Saturday, June 18, 2011

We Need Your Help to win Big!

An organization here called Cincinnati Innovates sponsors an annual contest to spur creativity and entrepreneurial activities. Last year we entered and came up from last to third place in ten days. We are starting earlier this year and believe you can help us win. Here is our plan:

About 21% of all kids from birth to 18 in Ohio have a disability. Few groups support them as a family. We will train volunteers and family members how to come alongside the entire family. We did yearlong research study with parents who said, "No one ever asked how we were doing in our marriage; no one ever asked to pray for us or our child.

You can vote weekly for us at

Village initiative with Parents

Go there and read all about our ministry and the $90,000.00 in prizes. Look for this title:
Village initiative with Parents and vote. If all my friends vote for me we will win in a landslide.

Check the web for a deeper understanding of our call to minister to these distressed families

Monday, June 13, 2011

It Takes a Whole Village to Raise a Child

Our newest ministry is called Village Initiative with Parents (VIP). Some folks think we are setting up retirement homes because we use the term "Village" but that is not the intent. We are using the term Village in the same way Mrs. Hilary Clinton did. It is an African proverb that indicates "It takes a whole village to raise a child."

Our ministry has a laser sharp intent to recruit, train and release members of the community-the village- to support Parents with a child who has a special need. If it takes a whole village to rear a typical child just imagine how many of the village members are needed to help rear a kid with a disability.

The first question I am asked is usually, "What kind of disability?" My answer is always the same: "Any kind". Some of the kids whose parents were in our yearlong research study had severe physical disabilities and others were challenged more in the behavioral areas. It does not make much difference to the rest of the family because "When one member of the family hurts we all hurt." I CO 12.

Hurt comes in many ways and from many directions. It always hurts no matter where it comes from and who it hits. Parents are always hurt when one of their children is hurt. Parents worry a lot. They work a lot and have to spend lots of money when a child is sick. They are bone tired much of the time. They want a need emotional and spiritual support from The Village.

Interestingly, the ways members of The Village can be most helpful are not complicated or difficult. The best helps comes from ordinary people who will be "Friends in Deed". Friends who will listen and cry; listen and laugh: listen and encourage; listen and act.

Go to our web and see what you can do to help.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Evangelism that Draws us to Jesus

Several posts on Face Book have focused on the Harold Camping mess. As you may know, Mr. Camping, a millionaire who owns several radio stations that promote Christian programming, predicted an exact time and date for the return of Jesus. Well, he was wrong.

To that event I made some comments and had a Christian man post that he was scarred deeply by adults that tried to scare him into conversion with scary eschatology! I agreed with my friend that such behavior was and is wrong headed and deeply disturbing to me.

Some of my faithful friends wrote that the issue is not kindness but truthfulness that counts when we are evangelizing. What say you about evangelizing? Is truth all important even if it scares the people who listen to it? Are unbelievers more likely to come to Christ if they are really frightened or if they are drawn to the love and grace of God?

My early experiences were heavily weighted toward pointing out my sins, my guilt and eternal damnation if Jesus caught me with a spot or two on my pearly white robe when He returned by slipping into earth's atmosphere when we were not looking.

If I was caught by the returning Jesus while listening to Elvis, Little Richard or Jimmy Hendrix it was going to be a very long and hot eternity. If He came by suddenly ripping through the sky on Sunday morning when I was in church singing Amazing Grace i would be just fine.

How about you? Was the love of God offered to you or His ever present wrath?

What drew you to salvation in Jesus?

tell me your stories.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Men Acting Badly

Two rather rich and famous men were caught recently with their pants literally down and their exploits glaring in the headlines. Why do so many men in power find it necessary to get involved sexually with women other than their wives?

For men in general and famous, power hungry men specifically, the name of the game is not pleasure derived from sexual relationships but the sense of pleasure, ego fulfillment and importance that they get from "Winning" the affections of a woman. In Genesis 3:19 God points out to Adam that as a result of his rebellion, the whole earth would be filled with destructive forces that the write calls, "Thorns and thistles..."

God the Creator goes on to say that from that day forward "Males would eat their food as the result of the sweat of their brow". This implies a life of toil, hard work and difficulty. However, when we read the Hebrew version, another deeper and more nuanced insight emerges. It says, "You will eat as a result of flared nostrils". That places a whole new meaning on the curse for males for the flaring of nostrils indicates a strong emotional drive to compete with intensity, anger and winner take all. Men have for millennia fought over land, materials goods, religion, and WOMEN. In fact, polygamy is not sexual driven but is the result of who has the most power and riches.

