Church, Death, Depression, faith, relationship

Our Jesus

The perfection of my Father never ceases to amaze me. I’m thankful He is all knowing in the face of my ignorance. He reveals things to me when I need to know them, and if I don’t need to know them I am comfortable in knowing He knows what to do. That just made me think of an old hymn.

Needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Life is exceedingly painful, and I’m not going to say one season of life is harder than another because suffering is suffering, and when a one-up-man is at play it doesn’t serve to relieve the suffering one of pain. That’s not God’s purpose. When you read the book of Job I think you learn a powerful lesson in how we are to respond to any kind of suffering. Most of the time complete silence is order. Being present with the one who is hurting is all that is needed. Holy Spirit reveals to our hearts and minds when words need to be said. Life itself is a teacher, and our filibusters do more harm then good. We get off on some rant of what we think that person should have done in any given experience, but no one knows what they would have done until they go through it. Walk in that person’s shoes, and then if something needs to be said it will be revealed.

Listen from different angles, suspend judgement if life is not at stake, and when you can rationally discuss details then and only then should words come.

My friend Lynn got me to thinking about these things earlier in the week as we sat in her living room. Our mutual friend Landon was a our topic of conversation, and he has built a life and ministry around this very principle. He’d shy away from this kind of spotlight, but nonetheless we are two who have been transformed by his willingness to be moved the way the Spirit has moved him.

We teach each other don’t we? We move each other in the way we listen, speak and sit silently with each other because we have One who came here, and He showed us perfection in being with people.

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Death, Depression, faith, relationship, Women

An Apologetic

Today’s Jesus Calling (June 10) reminded me of a class I had in college. Doug Varnado taught a class called Christian Mind and Devotional Life for 3 hours credit, and it was during that semester that a song really came to light deeply on my heart and mind. Here are the lyrics.

I just want to be where You are dwelling daily in your presence. I don’t want to worship from afar. Draw me near to where You are.

I want to be where You are. Dwelling in your presence. Feasting at Your table. Surrounded by Your glory. In Your presence. That’s where I always want to be.

I just want to be. I just want to be with You.

cropped-cropped-mg_2841.jpgThe suffering servant is a very real reality for billions of Christians. Two of my friends are deeply suffering because their wife and mother have departed this life. An hour hasn’t passed since I found out that I have not thought about both of them. I wrote an entire post in memory of our beloved Bonnie. I went by her beautiful house, but Malcolm was out and about. I texted Malcolm III, and I posted on Facebook respectful comments of my grief for her passing. I knew Bonnie for over half my life, and her love, instruction and presence are impacting me now even in her absence.

Her absence makes my Father’s presence feel even more real, and when my Carey and my daughter were in Chicago I felt a painful void without their physical presence. We are constantly reminded that this life is to be lived by faith, but I am thankful that one day faith will be obsolete because we will gaze into the face of the One who defeated death. I have not concept of that now because I continue to “lose” people I love.

Mac, Bonnie’s husband, is an incredible provider for his family. His smile, unconditional love during the epitome of my depression inspires me now even though he may have no idea it does. I have an inkling into the pain he suffers from the loss of Bonnie from his Facebook posts, but I have no idea the pain he goes to sleep with or the pain he wakes up with without his precious lover near him in the same house.

He is not the first man to lose his wife, and there will be billions more who will experience the same thing, but the pain is real, and I do not glaze over it for anyone.

Two posts are hardly replacement for a life who impacted our eternity, but we draw comfort from the fact she is literally in the presence of our Father.

We long for that because the fallen nature of this world, and the fact that our hearts and strength fail is proof we are not here to stay.

Don’t grow too attached to what you have here, but invest in the things that remind you of God’s presence.

Scripture tells us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added.

That’s easier said, written and quoted, and sometimes impossible to practice because the pull of other things is so deafening and powerful in the face of our human strength. We are not left to our own devices because we have a Helper near and in our hearts and minds.

She/He intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express, and when I’ve been face down in pain I am given strength to rise up because of Her.

My Brother Jesus sweat drops of blood in the garden well before Prozac was discovered, and my Father, who is omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (every where all the time) and omnipotent (all powerful) is closer then the blood in my veins. Satan is not. Is he powerful? Obviously so. Turn on the television. But he is not all powerful. He was created like us, but he chose to reject the Father.

