THE LANGUAGE OF DEPRESSION

There is a character in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible that understands me. He experienced deep grief, severe depression, dark despair, and a crisis of faith. My loss has no comparison to his, but he uses the language of my pain.

Last week I wrote about Job’s (pronounced “Joe-b”) grief. Today I want to focus on his language of what is now called “complicated grief” and severe depression.Image result for job in the bible

First, let me highlight the similarities of and differences between grief and depression. Both include intense sadness, insomnia, poor appetite, and weight loss. Complicated grief often includes anger, irritability, difficulty with acceptance of the loss, and excessive focus on or complete avoidance of the object of their pain.

Depression, however, differs in that it does not dissipate with time and is not relieved when surrounded by friends and family. Depression is persistent. Grief occurs in cycles of intensity and is often triggered by memories and reminders. Depression is constant. Pervasive.

Depression also includes guilt not associated with grief. Suicidal ideations apart from thoughts of wanting to join the deceased. Feelings of worthlessness. Interruptions in or difficulties with activities of daily living.

Job had both the characteristics of complicated grief and severe depression. Hear him speak.

“May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived.’” Job’s mood was so depressed that he wished he had not been born. He goes on to say he wished the day of his birth would turn to “darkness” and “no light shine on it.” He doesn’t want his birthday celebrated. He would rather it be wiped off the calendar never to come again.

In his depression he wishes his days could be shortened because they “end without hope.” He feels like his “eyes will never see happiness again.”

Severe depression robs the light, the sparkle from your eyes. Recently, my son bemoaned the fact that I was not there for him during his growing years. He is right. My body was there, but my spirit was, at best, on life support. I spent all my energy going to work and trying to stay alive. When I got home I had nothing left to give.

More than once Job’s testy mood is demonstrated by lashing out at his friends with sarcasm. “Doubtless you are the only people who matter, and wisdom will die with you!” he says. Sadness, emptiness, hopelessness dogged his days.

Job speaks the words of a depressed mood: gloom, clouds, blackness, barren, cursed, vain, trouble. He speaks my language.

“I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone; my days have no meaning,” Job utters. All interest in life is gone. Pleasure is but an allusion to him. His days are spent with pain in body and spirit. His days go by, “without a glimpse of joy.” For Job, life has become a withering flower and a passing shadow. What time remains will be “full of trouble.”

There is no purpose in living. All is sorrow. What joy, what pleasure, what happiness may be present is hidden beneath the anguish of his pain.

My father shattered his left hand and forearm and broke his back in an accident in 1981. He was 55. His injuries were so severe that he was forced to retire on disability. It broke him. For the next year he sat in a chair thinking that life was over. He eventually recovered his spirit. But from time to time he would say, “Son, do you know how much money I’d be making if I was still working?” Part of the life he loved was dead. And years later he still mourned its passing.

Job speaks the language of a man who has lost interest or pleasure in life and in life’s activities. He speaks my language.    

For Job the days are long and his nights are longer, “How long before I get up? The night drags on and I toss and turn until dawn.” Insomnia robs him of the rest he needs to cope and recover. There is no comfort to be found in his bed. What little sleep he gets is troubled by frightening dreams and terrifying visions.

I suppose I have expressed about every emotion in my sleep – fear, anger, sadness, joy . . . I have cried. Laughed. Kicked. Punched. Preached. Screamed. Pled for help. Defended. Been aggressive. Just this past week my wife had to wake me because I was fighting in my sleep. At times my family can be quite entertained by my night-time antics. At other times it is frightening and dangerous.

Job speaks the language of a man with insomnia. “My face is red with weeping; dark shadows ring my eyes.” He speaks my language.

“I am guilty – woe is me! . . . I cannot lift my head, for I am full of shame.” Feelings of worthlessness and guilt burden the spirit of Job. “When I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness. The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me.”

Guilt can actually be a good thing. But this is not the beneficial kind of guilt. It is excessive. Inappropriate. Self-loathing.

Job speaks the language of a man tortured by the pangs of guilt and the sting of shame. “My days are past; my plans are shattered.” He speaks my language. 

Fatigue and loss of energy have taken their toll on Job. “What strength do I have, that I should still hope?”

Job speaks the language of a man robbed of his vigor and struggling in the morass of exhaustion. “My life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest.” He speaks my language. 

“Yet the desires of my heart turn night into day; in the face of the darkness light is near.” Somewhere in the depths of complicated grief and severe depression, a candle of hope is still burning in the soul of Job.