I see these most recent male predators as being driven not by the urge of sexual pleasure but a lust for winning another woman. The conquest of a female shows that a man is superior to other men, especially their husbands.

So the Governor of California and the Governor of the IMF join with bin Laden among males who take great pride in using their wives as a cover for lust and violence. In some ways, Islam is more honest about male dominance and female subservient to them. Women are another toy to show for winning the game.

In the USA our laws have always been based on Christianity that protected women from predators. Recently, of course, as a result of the feminist revolution, the laws are being changed and women are often willingly "hooking up" with men and encouraging men to use them as sexual chips in the "games" males play. By giving in so easily to men they are encouraging them to use and abuse other women.

When I was teaching Muslims in Asia I saw the way women are treated in Islam as opposed to what Jesus taught. The women there were stunned by the love, care and respect Jesus showed all women. I am praying that God will take the seeds I planted and cause them to rise up and liberate Muslim females from 1300 years of slavery.

We Christians must speak up forcefully for the equality of women but also for their protection. Single parents are almost always the females left by men who "won the battle for a one night stand" and the woman lost her future.

The churches have always been filled with more women than men. The love and respect Jesus showed women was amazingly different from that which was done in any other culture. The rise of monasteries came about to saved women and children from marauding bands of predatory males. We Christians have not always been Christian to women but Jesus always has been their refuge.

More later on what happened when I worked with the Muslim women in Asia.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Get More out of Life

The Bible says that when we give we also receive. In fact, it seems to imply that the more we give to others the more we shall get back blessings and peace. They will be in a sack and have been "pressed down, shaken together and poured out into our laps".

I grew up in a farming community and have experienced exactly what the Bible teaches in this metaphor. Jesus was speaking to blue collar and small business people who understood the dynamics of buying and selling grain. If I went to your store to buy grain I would want you to fill my tow sack as completely and fully as possible. If you did not fill it to the brim I would pay much more than the going rate because I would be paying for air as well as grain.

In order to get all the oats that the sack would hold I would shake it vigorously so to press the oats down in a compact manner and force all the air out of the sack. I don't want air I want oats. Any air pocket would look like a packed sack but I would be cheated. It is the same as if the business man was putting his finger on the scale as well as the meat.

By serving and giving we get a full load of blessings. Jesus says the good stuff coming back to us will be "pressed down and shaken together" so we get as much as possible for the little we give to others. The implications are enormous for our peace, joy and happiness. As we serve others according to our gifts and talents, we can enter into what some researchers call, "FLOW". That is a mental and emotional state that seems to fly by as fast as can be.

Flow means that we are so caught up in our actions that we forget about being tired, hungry uncomfortable, or down in the dumps. It is a state of joy. This is why Jesus said serving and giving from our gifts and talents will come back as a blessing. I have been watching a TV show about secret millionaires who go underground to find a non profit that is serving others. In every case the millionaires find great joy in humbly serving the poor, downtrodden and marginalized. As a result, they wanted to give more of their time and money.

Here are some hints about finding these blessings. 1.Better understand your strengths, gifts, talents and call by trying out various volunteer opportunities. When we liberate our strengths in service to others we have the greatest joy. 2. Make sure the serving costs you something. Time, energy, money, status, and convenience. 3. Do your service in the Name of the Lord. Give glory to God for all you have and all you do. 4. Reflect on your experience afterward with some friends and family members who know how to listen. journal about your experience. What was the best parts? The worst parts? 5. Ask God what He thinks about your experience.

On May 27 we are hosting the parents of kids with a disability. You are welcome to come and serve them and learn about our ministry. If you are interested write me at You can also go to Sweeten Life web and find out more about us.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pay for Professionals- A Shame

When I founded Life Way Counseling Centers in 1989, the hourly pay for a Professional Counselor with a Doctorate and a Clinical License was right at $100.00. Since then the rate has dropped almost in half.

At the same time insurance agencies, managed care and the government have increased our paper work and bureaucracy by double. Before long we will have to pay them to work. No wonder so many veteran Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Counselors are retiring.

Additionally, there are fewer in-patient units where the severely distressed can go to heal and yet it seems that the numbers of people experiencing extreme psychological stress are rising. A strong mental, emotional, relational and spiritual life is foundational to healthy families, governance and economics. All that is threatened by the lack of quality people in mental health fields.

This story explains what is happening.

Survey Finds Behavioral Health Professionals Earn Less Than Fast Food Workers

Washington DC (April 11, 2011)—A licensed social worker with a master’s degree earns less than a manager of a fast food restaurant, according to the 2011 Behavioral Health Salary Survey just released by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare (National Council). The survey finds that the nation’s mental health and addictions treatment professionals are paid far less than their counterparts in other healthcare sectors.