Bonnie did not, and I do not. Choose Him because He chose you (John 3.16).

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Arts, Church, Depression, faith, relationship, Story

Improv

 

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This is the room I write about in this post, but it looks silently different. The piano is in the same location. 

Crafting something from nothing has always intrigued me. The book Free Play was introduced to me a few years ago, and even though it’s premise is improv the principles can be applied outside of acting.

I’ve found a new place in the house to read and write. It’s our music room. It’s where my guitar and our piano reside. I’ve read many writing books where they tell you to write in the same place every time. This is is my second day in a row coming here, but I’ve been here several times before. I just haven’t consistently come here consecutive days. Habit and routine are important in creating. I think that’s the trouble with my muse in the context of learning to play the guitar. Kevin is divinely patient with me as I work through the blocks that prohibit me from learning, but as that fire burns within me I will not give up unless death stops me. The artist life is not for the faint, and stage fright is really only a symptom of something much deeper, in my case a life-long struggle with depression.

My dad was pastoring a church in north west Kansas in the middle of nowhere really. It was a typical mid-western Church of Christ, and though I don’t want to demonize them because they are still in existence I will write that all of us have demons to deal with. My brother Jeremy had just been born in Arkansas. It was the very early 80’s, and the church convinced my dad to move his family to Kansas. They only had enough money to pay him for a year. They did not volunteer that information. A year in he’s looking for another job. My nightmares and struggle with depression began. Somehow in the course of that experience I also became a Christian, and I remember vividly thinking that if I wasn’t baptized I’d go to Hell. I also remember growing spiritually in that same day as I stood in the shower after my baptism thinking I get to spend eternity with my Father.

The nightmare was very specific, and I remember it to this day. I was part of a concentration camp on Ellis Island constructing the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty was complete from the waist up, but we had to lift her so another work detail could finish from the waist down. We never completed her construction. There was no resolve or closure, and when I’d wake up I’d either have wet the bed, or I’d be in a cold sweat that I’ll never forget so long I don’t battle some sort of dementia. Those dreams were especially intense and repetitious when dad was gone interviewing with different churches.

My family of origin loves the arts. We always have, and my family now loves the arts even more that we shake our heads in disbelief at those who boycott Twilight and Harry Potter. Spoiler alert: Good wins over evil. Moving on.

Family is very important to me, and even though some of us argue over what a family looks like if love is shared is the main question in any relationship. God created Adam and Eve, and He created us for monogamous relationships that last a lifetime.

I shared the following with a group of people at a round table during a parenting seminar we attended led by my friend Frank Scott.

I grew up on average about 500 miles away from my grandparents. That wasn’t by design. It just was. While in Kansas mom and dad decided to record a cassette tape of a dramatic presentation similar to Lake Wobegon Days and Prairie Home Companion. We sent a copy to my dad’s parents we called ma and pa, aunt Sue and my mom’s mom grandma. Grandpa died in 1977. Grandpa was in his 30’s when he married grandma at age 15. In any case dad wrote an entire script like Garrison Keillor does for his radio broadcast that sometimes is broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium. All 6 of us had speaking parts amidst the variety show my parents concocted. I’ll never forget it. It still amazes me that they were able to do that in a very tumultuous¬†time of their lives. It was probably like a glass of wine or a good novel that gave them escape.

Even in the midst of darkness if those who believe in light turn the light on it’s amazing how God sends hope to those who don’t have it.

It’s what keeps me going.

 

 

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Death, Depression, faith, Prayer

A New Earth

img_0045Beyond sad really does describe a large part of my story. I was always saying goodbye. That’s bound to make anyone sad. I was beyond sad because clinical depression is just that. I have a disclaimer though.

You’re familiar with being happy because it happened, rather then being sad because it’s over. Parents who lose children can only be described as the worst of all possible scenarios, but suffering is suffering, and to classify suffering is not fair to those of us who suffer, and that is all of us.

We hurt. We grieve. We deny, but when we face reality we come to know that the loss is very real. Those like me who are devout believers in Jesus Christ know that He is not only familiar with our suffering, but He intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. No one can hurt for you, but when I practice empathy for a friend who is well into his 80’s who lost a brother 3 years ago I bear his burden.