If it were not for hope, I could never walk in my shoes through the many precipices of recurring clinical depression. Hope keeps me alive.

Job speaks the language of a man with hope. However dim. However small. Hope shines. He speaks my language.

(Next week I will write about The Language of Despair.)

Thank you for reading

The LORD be with you.

Jay

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THE LANGUAGE OF THE GRIEVING

There is a character in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible that understands me. He experienced deep grief, severe depression, dark despair, and a crisis of faith. My loss has no comparison to his, but he uses the language of my pain.

I know I have read the book of Job (pronounced “Joe-b”) multiple times during the 44 years I have been a Jesus follower. And I am certain that I have read it several more times as a whole since my depression went clinical in 1999. But, my most recent reading that ended a few weeks ago left the most profound influence on me.

I was struck by the deep grief he experienced at the loss of his children, possessions, and prestige.Image result for Job in the bible

One day a servant breathlessly ran toward Job and announced that all his oxen and donkeys were stolen and the farmers attending them killed. While he was yet speaking another servant rushed in with a declaration that all Job’s sheep and shepherds were destroyed in a fire. Standing in line was a third servant proclaiming that his camels were taken and his camelestrians slain. Finally, a fourth came and announced the worst news of all. Job’s five children were dead as a result of the collapsed structure they were in. A mighty wind off the desert was the cause.

In the time it took for four men to report their tragic tales to Job, he went from being the wealthiest man in his community to the poorest. The most respected citizen to the most ridiculed. And from a happy father to a one in great mourning.

In this pathetic state Job was further afflicted “with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.” Our minds can barely fathom the catastrophic emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical crisis such events would cause. Job describes the events as “dreadful” and expresses his “anguish of spirit” and “bitterness of soul.”

Although most of us have never and will never experience this kind of tragic devastation, we have all lost. Loved ones have died. Careers have ended. Marriages have dissolved. Dreams have been crushed. Health has ebbed away.

Personally, I went from respect to disdain. A comfortable living to abject poverty. A healthy savings to literally, not figuratively, literally not having two pennies to rub together. A house full of possessions to fitting everything that was left into a 2000 Ford Mustang convertible.  My marriage dissolved. I went to jail. Gone! It was all gone.

Job speaks the language of the grieving. Dreadful. Anguish of spirit. Bitterness of soul. He spoke my language.

Beyond this, Job lost his standing in the community. He cried, “People open their mouths to jeer at me.” He was treated with “scorn.” Citizens used to “step aside” when they saw him. They “rose to their feet” when he passed. Listened when he spoke. Commended him for his gracious work among the poor. But now he is “mocked.” “Disdained.” He has become a “byword.” Residents “keep their distance” and “spit” in his face. Society has decided “no one can help him.”

Do you know how embarrassing it is for an educated man with two master’s degrees to have to ask for food stamps and shop at a food bank? How humiliating it is to need medical assistance with no means to pay? How devastating it is to beg for a job at minimum wage? How degrading it is to have to take a driving test because you have been hospitalized in a psychiatric unit? How lonely you are? Hiding your illness because people do not understand mental health.

Job mourns for the loss of what he was. His verbs become past tense as he recounts the loss of dreams, peace, influence, authority, reputation, and standing. “I was.” “I thought.” “I had.”  We that have experienced the loss of reputation as a result of our mental illness grieve. Like Job we fear that we will never be at peace again. We will never be the people we were. Listen to our cry for understanding when we join in chorus with Job, “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity.”

Job speaks the language of the grieving. Tormented. Crushed. Reproached. Attacked. Humiliated. Alienated. Estranged. Forgotten. Scorned. Ridiculed. Detested. Loathed. He spoke my language.

Job groaned within at the loss of his children, possessions, and prestige. Then he lost his friends. I noticed the narrative of Job’s “comforters” went from identification – they sat in silence with him for seven days and nights. To gentle persuasion and reason. Then increasingly hostile until their speech is filled with personal attacks. Job is accused of pride, godlessness, ill-gotten gain, oppression of the poor, covetousness, wickedness, thievery, and selfishness.

The quickest way to silence someone is to attack their integrity. Going personal destroys. Like an exploding bomb filled with deadly shrapnel it maims, cripples, and kills. Rarely is there an effective way to defend against it. Job begs his accusers to “reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.” Undeterred they press on.

Tell me, how do you repent for an illness? How do you ask forgiveness for a disease? How do you confess something over which you had no control?

