Alerting a handler to mounting anxiety levels, proving reality to a handler believed to be hallucinating, rousing a handler when sedated in the presence of danger, forcing a depressed handler out of bed with persistent activity, using their bodyweight to perform deep pressure therapy with handler, interjecting when handler begins to self-harm, alerting and rousing handler during night terrors, turning on lights during night terrors or panic attacks, providing a barrier in public places, alerting to the presence of others in an environment, “clearing” a home for intruders before the handler enters, finding exits during panic attacks, and grounding a handler in the present during flashbacks of an assault (Marshal, 2012). This disbands the claim that PSDs do nothing more than offer companionship. Though companionship is an important part of the works these animals do.
In Newton’s study of pairing PTSD suffers with PSDs, most participants recorded that they felt as if they had lost all hope before beginning the study. All participants expressed great improvement once they were paired with a PSD. After obtaining their PSD, participants reported that they were able to venture into public spaces with far less anxiety and were able to return to feeling like “a normal person”. All participants reported a decrease in their dependence of medication after receiving their dog. This is included in the six most reported side effects of receiving a PSD. The six are decreased fear of public spaces, decreased anxiety, decreased depression, nightmare interruption, medication reduction, and compatibility with other treatments (2014). To say anybody with a mental illness should get himself a dog would be irresponsible. If a person can’t go into public spaces without their dog, that’s a condition that should be treated, not encouraged. These animals should be used to help a victim through recovery rather than become a crutch for one to lean of for the rest of their life.
PSDs Act as a Physical Testimony
When a veteran returns home from war, they will not be forced to testify to prove the fact that they had been in the military. They will not be asked what they were wearing when a bomb was set off. They are socially accepted as a hero who sacrificed for their country. These are not the same reactions that SA survivors receive when they express their ordeal. A study by Ullman in 2014 looked at how reactions of loved ones and strangers effected a woman’s healing process after SA. Common negative social reactions to the disclosure of their ordeal include victim blaming, attempting to force the victim into an action (ex: telling the police), or focusing on how the disclosure impacted their relationship with the aggressor rather than caring for the victim. As predicted, negative social reactions to a victim speaking on the SA was related to greater PTSD symptoms. This is because negative social reactions to assault disclosure were associated with less perceived control over recovery, causing a victim to deem the world around them as unsafe and feel the need to protect themselves accordingly with damaging coping habits (Ullman, 2014). A PSD could be useful in curbing these habits. Using a dog to be aware of surroundings allows a handler to feel as if they no longer need to be on-guard at all times. Having a larger animal in proximity is it’s own measure of safety as a possible assailant may be more hesitant to act than if a female was walking alone.
Necessary But Not Profitable
PTSD has in the past, been closely related to those in combat. Yet SA victims are diagnosed with the disorder at a 10% higher rate than veterans. Today, almost all media attention, research, and funding regarding PSDs is associated with the military and the expanding population of veterans coming home with PTSD symptoms. Increasing amounts of privately funded nonprofits provide service dogs to veterans at no cost. One reason PSDs are used at a higher capacity with veterans is because most civilians do not have the resources to pay for a $20,000 animal. Service dog research is scattered and underfunded as pharmaceutical companies aren’t interested in non-drug therapy (Jacobson, 2014). Though insurance companies do not cover service dogs, the federal government is looking at whether to provide them in certain cases to veterans. After dogs proved to be helpful with wounded Iraqi war veterans, this year the Department of Veteran Affairs kicked off a three-year study to assess the benefits. The VA is reimbursing nonprofit organizations $10,000 for each dog they provide to a veteran (Patriot-News, 2010). No such federal program exists for SA survivors.
One reason that PSDs may be especially beneficial to SA victims is because they are often abused by people close to them and can have more issues with trust and relationships than people who have suffered trauma like a natural disaster (Jacobson, 2014). Nancy Fierer, the director of Susquehanna Service Dogs, said 70 percent of people who need dogs can’t afford them. While the organization offers financial assistance for some and won’t turn away anyone in need, not being able to pay the fee extends how long a person has to wait for a dog. Those who receive a dog are required to pay $5,000 — an amount that is sometimes hard for those suffering from disabilities to pay. It costs the organization approximately $20,000 to train a single dog (Patriot-News, 2010). This would be considered cruel to withhold treatment if it was in any other form,
Sexual assault is prevalent in today’s society, yet it is only recently being accepted that women cannot just get up and walk away from said ordeal. PSDs are a way not only to improve the quality of life for a SA survivor, but also create awareness for the problem that is mental health disorders. PSDs should become more accessible to those in need of them, just as any other treatment should be. Dogs should not be used as a crutch to walk with the rest of a SA survivor’s life, but a tool to be used in healing. This can only become a norm once both the work service dogs do and the trauma of sexual assault is taken seriously by the general public.