“Just as people with mental illnesses and substance-use disorders are routinely stigmatized, it appears those working in the behavioral health sector are also treated differently—even within the healthcare community,” says Linda Rosenberg, National Council president and CEO.

The survey of more than 850 mental health and addictions treatment organizations finds:

  • A direct care worker in a 24-hour residential treatment center earns a lower median salary ($23,000 a year) than an assistant manager at Burger King ($25,589).
  • The annual salary range for a chief medical officer at a behavioral health organization is $101,000–$150,000, compared to the national average of $183,947–$292,395 for the same position in any other type of healthcare organization.
  • A social worker with a master’s degree in a mental health-addictions treatment organization earns less ($45,344) than a social worker in a general healthcare agency ($50,470).
  • A registered nurse working in a behavioral health organization earns $52,987 compared to the national average for nurses of $66,530.
  • “The survey underscores the need to end the second class status of employees working in mental health and addictions organizations,” says Rosenberg, who cites the recent economic crisis and state budget cuts for contributing to the problem.

“Until we achieve equity with the rest of the public healthcare safety net, we will continue to struggle to recruit and retain the number and caliber of professionals needed for more efficient and effective mental health and addictions services.”

The survey, conducted in partnership with the National Association of Addiction Treatment Professionals, includes salary data for executives, administrators, clinicians, direct care and support staff in public and private behavioral healthcare organizations. Completed in November 2010, survey findings are based on salaries reported by 860 respondents from 46 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Annual salary data are based on the time period between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010.

The full report is available for purchase at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spiritual Growth

I posted some thoughts about growth and healing on my other blog.

Go take a look.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

More About Bin Laden's Death

The Cross at Ground Zero

The issue of Bin Laden's death has caused me to think a bit about how Christians need to respond to institutional evil, wars and acting as citizens. On the one hand we hear folks quoting Jesus when He says, "Love your enemies".

On the other hand we hear folks talk about God being Just and demanding justice. Others talk about revenge and that sets Believers' hair on fire because God said, "I shall repay" and that means a nation should never avenge the attacks of evil men.

Both are correct, of course, and when I hear folks say these things I may feel badly because I have not loved Bin Laden like Jesus does; I fear that Bin Laden did not get full justice by a court of law and I want revenge even if God says that is not my job. Oh my! What can I do?

First, a nation must not try to act like an individual Christian or a church. Second, a nation is not always seeking justice or a desire to take every evil combatant to court. However, a nation must protect itself and its citizens.

So, I have conclude that the goal of the USA when dealing with mass murders and bombers is not justice, grace or mercy but SURVIVAL. Bin Laden and his tribe are callous murderers. They were and are a constant threat to our citizens and our national welfare. In order to survive we must take actions that are not merciful, just or vengeful but self protective.

I believe it was in the best interest of the USA in particular and the world in general for him to die. I think the group that will most benefit are Muslims in the Middle East. In that way killing him was merciful toward innocent people that are not Christians and are not citizens of the USA.

One of my readers wrote in response to my last post on this topic and quoted Mark Twain who said something like the following.
I do not celebrate over any man's death but I read obituaries with a lot of satisfaction.

The Bin Laden flap has reminded me of the importance of evangelism and missions. Thanks be to God for His marvelous grace. Evangelism is all about mercy and grace. It is not about justice or getting revenge.

The most merciful, compassionate and gracious thing we can do is lead people to Christ. Maybe, by killing Bin Laden, we are giving an opportunity for thousands of Muslims to come to faith in Christ. Killing him has saved them from the hands of a murder who has killed more Muslim than any Christian or pagan.

God reached out to me and saved me when I was in sin. During all the years I have known Jesus He has loved me with a transforming relationship that has brought me from death. He has given me a life of compassion that does not arise from my nature but His nature.

Praise the Lord!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Can Business Catch up with Christians?

Many of us are pretty hard on the American churches. We don't see as much compassion, understanding, mercy or grace as we think the Bible call us to show. We are certainly pretty upset with the lack of skills most churches teach their people when the last think Jesus said before rising into heaven was, "Go teach people to DO everything that I did".

But, I am feeling better because many companies large and small are doing even worse than the church. It is probably a fleshly thing to do, be prideful, but, so what. It may be good to pat ourselves on the back occasionally when we are really outdoing the secularists who run America.

An article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that companies are by and large just catching on to the fact that they must train their people to get along. Sure, many companies have talked a lot about customer service and places like Nordstrom's has been given awards because they take clothes back from disgruntled customers, but all in all the workplace resembles The Office on TV rather than following Jesus.

