Do you feel hopeless? Listen to this.

In Episode 40 of the #AskSteveAustin Podcast, Steve Austin shares some encouragement from his own life for folks who feel hopeless. If you’re ready to give up, tired of running, or feel like you’re drowning, please listen to this very personal bonus episode.

Mental Health and Violence: The Truth

I cohost the CXMH Podcast, along with my friend and fellow mental health advocate, Robert Vore. This week, we've had the honor of sharing our perspective on mental health and violence with Charisma News and Relevant Magazine.

Mental Health and Violence: The Truth

“This is a mental health problem.”

Every time another tragic act of violence sweeps our country, some variation of this statement gets tossed around. In 2017 alone, there have been 385 shootings in which at least four people were injured or killed. In response, politicians and faith leaders alike shift the conversation toward mental health. Pat Robertson, for example, announced on his popular television programThe 700 Club that we need to investigate links between antidepressants and violence:

There’s got to be a thorough investigation into the effect of antidepressants … There’ve been so many of these mass killings and almost every one, as I said before, has had some nexus to antidepressants. So, we need to see what we are giving people.

The problem with statements like this? They’re wrong.

Doctors, psychiatrists and researchers have repeatedly stated there’s no evidence of a link between mental health medications and higher rates of violence.

Other statements from politicians and leaders are less specific, linking mental illness with violence and mass shootings overall. Again, the problem here is that there’s simply no basis for these claims.

The truth is, there are many people in church with you every week who are faithful followers of Christ and who also have a mental illness. People with mental illnesses are singing in your choir, teaching Sunday School, keeping your children in the nursery, sitting in the pew next to you and even preaching from your pulpits.

People with mental illness are real people with needs and burdens, as well as gifts and talents and love to offer God and church community. Most of us aren't violent. Like you, we're just looking for a safe space to lay down our burdens and find rest for our souls.

To read, "People Need to Stop Using Mental Illness as a Scapegoat for Violence," click here.

And to read our article, "Dear Church, Stop Saying Violence Is a Mental Health Problem," just click here.

For more on this very important topic, check out the latest episode of CXMH: A Podcast at the Intersection of Christianity and Mental Health.

3 Simple Ways to Start a Sabbath Practice

I am a fledgling sabbath-keeper. Though I’ve written a book about it, embraced my 52 chances per year to practice it, and have even preached it, I am a less-than-perfect sabbatarian.

And that’s OK.

But Americans think we have to be the best at everything. As my friend Rev. Elizabeth Hagan writes, “I’m a better do-er than rest-er.” Like her, we thrive on the “go big or go home” mentality. “Good enough” equates to mediocre, which is why our bookshelves are lined with tomes on mastering a craft and becoming our best selves.

I’ve spent the last two years trying to perfect the art of shabbat,or “ceasing” from labor. I researched it from both a scholarly and lay perspective; I interviewed countless clergy and a rabbi on scriptural wisdom and sabbath theology. Combining all the knowledge I gleaned, I wrote a 144-page how-to guide on keeping the fourth commandment. When For Sabbath’s Sake headed to print, I was confident I had mastered this spiritual practice.

But then it came time to talk to real-life folks about how to (realistically) keep sabbath in a noisy, 24-7 world. I had to boil down two years of research and writing into bite-sized bits of “be still” that a frenzied culture and community could digest. Nobody had time to hear me pontificate about how to “master” or “become” a sabbath keeper. In truth, I realized I hadn’t “mastered” or “become” a perfect sabbath keeper, anyway.

So instead of becoming, I decided to “be.”

I decided to invite others to catch glimpses of sabbath rest, devotional practice, and community whenever, wherever, and however they can. I call these “sabbath moments.”