When we bear the burdens of each other, and rejoice with each other when we achieve success we cross a threshold that the unbelieving world never crosses. Oh, maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to see everybody else fail. There’s nothing new under the sun, and I realize this, but most people worship comfort, and when something stretches their thinking beyond that comfort then they retreat into jealousy, anger and a mindset that refuses to participate.

God works through rich, middle class and poor. God is at work from sunrise to sunset, and when we grow paralyzed with fear God continues to work with or without us. He is not wringing His hands on a celestial throne worried sick about what Donald Trump is thinking, much less saying.

We go about our daily, weekly, monthly and yearly routines as our Father partners with us in advancing His message of love. We think we know what that looks like, but we don’t. We can, and we strive to, but we still fall short, yet He continues to press forward with us.

It’s a tension that will always be a part of this old Earth, but when the new heavens and the new Earth are created sickness and death will be done away with, and I suspect blog posts will not need to end because the author has to go to bed.

The lion will lie down with the lamb, and human beings will be perfect with a perfect Father.

Come soon LORD we pray, and our gratitude for your presence makes all the pain pale in comparison.

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Depression

#PersonifyME, Depression

tig_1068I cannot ignore this man. I do at times because I have to get sleep, and the laundry doesn’t do itself because my wand is at Olivanders. If I had to throw a football over a mountain it’d be a cold day in Hell if I did, and his annoying ability to to side-track me from productivity leaves me frustrated beyond belief. I was once selling some food storage containers, and I wanted to illustrate their toughness. I drove my van over one, but it shattered. I drove away. Driving away from him is not possible. He is constantly there smacking me in the face with someone else’s steak. I come to think I can take him with my nun chuck skills, but his tenacity keeps his losing ways tethered to my karma. I do somehow find the strength to put one foot in front of the other, and until I get my wand from Olivander the laundry is actually improving as I muggle it for the other two Gryffindors in this common area. He is my Uncle Rico and my Voldemort. Tots make it better, but chocolate frogs at Universal are better than a Patronus Charm. He is dark and black, and he lives in the past, but he can be destroyed. And he will not stop my dance in front of the whole school.

 

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Depression, faith, Story, Work

Human Worth

IMG_0235I’ve discovered the joy of laundry. When the depression flares up I get up to do laundry. It’s almost like Neosporin on a cut or aloe for a sunburn. Walking about the house gets the blood flowing, and physical movement is therapeutic.

I seriously used to hate doing laundry, but now that it pulls me “out” of depression I don’t mind it. Depression flares when a task before you is more daunting than when you force yourself to do it. No two people who fight depression have the same story, but I suspect procrastination inflames depression because you get farther down the rabbit hole. That’s never good. Hope is an ingredient that drives us to do what we do, and when the work before you is not appealing it does not grow appealing the longer you deny it’s there to complete.

Celebrating small victories like a basket of laundry is monumental for depression fighters.

Never belittle progress even if you’re the only one who experiences it. Our struggle began in small incremental doses. I’ve fought depression since at least the third grade, but it didn’t appear over night, and now all of sudden at the age of forty-four I’m in a downward spiral. Disclaimer: I’m not in a downward spiral. I was just using that as a semantic for this next thought. I was in a downward spiral in 2006, but those years have come and gone, and I’d do high school over before I’d do those years. That’s saying something.

I cannot gravel in a pit of someone’s making if I’m to build the vision I have in my head. One thing I’ve done since 2006 is never give up. I’ve made an active choice in healing from the ailments in my mind, and that active choice is made my millions as we all strive to build a life worth living. I can easily see why some conclude to end it, but then it is no longer he or she living in that shell of a person who used to be there. Suicide is a very real threat for many, and to be flippant about any kind of mental illness is ignorant. You have no clue what any one person is up against, so when you are able look a person in the eye and smile. You might not just give that individual hope, but you might be saving a life.

This battle we are up against with PTSD, depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder has room for every human being from babies to 100. We are called to different people, mediums and organizations, but the message is the same. You are important.

We love you, need you, care deeply about you, and no matter what you’ve done in life those things will always be true.

There’s nothing more important than a human being.

