Mar 29

Lent, week 6: Overlooked [with bulletin insert download]

“Are these all the sons you have?”

–Samuel to Jesse, in 1 Samuel 16:11

Despite the instruction that Samuel has from God to disregard the outward appearance of the sons of Jesse, he easily defaults into the cultural expectations and prejudices of his day. Eliab was the first son to pass by Samuel and God speaks to him:

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

-1 Samuel 16:7

Seven sons pass before Samuel, each time getting the big “NOPE!” from God. Eventually, the youngest son—not even originally called upon to meet with the prophet—is sent for. David had been overlooked by his Father, but not by God. The amazing thing about God and God’s Kingdom is that those things which the world esteems mean very little in his economy. God enjoys using those of us that are not outwardly impressive, the often overlooked, to accomplish his purposes.

We each have a purpose and a value to God. God’s love has called us, and his voice gives us confidence to step forward and do what God asks. But what of our struggles and difficulties in the past? Well, sometimes the hardships we have gone through are redeemed by God in miraculous ways. The most empathetic, insightful and kind people among us are often those that have survived traumatic experiences and have come through these with well-earned wisdom and grace.

These are the “masks” some of our children in residence shared with me

God takes our hurt and brings healing—sometimes only making that healing complete as we reach out to others who are suffering. The gentle way a “wounded healer” approaches others in difficult circumstances shows God’s mercy in the midst of suffering. Don’t overlook how God might use your past to gain insight into the present and give others hope in the future.

Intermountain brings hope and healing through healthy relationships. You can find out more about Intermountain’s mission by visiting us online at If you would like to inquire about our services or want to support the ministry, please call us at 406-442-7920.

If you would like to share this article as a bulletin insert, please click the link below:

Mar 22

Lent, week 5: Watch for morning [with bulletin insert download]

My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning!

–Psalm 130:6

“This, too, shall pass.” Whatever the crisis is at the moment, we can be assured that God is with us and there is hope that, however difficult the situation… “this, too, shall pass.”

This is even true in the gut-wrenching moments, life-and-death moments, being cursed at and screamed at by someone you love moments—as many who care for trauma-affected children have experienced. In these moments we pray to make it through the day—or through the night. Hope comes in our goal to simply see another sunrise.

This is what it is to be like a watchman, anxious throughout the night, waiting expectantly for the morning. The writer of this psalm was in a similarly difficult and stressful situation, as the opening lines read:

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

-Psalm 130:1-2

He pleads for the Lord to listen, to know that his prayers are being heard from the depths… a place of sorrow. We have all experienced a measure of sorrow, hurt, and trauma. If you are reading this now—you are a survivor. The dark night passed and the morning came, eventually.

We learn in these moments the power of compassion, supportive community, and hope that things can and will be better in the days ahead. If you need that encouragement today, seek out someone that has been through their own dark nights, crying out to God. If that’s not your situation at the moment, look for those that you can encourage as you express grace and understanding.

Intermountain has served as a place where children, youth, and adults can find hope and healing for 114 years—standing beside them in those dark times when life is hard.

You can find out more about Intermountain’s mission by visiting If you would like to inquire about our services or want to support the ministry, please call us at 406-442-7920.

If you want to share this article, click the link below for a bulletin insert:

Mar 15

Lent, week 4: The Valley [with bulletin insert download]

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

–Psalm 23:4 (RSV)

Too many individuals have known the reality of being in the “valley of the shadow of death.” Survivors of trauma—especially that experienced in childhood—can feel the effects years later.  Having been brought through that valley experience, the shadow of death is still cast on their hearts and minds.

This is attested to by the original ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) study conducted nearly thirty years ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente focused on how traumatic childhood events may negatively affect adult health. The 17,000 participants surveyed were asked about their experiences with childhood maltreatment, family dysfunction, and current health status and behaviors. The ACE study found a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, incarceration, and employment challenges. (You can learn more at

Thankfully, our Good Shepherd can bring healing and restoration that builds future resilience in the midst of difficulties and stress. Some trauma survivors express joy at knowing that they can be the type of adult that they needed as a child, helping the next generation to grow up healthy and happy.