I have trained several thousands of Pastors, Lay Leaders and The Laity all about how to get along better at home and work. Listening without rudely interrupting another person is, for example, widely accepted and the most crucial skill one can learn and develop in management, sales, leadership and customer service. Yet, listening is rarely if ever taught in any college or business school. Even many Counseling Programs fail to teach their students how to listen.

In 1975 I did a Doctoral Dissertation on the Core Skills of Healthy Relationships. Since then we have trained numerous people how to listen and I have written several books on interpersonal skills.

Do you want to be a better husband?
Do you want to be a better wife?
Do you want to be a better parent?
Do you want to be a better child?
Do you want to be a better manager?
Do you want to be a better Sales person?
Do you want to be a better leader?
Do you want to be a better Pastor?
Do you want to be a better _________?

Learn to Listen

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My Visit to Ground Zero

This is the tenth year of the attack by the Usama Bin Laden trained team on the United States of America. I have not been personally to the memorials at the Pentagon or in Pennsylvania. However, I have been to Ground Zero where the most successful attacks took place and killed so man people.

Shortly after the attacks, we at Life Way Counseling Centers were contacted by The Salvation Army about spending a week at Ground Zero ministering and counseling with the First Responders. The cops, fire fighters, emergency workers, steel workers, etc had been working day and night to find and recover the casualties of the attack. Now many of them were "Hitting the wall" and needed some Pastoral Care and Counseling.

Life Way had worked with the Army for many yeas and they knew we combined good counseling with solid Christian values. When the national office asked about who could minister to the body, soul and mind our name came up. So, four of us boarded a Delta flight to Newark that they had donated to this mission. (Thanks Delta!)

We split our four person team into two with twos serving from 1:00 PM until 1:00 Am and the other from 1:00 AM until 1:00 PM. My twosome spend the night at Ground Zero sitting with the Cops and Fire Fighters and listening to their pain at every possible opportunity. It was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life yet I had a wonderfully fulfilling spiritual and emotional experience.

More later.

Killing Usama and Christian Feelings

I graduated from high school in 1956. That is 55 years ago. Interestingly, I stay in touch with many of my classmates from Mt. Vernon, Illinois through an email forum called, "The Mousenet".

After Usama was killed by our Navy Seals at the order of our President, I had a mixture of feelings and thoughts. Some of my old friends also had a mixture of reactions. One of them wrote the following.


It appears that yours truly is, as usual, out of the mainstream of public thinking. I am not dancing in the streets over the death of Bin Laden. I get no joy out of the death, albeit possibly warranted, of another human being. Are those opposed to the death penalty dancing? Did we not execute an alleged criminal without a trial?
Jimmy D.

I responded by writing this:

Dear Jimmy D.

I am also mixed in my feelings and thoughts. War has so many casualties for so many generations. I understand the desire for justice/vengeance. I have similar feelings but perhaps forty years of counseling ministry have sanded down my angry rough edges. And, God said “Vengeance is mine; I shall repay.” so, I am left with a strange mixture of contrary feelings.

I watched the movie Doctor Zhivago again last week. It brings back so many memories of my teaching and Counseling in Russia. For over 20 years I have ministered in the former USSR.

Unfortunately, during all that time of listening to individuals and families I have never met a man or woman who has not lost a relative to Stalin, the Nazis, the /secret police or all of the above. The unresolved grief, pain, anger and addictions of these well educated, faith filled people is overwhelming. All of it going back to the times of Doctor Zhivago and the Revolution.

The Red revolutionaries were filled with idealism, good intentions and a desire to help the poor. Unfortunately, their hearts and minds were filled with an inhuman brutality that surpassed even that of Hitler. The most loyal and most dedicated were the first to die or go to the camps because Stalin could not stand having any possible competitors.

In the movie, the Communist husband of Julie Christie hated Zhivago because he wrote poetry and showed evidence of human compassion, love and kindness. He said that all those human feelings must die in order to have a new order. I have seen firsthand what happened to the 200 million Russians who have suffered from a lack of human kindness, compassion and concern.

Alcoholism rates for males are at least 75% and domestic violence rates are as high or higher. It will take generations of care, healing and treatment to bring any semblance of humanity and health to those people impacted by Socialism that insisted on “fairness”.

As I consider what happens in war I wonder about the people in Muslim countries where England, Russia and the USA have been bombing and killing for generations? Is there a better way? I do not know. Maybe war is necessary but it has long term medical, psychological and spiritual costs.

I have dedicated my adult life to “healing the broken hearted and setting the captives free” (IS 61). I have founded two large counseling centers in Cincinnati and established healing centers in 75 countries. Unfortunately, we have expanded our healing ministries greatly since I founded The Teleios Center in 1979 but the results of shock, trauma and abuse as well as wars and natural tragedies keep raising the level people with broken hearts.