One of the largest religious organizations in the history of the United States has found itself in turmoil. The United Methodist Church (UMC) may not continue to be as united as its title suggests due to infighting between the denomination’s parties and nations it is found in.
As the United Methodist Church grows in Africa without ceasing, political tensions are growing and very few have hope that it will stay undivided; these tensions can be diffused with a split between the African and the American church.
The United Methodist Church has been known historically to take a middle road stance in almost all issues. This allows for each member to form their own beliefs in the faith and allows for wildly diverse congregations. Yet in the diversity, all are united by a love for Christ and by a denominational code of conduct called The Book of Discipline. To become an Elder of the church, one must take an oath promising to uphold the Book of Discipline whether or not one agrees with all laws and by-laws made by the book. One issue of recent is the fact that individuals and whole churches have begun to nullify this covenant by choosing to completely disregard statements made that they do not theologically agree with. Written in an article of the United Methodist’s Good News Magazine, last year a large church voted to withhold their apportionments, tithes to the greater organization, because they disagree with how the United Methodist Church has handled upsets within itself (Goodstein “UMC to Reassess”). This is not the first protest from within the walls of the church, which have taken many forms over the past few years.
A large amount of these protests are due to one common discrepancy; homosexuality and religion. Today the Book of Discipline describes homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teachings” (304). The UMC does not allow for their ordained clergy to officiate weddings between same sex couples nor does it allow for clergy to be in a same sex relationship themselves. The UMC is one of the last mainline denominations to keep their code on this matter unchanged (Fenton “Mt. Bethel”). This has caused much infighting within the denomination and so much tension that it has brought about the question; can the United Methodist Church as it is today survive the cultural revolution that has brought much freedom to the queer community in the United States? At the moment, many fear the answer to this question is no. The next question to be asked is; what will happen next? At the moment, many accept that the answer to this question is an unknown future division in the church.
If this division is truly up and coming, it brings many questions to the table as well. The greatest of these asking how exactly the church would be split. Examining the last jurisdictional meeting of the church as a whole gives insight. The United Methodist Church meets as a worldwide body every four years at General Conference which was last held this year in Portland Oregon. Each conference is met with protestors advocating many issues, but this year the LGBT community pushed hard to show their presence and many bills were brought to the table addressing issues on human sexuality and how the denomination chooses to deal with it. This year 33% of delegates at General Conference were from overseas, articulating the rapid growth of the denomination and the belief that the American church will soon be a minority (Boorstein “With Talk of Schism”). This minority status is problematic because the church as a whole votes on legislation that effects congregations worldwide, not just in certain countries. This way of governing complicates the homosexuality issue. As the American church is behind in cultural aspects such as this, the acceptance of homosexuality as a norm is unimaginable to others which is why the UMC has not found an acceptable way of handling this situation. If the American sect of the UMC and other western countries split from the more conservative and faster growing division of the church, it may allow for all parties to be able to keep the values they find most important.
One of the greatest factors in this issue is the growth of the United Methodist Church in Africa. Culturally Africa is very different from that of North America. The western church grows more liberal each day if for no other reason than the culture around it is more liberal than ever. Yet the African church stays consistent to what they believe is biblical teaching; often aligning with conservatives in the Western hemisphere.
The African Church does have reason to resist falling in line with the American cultural change. Homosexuality is a crime in 38 out of 54 African nations (Gilbert “GC2016”). Christians are already persecuted for their faith, with Nigeria killing more Christians in 2015 than the rest of the world combined with the intent of eradicating the Christian faith from the continent (Harriet “Christians Flee”). After taking this fact into consideration, it is quite understandable as to why delegates from Africa almost wholly vote along the same lines as their American conservative counterparts (Hutchinson “The Hopefully United Methodists”). Why would Bishops and other guardians of the church bring more persecution to their flocks in regards to an issue that impacts almost solely the American church when “Pastors have been beaten and killed, and members of their congregations forced to convert to Hinduism in an increasing number of attacks across the country. On average a church is burned down or a pastor beaten three times a week,” (Hutchinson “The Hopefully United Methodists”). No matter the reason, the African church still gives the conservative party in the American church an advantage during voting at General Conference and liberals have begun looking for ways around this. Both parties in this situation would benefit from what a split between the two cultures would bring.