The promise that “I shall not want” is not a promise that there will be nothing that will cause anxiety—the rest of the psalm would be ridiculous if this were the meaning! What we will never “want” for is the comfort of knowing that we don’t go through life’s hardships alone. Find others who can support you in the days ahead and find others you can support as well. Reach out to Intermountain to see if we can help with telehealth options or suggest a referral to a trauma-sensitive provider near you.

If you would like to learn more about our services or want to support this important ministry, please call us at 406-442-7920.

If you would like to share this article with others as a bulletin insert, please click the link below:

If you would like to encourage your church members to consider a special gift in honor or memory of a loved one this Easter, please download this bulletin insert:

Mar 08

Lent, week 3: Anticipation VS Anxiety [with bulletin insert download]

“It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.”

–Isaiah 65:24

Anticipation can easily turn into anxiety. Consider these words from Meriwether Lewis, written in his journal on May 26, 1805, as the “Corps of Discovery” expedition first glimpsed the mighty Rocky Mountains in the west:

while I viewed these mountains I felt a secret pleasure in finding myself so near the head of the heretofore conceived boundless Missouri; but when I reflected on the difficulties which this snowey barrier would most probably throw in my way to the Pacific, and the sufferings and hardships of myself and party in them, it in some measure counterballanced the joy I had felt in the first moments in which I gazed on them; but as I have always held it a crime to anticipate evils I will believe it a good comfortable road untill I am compelled to beleive differently.

Anticipation of the future and the unknown—whether minutes from now or in decades to come—can cause anxiety. It is important to realize that not all anxiety is created equal. For the developing brain of a child from trauma—a brain bathed in toxic stress hormones—the “default setting” for anxiety will be radically different than others who did not have that stress as a child. Anti-anxiety medications are no more a sign of moral weakness for these individuals than a paralyzed woman is “weak” for using a wheelchair!

When seeking to embrace anticipation and avoid anxiety, it does help to renew our minds and train our thoughts to rest in the character of a loving God—a God that awaits us in a glorious future like the one Isaiah describes AND walks with us through the uncertainty of our present days to guide us. Whether joyful anticipation or fearful anxiety is more common in our life experience up to this point, we can endeavor to lean more into the truth that God is always with us. God’s love and care will sustain us.

At Intermountain, we bring hope through healing relationships. We walk with those who are seeking better days ahead and are looking for hope in the present. If you would like to learn more about our services or want to support this important ministry, please call us at 406-442-7920.

To download this article as a bulletin insert, click the link below:

If you would like to encourage your church members to consider a special gift in honor or memory of a loved one this Easter, please download this bulletin insert:

Feb 28

Lent, week 2: Obedience [with bulletin insert download]

Although he was a son, [Jesus] learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. —Hebrews 5:8-9 (ESV)

Obedience is a tough word for anyone affected by trauma. Abusive relationships often demand obedience. Great physical, psychological, and relational harm has been done under the guise of obedience. So what do we make of passages like this one from the book of Hebrews?

The connection between suffering and obedience in the context of Jesus’ perfection as our Savior is a delicate subject, so the desire to simply avoid it is understandable. However, a trauma-informed approach to ministry doesn’t shy away from the hard things—those things that might trigger a strong emotional or physical response from those who are trauma-affected. A trauma-informed ministry instead recognizes the responses that the trauma-affected might have to difficult subjects like obedience and suffering and works to avoid retraumatization.

Prayerfully preparing for teaching, preaching, or discussing these subjects in humility is a necessary first step. In addition, when we understand that certain difficult subjects trigger us on a neurological, emotional and physical level, we can reframe the interpretation of behaviors we might otherwise perceive as impulsive, reactionary, or suggestive of moral failing. Knowing our predisposition to react in a certain way to subjects like “obedience” equips us to respond differently.

When we understand our triggers, we gain the ability to choose a different reaction through careful practice in a safe and supportive environment. This knowledge is empowering and allows us to gain a sense of agency. We can have conversations around the hard teachings of scripture without shutting down or withdrawing, and the Spirit can bring healing and wholeness.