It only takes one guy like Mugabe in Zimbabwe or Saddam in Iraq to damage thousands of families for generations. However,it takes years to heal those broken hearts and care for their scattered souls.

One final thought. Pope John Paul is receiving great honor by His Church and by all people of good will. What a hero he was to millions in bondage behind the Iron Curtain. He was a genius and a great man. After reading his articles I realized that I had a philosophy quite similar to his and thank him for his wisdom because he wrote so brilliantly and insight-fully about care and cure of souls. He was a Catholic, of course, and I am not. Yet he and I were on the same page on many things.

It is rarely known outside Poland and Europe that as a Priest and Cardinal he recruited young American Missionaries from Campus Crusade for Christ to train local evangelists to win them to Christ and change the balance of power in Poland. Campus Crusade gave him all their materials and taught the Catholics how to share and care for hurting people. They raised up an army of peace makers, many of whom followed him and brought change to Europe. My Campus Crusade friends told me how they worked together to plant the seeds of love, power and peace to bring down the Communists.

Blessed are the peacemakers…!

Gary (Gabe) Sweeten

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Black Kids with Special Needs in Ohio

An estimated 570,913 Ohioan children (20.9%) under the age of 18 had at least one special health care need in 2008 (71.7% of children did not have a special health care need and the status for 7.5% is unknown).

Black children are disproportionately represented as having a special health care need with 16.2% “screening in” compared to non-CSHCN where Black children represent 13.6% of this population.

Again, we see that minority children are particularly high number of kids with a special need. As a compassionate Christian I want to do everything possible to support the parents of these children.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

So Many People Believe in the Resurrection!

Rasmussen Reports

Friday, April 22, 2011

Today is the day Christians remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who 78% of all Americans believe to be the son of God who came to Earth to die for our sins.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that only 13% of Adults do not share that belief.

Seventy-four percent (74%) believe Christ was resurrected from the dead, while 14% disagree. Another 11% are not sure.

Eighty-three percent (83%) also believe that the person known to history as Jesus Christ did actually walk the Earth roughly 2,000 years ago. Eight percent (8%) do not believe this to be true.

All of these findings are generally in line with surveys stretching back to Easter 2006.

Women tend to believe more strongly than men in all cases.

As in past years, Evangelical Christians believe more strongly in the divinity and resurrection of Christ than other Christians do. Among Evangelicals, 100% believe Christ was the son of God, and 98% believe he was resurrected from the dead.

Eighty-six percent (86%) of other Protestants and 87% of Catholics believe Jesus is the son of God who came to Earth to die for our sins. Eighty-four percent (84%) of Catholics believe Jesus rose from the dead, as do 82% of non-Evangelical Protestant adults.

Those who attend religious services more regularly feel stronger about the divinity of Christ and His resurrection than those who attend less often.

Last December, 70% of Americans who celebrate Christmas said they recognize it as a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Christ rather than a secular one.

Please sign up for the Rasmussen Reports daily e-mail update (it's free). let us keep you up to date with the latest public opinion news.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Astounding Faith in Christ of Seattle Schools

The administrators of the Seattle school must have incredible faith in the resurrected Christ. Read what they decided then read my post script. (Gary Sweeten)

Writer Matt Gurney at the National Post, April 15, commenting on the Seattle school that required Easter eggs to be called "Spring spheres":

The argument against calling them Easter eggs, of course, is that that might lead kids to ask what Easter is, which could lead—gasp!—to having to reference the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ after the crucifixion. . . .

It's reasonable to keep religious preaching out of schools. It's silly to try and pretend that Christianity doesn't exist in the hope of not offending someone who's not content to simply raise their children in a non-Christian faith (or no faith at all), but must actually try and pretend that there is no faith. . . .

We're not doing kids any favors by bringing them up abjectly ignorant of religion. Sooner or later, they're going to have to come to the shocking realization that some people out there still believe in God, and celebrate events relating to that faith. One suspects that the world will not be forever ruined for these kids when they discover this harsh truth.

What's even worse than the reflexive political correctness demonstrated by this desire to wash the Easter out of the springtime is that the symbol being targeted—Easter eggs—is itself already absurdly removed from the original meaning of Easter still marked by the devout Christians. There is simply no way that a child, presented with a chocolatey oval, would possibly conclude that only those who seek forgiveness for their sins through Christ's love may attain salvation. This is an attempt to water down an already watery offering.