We don’t have to wait for the calendar to bestow these “sabbath moments” upon us. We only need to be open to the Holy Spirit’s movement, and be willing to “see” the sacred among the ordinary. God has given us all the tools we need to catch eternity in a minute (or 15). Here’s how:

  1. Put away your phone. Research indicates that having a smartphone within sight drains your cognitive capacity. Stowing it for even 15 minutes gives you the opportunity to just sit, think, and engage your brain (and soul) in a meaning-making or thoughtful ritual.  
  2. Get more sleep. There’s no shortage of data on how sleep deprived we are. A delicious 15-minute sabbath nap can feel like an entire night’s sleep. Remember: “resting your eyes” on the couch with People magazine also counts. The point is that you lie down and relax sans screens.
  3. Talk with someone. I mean really talk—like face-to-face. When’s the last time you attended a community gathering (worship, civilian club, or activism event) and chatted with someone you knew or didn’t know well? Scientists have uncovered the correlation between increased social media use and loneliness. Being online tricks us into thinking we’re connecting in meaningful ways, but it actually leads to FOMO (fear of missing out) and the feeling of being alone.

That’s my 1, 2, 3 broad-strokes key to keeping sabbath: think, sleep, connect. Repeat.

There is a right way to observe sabbath—Jesus taught us this. Christ fought against the legal fiction that declared folks needn’t be healed or fed on the holy day. Instead, Jesus was “Lord of the Sabbath.” He worshipped, he prayed, he gathered people, and he served. Each sabbath looked a little different, but the core themes remained: rest, worship, and community.

If we follow his lead, we would be wise to try these baby-steps. Then, we just might catch a glimpse of eternity in the ordinary moment.

Think. Sleep. Connect. Repeat.

Rest. Worship. Community. Repeat.

The Rev. J. Dana Trent is an ordained Baptist clergywoman, award-winning author and World Religions faculty member at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, NC. Her work has appeared onTime.com,Religion Dispatches,Religion News ServiceThe Christian CenturyandSojournersHer second book,For Sabbath’s Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship, and Community,is available now. She loves naps with cats, vegetarian food, and teaches weight-lifting for the YMCA. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @jdanatrent on Facebook.

Interested in a deeper conversation about sabbath?

Listen to Steve and Dana on Episode 36 of The #AskSteveAustin Podcast. Just click the "play" button below:

The Day I Didn't Die

I've written extensively about the day I was supposed to die. I've told my story—the pastor who nearly died by suicide—countless times over the past several years. People are amazed, dumbfounded even, that a "man of God" could get so low that his desire for Jesus could only be equaled by his desire to end it all.

Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. So, I'm speaking up about my story once more.

People love to hear about the time Jesus showed up in that ICU room, during the days when I couldn't feel my legs. They weep when I share about how God whispered to my soul, "I'm not finished with you yet." Everyone loves a good redemption story. But what I haven't talked much about is the day I started living again—the day I didn't die.

Maybe I haven't covered the day I started living again as concisely because it isn't really a day, but a series of days. There have been 1,814 of them, to be exact. The first seven days were the hardest. Choosing to get out of that hospital bed. To take my meds as prescribed. Not to overdose again. Not to escape again. Not to run away to the grave and hide until Judgment Day.

Each day, I have to make a conscious effort to tell the truth. To go to therapy. To confess my mess. I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the church doesn't handle long-term healing very well. We don't do a great job with chronic illness. We expect people to recover from a hospital stay within a matter of weeks, because that's what we're told faith is all about.

But the truth is, I have faith. It's gritty and comes with claws, but if I didn't have faith, I would have given a long time ago.

Click here to read the rest of this brand-new story today on Charisma News.

My Struggle with Bad Theology and Mental Health

The stigma surrounding mental health is worse in the church than just about anywhere else. The church lacks education and, unfortunately, compassion when it comes to those suffering with mental illness. Lack of compassion and education is met with an abundance of dangerous theology. What you're left with is a poison that is literally killing weary travelers, seeking refuge.

Bad Theology and Mental Health

Today on The Preacher's Forum Podcast, I have the honor of sharing my story of recovery from abuse and a suicide attempt, plus my frustration with the Christian Machine that continues to pummel people in the name of God.

Click here to check out my conversation with Clint Heacock and leave your thoughts in the comments!

If there's going to be any hope for the church today, we've got to continue to have these vital conversations.

Listen now by clicking right here.