Intermountain’s developmental-relational method of bringing healing through healthy relationships is reflected in trauma-informed principles such as these. If you are interested in the intersection between the science of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), trauma, and faith, make sure you and your congregation are receiving Intermountain’s monthly emails to our ministry partners—“Intermountain Moments”—and reach out to 406-442-7920 to support this vital ministry.

Click HERE to download this article as a bulletin insert:

If you would like to encourage your church members to consider a special gift in honor or memory of a loved one this Easter, please download this bulletin insert:

Feb 22

Lent Week 1: Stumbling (with bulletin insert download)

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea!” (Matthew 18:6)

In the midst of a discussion about privilege and position in the coming Kingdom of God, Jesus corrects his disciple’s misconceptions about heavenly priorities. The lowliness and vulnerability of a child is elevated as a spiritual benefit rather than a liability. Furthermore, Jesus has a stern warning for those that injure or harm the children in their homes and communities.

It is with a measure of sadness that we read that “things” must come that cause children and “people to stumble.” Those who cause others to stumble will experience both grief and regret. Perhaps their grief comes from perpetuating a cycle of trauma or abuse that they themselves were caught in as a victim? The regret comes from understanding that they could have interrupted that cycle, but did not.

Certainly, “stumbling” in this passage is a metaphor for any sort of difficulty, but especially that which interferes with a person’s relationship with God. Far too often the harm done to children early in life does cause them to “stumble.” Finding the love, peace, and security they long for is made very difficult as trust within relationships is broken. The impact of trauma in the life of a child is more profound, in most cases, than that endured by an adult. This is because of the relative helplessness and dependency a child has on others for basic aspects of survival. This increases the life-threatening nature of toxic stress for a child. Perhaps this is why Jesus was so adamant that causing a child to “stumble” was a very grievous sin.

Perhaps you are one of those children? Perhaps you know one of these children—now grown up—that was caused to stumble. Intermountain exists to serve the needs of both adults and children. New clients are now being accepted for our supported telehealth program. Supported telehealth combines the convenience of telehealth with the relationship-based approach of all Intermountain services. If you would like to learn more about this or any of our other services, please call us at 406-442-7920.

Download this message as a bulletin insert:

If you would like to encourage your church members to consider a special gift in honor or memory of a loved one this Easter, please download this bulletin insert:

Feb 15

Coming soon… Ash Wednesday [bulletin insert download]

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (Joel 2:13)

Ash Wednesday provides us with an opportunity to examine where we are spiritually and relationally, where we have placed our priorities, and what adjustments we might need to make in the future.

Today’s  liturgy draws our attention to the book of Joel. The prophet Joel called on God’s people to return to the Lord in the midst of a national emergency—the coming Babylonian captivity. Not only were the Babylonians a concern, but locusts had destroyed their grain and their wine grapes making it hard for them to keep up with the proper worship of God at the Temple. So, how are they to return to God if the means of worship have been wrenched away from them… the tools of their religious practice made unavailable? What was God really asking of them?

God wanted their hearts. He wanted relationship, not mere religious observance. When we make our relationship with God a religious transaction we are in danger of missing the greatest gift God has to give us: God’s own presence in us! God’s love and acceptance is freely offered, not earned because of our religious activity.

Those who come to Intermountain find that there is healing and hope available within the context of healthy relationships. Whether in residential or out-patient services, in a school setting or adult tele-health counseling, clients are asked to examine where they are in their relationships and where they want to be. They find acceptance, guidance, and healing through healthy relationships.

Call 406-457-4804 to learn more about supporting the work of Intermountain, such as becoming a monthly “Caring Friend” donor, or making a special gift at Easter to honor a loved one.


Rev. Dr. Chris Haughee, Church Liaison

Click the link below for a downloadable bulletin insert of this message:

If you would like to encourage your church members to consider a special gift in honor or memory of a loved one this Easter, please download this bulletin insert:

Feb 07

FREE Materials for Lent (Year A)

It is always our hope at Intermountain that we can provide our faith-based supporters–specifically the churches of our supporting denominations–with insights we have gained from our work with the children and families of Intermountain. We also want to help support your ministries in any way we can, providing materials that support your preparation for worship and aid in your outreach and support to families in your community.