For this crime of extreme political correctness, let us all hope the school officials responsible receive a lump of carbon-based fuel in the cloth tube-sack they hang next to their December Light-Festooned Interior Coniferous Vegetation this Winter Holiday.

Postscript: Just imagine how much faith it takes to believe that by only using g the term "Easter egg" children and their parents might be overc9ome with the power of the Holy Spirit and fall to their knees and worship the risen Jesus. That requires an enormous amount of faith in God. Much more faith than almost any Christian preacher I know.

Miracles in Moscow Prove the Resurrection

Back in 2008 I was in Moscow and wrote a blog entry from a coffee house and internet cafe. The story I told about Christ the King Cathedral is a great testimony to the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit in the world today.

The Russian people suffered untold horrors under Socialists. Despite their loving rhetoric the political system was filled with hatred of anyone with whom they disagreed and they particularly hated Christians and the Orthodox Church.

God, however, never forgot His children or His church and showed Himself strong to shame the haters with love and grace. The miraculous rebuilding of the Cathedral is but one of many times God's interventions have proved He is Lord of all.

Pray for the Christians who are continuing to carry out God's plan and purpose in the former USSR. The individuals and families who were crushed in body and spirit are slowly recovering from 70 years of demonic locusts. They need our constant prayers.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How To Get Rich Quick

A great meditation for Easter.

By Eddie Ogan

I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12,and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.

By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.

When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1.

We made $20 on pot holders. That month was one of the best of our lives.

Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change.

We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before.

That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.

We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet.

But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.

When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20.

As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills.

Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our Mom and Dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night.

We had two knifes that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor.

That Easter day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn't like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed--I didn't even want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor!

I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor. I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn't know. We'd never known we were poor. We didn't want to go to church on Sunday, but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn't talk on the way.

Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, "Can't we all sacrifice to help these poor people?" We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week.

Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering.

When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn't expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, "You must have some rich people in this church."

Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that "little over $100."

We were the rich family in the church! Hadn't the missionary said so? From that day on I've never been poor again. I've always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!

[forwarded by Willard Caddell, who was a very rich man]

David T. Smith, Ph.D.
Child Clinical Psychologist
Senior Director of Psychology
LifeWay Counseling Centers

It is more blessed to give than receive. Jesus

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Prayer for Nigerian Christians

Chuck Emerson's colleague Dan Steere received an emergency text message this evening from Gideon Umukoro, ELI's coordinator in Nigeria. He is asking for prayer for Christians in that country, as well as for himself and his wife, Excel. Excel is employed by the government and is stationed in the northern part of Nigeria in a majority Muslim area. Below is the text message. Please pray!

"Hi papa dan,

pls call the brethren to pray for us here up north,the moslem have plan to carry out great slauther and destruction of property on the christians this easter celebration, they have already started in a nearby city near the town where excel and i are staying.

we are traped we cant travel to the south bcs the roads are blocked, i traveled to spend the easter with her.

pls pray for adequate security to be supplied."

Are Parents Important?

Not if you believe the policies of many insurance companies and government agencies. If you have a child with severe problem, the parents are often ignored by the policies and procedures of the organizations that are presumably assigned with paying for their treatment. This includes Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance agencies.

Let's say you have a child of four that has been diagnosed with a severe behavioral issue such as Autism. (It is now known as the Autism Spectrum or AS.) If you seek out treatment for your child, you may find that the persons doing the assessment or treatment will rarely if ever ask for your insights, ideas or suggestions. Nor will they include you in the treatment meetings.

That is insane but it follows a traditional Medical Model that sees the problem as lying completely within the body of the Identified Patient (IP). Despite the fact that the parents are with the child many hours each day and know his/her behavior quite well, they will rarely be asked for input on the treatment.

The Medical Model is based on the notion that the Doctor or Occupational Therapist, Counselor or Nurse is treating the disease and only the person with the disease is to be included in the treatment. That means that the parents, siblings, grand parents or peer supporters are ignored and no one can be paid for including them in the process.

In our research with families with a child who has a disability we heard over and over again how no one ever asked for their input, opinion or wisdom. This included their hospital, school and church. (Let me add that this is not the case at the Life Way Counseling Centers where we always include the parents when possible.)

Why are parents ignored when both common sense and forty years of research shows how important the are to the successful outcomes? It is a simple answer. Follow the money! Insurance companies and government agencies have rules that forbid it. Rules in Medicare and Medicaid are often senseless, cumbersome and anti healing. yet, whatever the Federal Government requires all insurance companies will follow.

We at Sweeten Life Systems are fully committed to including parents, relatives and friends in the caring process whenever possible and reasonable. We have just launched a program to do that called, The Village Initiative w Parents or VIP. It could stand for Very Important Parents or Very Important People. This initiative values parents and relative and friends as critically important to the health and welfare of persons with a disability.