Not all agree with this idea, and have come up with other solutions to this problem. One other solution is to allow each individual congregation to choose their own standing on homosexuality. This proposal has been named “A Way Forward” yet “talk of a ‘middle-way’ or of ‘agreeing to disagree’ is comforting and sounds Christ-like. However, such language only denies the reality we need to admit. Neither side will find ‘agreeing to disagree’ acceptable” (Boorstein “With Talk of Schism”). Not only this, but what will happen when homosexuality is no longer the issue, and the church must face the next cultural crisis? Questions also arise with the other popular idea for splitting the church; splitting it into three new denominations consisting of a liberal, moderate and conservative church. Would geographic location decide which church enters each new denomination, or would each congregation or local pastor decide? Not only this, but the allocations of the large amount of money the UMC holds would be fought over quite mercilessly between the three newly born denominations.
The proposed split on cultural lines is the most clean and simple way to do what must be done to allow each individual congregation to flourish in the community it finds itself in. Both sides believe they are doing God’s will, with the African church praying “for the return of our denomination to biblical teachings, the unity of the church” (Gilbert ”GC2016”) while many Americans call out for complete inclusivity in the body of Christ with the Love Your Neighbor Coalition stating “We must insist that peace is not going to come through ignoring the demands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians for full inclusion in the church” (Gilbert “GC2016”). Unfortunately, the only true way to know which side is God’s will is to ask him personally.
The United Methodist Church is full of politics, unanswered questions and differences in opinions yet we have lasted 48 years as a denomination, have found ourselves in almost every city in the country and have brought Jesus Christ to places in the world where he was unknown. Everything once born must also die, and the United Methodist Church may be on it’s deathbed. This is something that can be met with fear, or it can be met with logic and understanding. One must remember that no matter the title on the front of a church, its main goal should always be creating more disciples of Jesus Christ. If the church forgets this, it should not even be in existence.
Human beings tend to focus on what differs in a situation rather than what binds two things together. It has been said in a previous article that I read in either this class or philosophy stating that when people begin to look at things they have in common with others, they can find a much larger amount of examples than when looking at what differs. Yet this is what we so often choose to do. One thing Appiah said that truly resonated with myself was “If we only came together to try and settle the things we disagree about, we wouldn’t be getting along.” He states that friendships he has cultivated would not be as they are if the friend group came together with a mindset to change the world with what is adjacent to their own beliefs.
Appiah then goes on to talk about how beautiful humans can be when they set aside their differences to come together in love. Not forgetting or going back on their values and morals, but knowing the individual is greater than a set of religious rules. This is something my denomination faces challenges with. We have had pastors leave congregations and congregations leave pastors over the homosexuality issue. At the moment, I am actually writing a paper for another class with the topic being about the upcoming inevitable split of the Church with this issue being at the apex. While observing at my local church who believes what, why and how strongly, I’ve realized a trend that if a person intimately knows a LGBTQ+ person inside a family relationship or a friendship they are much more likely to support the liberal party in our denomination fighting for an upheaval of the Book of Discipline. This falls right in line with Appiah’s belief that stereotypes are destroyed once you see the individual over a group.
“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
Where is the line between loving yourself for who you are and changing for the better? Who gets to decide what flaws and quirks are acceptable to live with and which must be chiseled away as they add imperfections to the sculpture of our soul? This thought is something that is often not pondered yet is of utmost importance. The easy answer would be “Answer to only yourself. Stay to true your heart and values. That shall bring you to the correct path.” This is utterly false. Dangerous even. Society has imprinted upon our soul, has twisted our values for better or for worse, has skewed our image of what is acceptable. Because of this not even our inner thoughts can be relied on. As I realize this, I believe I have discovered what the frame of acceptable behavior may be based upon. To have flaws is to be human. To work towards Christ is to be holy. He is the measuring point. Using anything else will cause a soul to attempt to belong in a way that is only unnatural. To attempt to fit a square block in a round hole.