To that end, Rev. Sami Pack-Toner, our chaplain for Residential Services and Rev. Dr. Chris Haughee, our church relations liaison, have created a number of free materials for you to use this Lenten season. We hope they are a blessing to you, save you a little time in preparation, and help connect your people to the heart of Intermountain’s mission and ministry–bringing healing and hope through healthy relationships!

Here are the links to the various downloads:

You may also want to bookmark this page, because for each week of Lent–starting with a special Ash Wednesday message–there will be a short article drawn from Chris’ trauma-informed Lenten devotional book, Traumatic Triumph, formatted as a bulletin insert. You are welcome to take those weekly messages for Lent as use them in e-newsletters, on social media, or distribute them in worship as additions to your bulletin materials.

Here are the first two weeks’ worth of inserts a little early:

Oct 11

Intermountain Kids’ 2022 Advent Candle Lighting liturgy

Looking for a kid-friendly way to connect your families to the mission of Intermountain during this coming Advent season? These FREE materials from the children in our Residential program ( are a wonderful way to draw awareness and feel united to the celebrations happening on campus under the guidance of Rev. Sami Pack-Toner, chaplain.

She worked with the children to design the PowerPoint ready slides and images, and the children did a wonderful job of coloring the candles for the presentation. If you decide to take an Advent offering for Intermountain and are going to use these slides, would you let us know? It is always wonderful to hear back from our ministry partners and to feel that connection to your wonderful work and ministries, as well.

Sami can be reached at samit -at- and Chris can be reached at chrish -at-

Here are the materials:

Sep 27

“Fully Present,” a FREE Advent curriculum for churches is now available!

Last year, Chris reached out to Chaplain Sami and said, “I’ve done Object Lessons for Advent in the past, but how about we write a whole Sunday School or Children’s Activity Time curriculum complete with songs, games, suggested crafts, and snacks?” And, Sami said, “Yes!” And with that conversation, our first comprehensive Advent curriculum, “Our Watchful Waiting,” based on the lectionary passages for Year C (Advent), was born. So this year we follow that successful endeavor by approaching the passages highlighted in Year A for Advent with the theme, “Fully Present.” If you didn’t see last year’s materials, here’s how each lesson is broken down:

The worship/liturgical element is mentioned first, before the lesson, but mainly for reference as to what could be done to tie worship and education together for the children. If you want to simply make these a part of your classroom or children’s education department, that is also an option! The idea is to suggest something fun that will engage the imagination.

The object lesson leads each week, mentioning what needs to be gathered and a suggested script for presentation. This time concludes with a prayer.

A game or activity which builds on the theme introduced in the object lesson follows.

Next comes a song… We’ve looked for songs and lyrics available on YouTube that make them easy to learn. If you are looking to put together a simple Christmas Eve pageant, these songs would be a great addition!

After the song, a snack… also connected to the day’s theme.

Finally, a craft… again, related to the lesson and not too complicated or involved so getting supplies won’t break the budget.

A checklist of sorts has been added to the beginning of this curriculum that will help you think about how you can create a trauma-sensitive environment that will be inclusive of children with special needs related to mental, emotional, and relational wellbeing. The Advent and Christmas season can be especially stressful, and the checklist may just help you as much as the children!

There is a tie-in to Intermountain’s Change for Children program, which involves getting collection cans to send home with the children to gather loose change throughout the season. We hope you will consider participating and sharing the mission of Intermountain with your children and families this Advent.

Change for Children is a great way to reinforce the values of charity and compassion during a season where the world will be encouraging your children to be thinking primarily about themselves and what they want for Christmas. We have cans and prayer cards, as well as a “Coordinator’s Instruction Sheet,” should you choose to bless the children of Intermountain by participating in Change for Children. Let us know what you need and we’ll be happy to send it out to you!

With our sincere appreciation,

The Development Team at Intermountain

500 S. Lamborn Street; Helena, MT 59601   /  phone: 406-457-4804

Chaplain Sami’s email:  and Rev. Chris’ email:

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