No one. I repeat NO ONE is more important to the care and health of a sick person than their family. If the family is dysfunctional the child will not get his or her needs met.

I have a Masters and Doctoral Degrees in Counseling. I have forty years of experience but No medical or psychological expert knows more about how to care for a child than the parents. Together we can be a great care and healing team.

If we leave the parents out of the diagnosis and treatment of children costs will rise and outcomes be reduced in effectiveness.

PS. If you are interested in taking part in the VIP process, contact me at and go to Sweeten Life web for more information.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Care for Kids

I must admit up front that I do not see the government as a great provider of services for those who are disabled. Government agencies are, as a rule, inefficient, slow, bureaucratic and greedy. I founded a Clinical Counseling agency called, Life Way Counseling Centers in 1989. We started as an in patient unit for adults and later set up a similar unit for adolescents. After operating the in patient units for some seven and a half years we closed them and continued to operate the out patient clinics.

Dealing with insurance companies is difficult. They can also be callous, inefficient and greedy. In fact, every organization is greedy to maximize its own financial health and welfare no matter what their mission. However, insurance agencies cannot be compared with government agencies in terms of bureaucratic behavior. Not that the people in government agencies themselves are uncaring but governmental agencies are bureaucratic.

I like the Wall Street Journal a lot. I especially enjoy a daily column called, The Best of the Web. The author, James Taranto, recently included a couple of letters from parents of children with disabilities. They spoke to the issue of government provided care for their children.

Taranto writes: "Friday's email from reader Gordon Calkins, who discussed his frustration with the government bureaucracy he has to endure in exchange for a little taxpayer money to help care for his autistic son, brought more stories from readers with similar experiences. Here is Nikki Stuart:"

Our eldest daughter, now 26, is legally blind and developmentally disabled. She gets Supplementary Security Income, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security disability.

The SSI and disability come up to about $620 a month. Medicare and Medicaid are a good thing, since she has no other income and is uninsurable anyway.

We homeschooled her K-12 (along with her four siblings), which I figure saved the state somewhere around $900,000, so the government is way ahead in terms of outlay.

Anyway, I agree with the writer with the autistic son. Our daughter would be much better off if the government would get its (left) foot off our necks, leave us alone, and free us up to make and keep some money to take care of her ourselves. The litany of the complexities of starting a small business and scratching up a couple bucks is surely too well-known to you to require a recitation here.

And this is from Bob Ellison:

I have a son with Down syndrome. He receives amazingly generous support via Medicaid from Pennsylvania: physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech training. All four of my sons are covered by my own health insurance, and I have to pay occasional copayment fees and other things for all but one: the one with Down syndrome. My insurance plan never pays a dime on him; Pennsylvania pays.

Twice I have investigated hiring therapists on my own nickel for my son: once for continuity, because he had an excellent therapist, and it takes time to to develop a useful relationship between therapist and subject; and once for extra support, because we wanted more help than Medicaid, generous though it was, could provide. I am wealthy and ready to pay for these things, but that does not help, because my son's therapists work for companies that contract exclusively with the state, and I cannot find alternatives, because the laws and regulations that govern such services make those industries beholden to government-paid systems. The government has created a monopoly; there are almost no workers outside the system.

In a nutshell, then:

1. I am wealthy, but I receive welfare.

2. My one son gets free health care from the state; I have to pay for the other three sons.

3. The government has frozen out other options.

Everything about this is wrong: I do not need and should not receive welfare, but I have no choice but to take it, because the workers cannot take my own money. My son with Down syndrome should not be treated as more worthy than my other three sons. And businesses should be free to provide goods and services as they see fit.
Is it fair for the Federal Government to force parents to accept only treatment provided by their therapists? Is it fiscally wise for the Federal Government to pay for the treatment of children with rich parents?

Middle Class Parents need financial support. Wealthy parents do not. More than finances, however, all parents need to be able to CHOOSE the best treatment for their children. No one knows these children and their needs as well as the parents. Why does the government forbid parents from getting additional treatment from good therapists?

More money is not the answer to every problem. We need parent informed answers not just more legislation and more bureaucracy.

What do you think is best for the children and families? Am I on track? Am I off base? Let me know your experience?

What will lower costs, increase flexibility and improve care? These are very important issues that impact some 20% of our children and their parents but 100% of all tax payers. (By the way, 45% of Americans pay NO Federal Income Taxes. Do you pay Federal Income Taxes?)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reduce Taxes

Over the past few weeks my posts have been relating how expensive it is to care for people with chronic illnesses. This includes children and youth who have been diagnosed with a chronic disorder like the Autism Spectrum, ADHD, Developmental Delays, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.