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Death, Depression, faith, relationship, Story

Checks and Balances

I’ve been contemplating the system of checks and balances that are in place on this global village. It becomes even smaller as I zero in on this city, but it enlarges when I see the reach my circle of influence connects. I begin with myself circa 2006.

I’m a bulk merchandiser with a Coca-Cola bottling company that has a franchise here in Nashville. I’m already on probation, and I’m about to finish with a big box retailer to head to another to merchandise Coca-Cola products on the shelves. I’ve been working since 4am. It’s 7am. An employee at the first stop rudely tells me we have “product” on a certain aisle. I go over to check it out. It’s not our liquid. I communicate this to the employee, but he tells me I have to clean it up anyway. I asked him why he had to be such an asshole. He threatens me, says he’s going to contact my boss, but there are no fisticuffs. I knew I was about to be fired. I quit before that could happen. I called all the appropriate people, and I returned my company van to the plant.

wpid-1372726029.jpgCalling my wife Carey was the next thing I had to do, and that was the beginning of the hardest check and balance I’ve ever had to live through. I’m still reeling from it. Coming clean with my sin has always been the best protocol for what ails me. I’m fond of saying that I don’t stand to fall before anyone but God, and though that is true I still have to live with consequences that my actions create. That’s part of what the system of checks and balances creates in our world because if there were none we’d have anarchy. That’s why Romans talks about obeying the laws of the land, and why there is somewhat of an order to things in place that keep every last one of us accountable to each other.

When a human being refuses to take responsibility for his or her actions they not only hurt others, but they choose to die a slow agonizing “death” that eventually will lead to a real death. If God is God then there is a right and a wrong, and the things expounded about in the Bible are true, and if we choose to do what we want then consequences will follow. There are many gray areas of life such that Paul dealt with in meat sacrificed to idols, but tension is nothing new for the things we face under the sun. Again, check and balances are essential in our walk some 80 years on this Earth. What has been will be again, and mankind will always need rest, food, shelter, clothing, love and safety. There’s a reason God created Adam and Eve. There’s a reason God continues to pursue us all where we are in life. God brings the people together He wants together at the times He has prescribed for us to be together, and though this might sound like reformed thinking it’s anything but because you cannot argue that God knows in advance what will happen before it happens.

The power of checks and balances isn’t that someone on high in human endeavors wields power for those of us peons below. The power is in the fact that we who are “strong” protect those who are weak, and in my case at the bottling company that we care for those who are sick.

Caring for each other has never been easy because if it was everyone would do it. They do not. Nurses are continually needed, and people want a paycheck without having to work. If you aren’t willing to show up when people need you to show up then don’t expect someone else to show up when you need them. Checks and balances. Matthew 7.12 isn’t just called the Golden Rule because some pastor or theologian decided it was a cool thing to call it. No, it’s called the Golden Rule because when we do to others what we’d have done to us we practice the very essence of what it means to be created in image of God.

John has quite the essay on the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. They know each other so well that they long for us to share with each other that kind of knowing. No wonder angels long to look into the ways of humans.

My depression hit rock bottom working for that bottling company. I could not endure one more day in that miserable job. I ripped my wife away from our 2 year old daughter as a stay-at-home mom. It crushed her spirit, and I’m still making up for that right or wrong. God says we are to forgive our enemies 70×7, and though that looks real grand on the written page of an English translation sometimes it seems hard as hell to practice. Before you throw that passage around like a baseball meditate on the context of the situation you want to use it in. Use your frontal lobe to exercise restraint when you want to vomit truth all over someone. You might be right, but being right is what the Pharisees honored above a more loving response. There’s nothing wrong with silence in the presence of someone who is deeply hurting. Do you think God is not communicating in silence? There will always be time for sharing our insight and wisdom, but be oh so careful when you do.

That’s when Job’s friends got into trouble. They had sat with Job for days, maybe weeks or months until anyone said a word.

God is not wringing His hands in desperation if you show up and give someone a hug. You have permission to sit in silence at Starbucks with someone until she is ready to open up.

Love is a complicated fruit of the Spirit, but if we cannot sit still long enough for the Spirit to communicate appropriate action or speech then we might as well worship anarchy.

Checks and balances is not a holy grail. It encompasses the Golden Rule, genuine desire for another’s well being, and a refusal to let evil have the last word.

Last time I checked in Revelation it says that good wins over evil.

I like that.

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