I noted that 21% of the children in Ohio ages birth to 18 have some sort of diagnosis. Just think of it. One in every five of your neighbors, friends, fellow church members and colleagues have a child with a serious medical, emotional, mental or physical challenge.

The government at every level spends billions of dollars to provide services and support systems for these children. Every school must hire special teachers, buy special buses and build special buildings for these precious children.

Thankfully, we live in the richest nation in the history of the world. Not even Solomon in all his glory lived like us. We are caring for these folks as children and as adults when they grow up. We have a wonderful record of showing compassion to people in need. Unfortunately, we are running out of money.

Taxes are high already. How can we offer great care at lower costs? That is a question I have addressed for several decades. What do you think we can do?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lower the Costs of Caring

An election is brewing in the United States and that means that we will hear a lot of crazy ideas and vicious attacks being made by politicians. Why will they talk like that? They want to fool all of us into thinking they will give us everything we want and their opponents are going to take all our goodies away from us.

IMO, one of the greatest causes of the huge rise in costs of caring has been the professionalizing of care for family members with a chronic need. This has come about because of several factors.

1. Historically, only one member of a couple worked outside the home. This allowed the one that did not work outside the home care for elderly adults and kids with a special need. The fact that in today's families almost everyone works outside the home has dramatically altered the ability of a family to provide all the care dependent relatives need.

2. People are living longer and their condition often demands more professional care.

3. Kids with severe birth defects are more likely to survive today than in the past and those who live require more professional services.

4. Various governmental acts have provided guidelines that require more intensive and extensive care. We must respond appropriately and completely to these regulations.

5. Some professionals and their professional organizations have campaigned hard to spread the false notion that Peer Helpers are inept or dangerous to the health and welfare of people who need special care.

The only one of these points that we can impact is the last. research clearly shows that Peer support and Peer Care can be as effective as most Professionals. We need to get the facts out to the public and to the government agencies that make important decisions about how to best care for people with chronic needs.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Medical Costs for Kids

By this time I assume that most people know that Ohio is overextended financially. This fact has brought about the election of John Kasich as Governor and other Conservatives to the state congress. Can they solve the state's budget problems?

There has been a lot of discussion, conflict and debate over how to reduce the state budget and how to reduce taxes. The biggest costs are very hard to reduce. We need creative, innovative thinking to save big money.

One of the biggest problems facing Ohio and the entire USA is health costs especially Medicaid. Take a look at the high cost of caring for Ohio children with a serious medical condition.

Based on analysis of the 2008 Ohio Family Health Survey (OFHS) an estimated 570,000 children have special health care needs, representing 20.9% of all children aged 0-17 in Ohio.

Based on a national sample of children aged 0-17 years from the 2000 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) CSHCN accounted for 42.1% of the total health care expenditures in this age category (not including dental costs).

So, approximately 21% of children and youth suffer from a serious medical problem and they account for over twice that percentage of medical costs.

You can bet your band aid that the state is going to look for ways to reduce its portion of that cost. The usual way of cutting costs is to make medical care harder to access and to pay Doctors less. That is not a good solution.

Be Creative

If I were in office I would be asking all citizens to help me figure out ways we can give great care for sick children while eliminating waste and inefficiency.

This is where you and I come into the picture. Our research is unique because we actually went into the homes of the families with chronically disabled children and asked them what they needed to help them as an entire family. I am convinced that if we can enlist the parents, grand parents, friends and neighbors into thinking and acting on this problem we will discover many great ways to improve the quality of life of the children and lower costs.

What ideas do you have? As we continue our discussion about these issues I will make some suggestions and see what you all come up with. This approach is called, "Crowd Sourcing" and is being used by P&G as well as several other creative companies. By seeking the knowledge and wisdom of all citizens we can arrive at solutions that are creative and out of the box.

If we do nothing to change the current medical system, costs will continue to rise and overwhelm the state, the nation and the families with children. Join with Sweeten Life Systems and give us your innovative ideas.

We are launching a new ministry focus to facilitate innovative thinking about ways we can support the The Village Initiative with Parents. It takes a whole village to raise a child and it takes a whole village to bring new, less costly ways to care for sick kids.

The VIP Program will stir the pot along with concerned Parents to come up with out of the box solutions. Our approach is not to do everything FOR the parents and families but to encourage them to take the Initiative to discover better ways for themselves.

We hope that all concerned people will join us and the parents to be entrepreneurs in this area. Write your ideas in the comments section or send me an email at gary@sweeten