Job speaks the language of the grieving. “You are miserable comforters.” “Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune.” “How can you console me with your nonsense?” “Mock on.” He spoke my language.

Sprinkled throughout Job’s tears of profound grief are glimmers of hope. Faith is still present as he declares, “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.” Hope revives in the midst of his pain as he shouts, “I know that my redeemer lives . . . and in my flesh I will see God.”

Job speaks the language of hope. Faith and hope live on. He spoke my language.

(Next week I will write about The Language of the Depressed.)

Thank you for reading.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

THE KAVANAUGH SAGA: SOME OBSERVATIONS

This first paragraph is a disclaimer. If you expect me to be partisan. Take one side or the other. Castigate either Judge Kavanaugh, Dr. Ford, or any of the other players. Or draw a conclusion. You will be sorely disappointed. With that, I will proceed.

I’m a political junky. My first remembrance of being involved in politics is when my dad took me to watch the returns come in at the Democratic election headquarters at the YWCA in my home town. I was about six or seven. I’ve been hooked ever since.

I watched the entire testimonies of Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. Read and listened to the news. Read Facebook posts and Tweeter feeds. The following are my observations.

Image result for kavanaugh ford

  • THE TRUTH DOESN’T MATTER

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats were interested in hearing the truth or getting at the truth.

The Republicans spent their allotted time trying to punch holes in Dr. Ford’s testimony. Does taking a plane ride and then not taking a plane ride really determine a person’s credibility? Is a 15-year-old really expected to know dates, addresses, names, and how to get from one place to another in metropolitan Washington D.C.? None of the questions were meant to discover truth. They were meant to trip up Dr. Ford.

The Democrats spent their time asking for an FBI investigation. They didn’t seem to care that Judge Kavanaugh had a detailed calendar of events for the summer of 1982. They dismissed that no one mentioned by Dr. Ford could collaborate the details of her story. The script was clear – hammer the FBI investigation into the ground.

No one appeared to care a whip-stitch about the truth. What a pity!

TRUTH IS DEAD.

  • DR. FORD WAS CLEARLY TRAUMATIZED BY SOMEONE SOMEWHERE

My impression of Dr. Ford was that she was a trauma survivor. She showed the signs of a person that had been threatened or harmed with death or serious injury. Her demeanor was one of fear. Two front doors on her house was evidence enough for me that she experiences serious anxiety issues. The effort it takes for her to get on a plane was another sign.

Dr. Ford is a trauma survivor.

TRAUMA IS REAL.

  • PEOPLE ARE VERY IGNORANT ABOUT TRAUMA

“Is the woman still traumatized after 35 years? I’m sure she isn’t,” wrote one of my Facebook friends. It demonstrates his lack of understanding of the nature of trauma.

Ask a World War II, Korean War, or Vietnam combat veteran if they still have nightmares after more than 35 years. Jump at certain sounds. Get edgy if someone walks up on them suddenly and unexpectedly.

Ask a rape survivor if they are still cautious after 35 years.

Ask someone who has had a near death experience at the hands of a violent person if they still break out in sweats at night after 35 years.

I am well acquainted with a woman who was molested as a child. It happened nearly 50 years ago. To this day she is apprehensive when she’s around men, especially if they are unknown to her. She continues to have an exaggerated startle reflex. Yes, after more than 35 years, she is still traumatized.

You don’t “just get over” trauma. For some it is a lifetime journey.

THE EFFECTS OF TRAUMA LAST A LONG TIME

  • PEOPLE ARE VERY IGNORANT ABOUT BLACKOUTS

According to the Student Health Services website (Accredited by Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, INC.) a person can slur their words. Stagger. And be belligerent and aggressive. Without having a blackout from alcohol consumption.

According to their alcohol consumption calculator. A 200-pound man would have to consume. Eight 12-ounce beers with 4.5% alcohol content. In a one-hour period. Before getting into danger of a blackout.

This would give him a blood alcohol level of 0.14 to 0.17 (The legal limit for drunk driving is 0.08.) At this point a person “may experience a blackout.”

Judge Kavanaugh drank too much as a teen and young adult. But it is plausible that he did not consume enough alcohol to have a blackout.

Slurred words. Staggering. And hostility. Do not equal a blackout.

DRUNK ≠ BLACKOUT.

  • PEOPLE HAVE CHOSEN SIDES WITH VERY LITTLE EVIDENCE

One post came across my Facebook page saying, “Please pray for Judge Kavanaugh and his family!” I responded by saying we should pray for Dr. Ford as well and gave a few reasons why. The originator of the post took it down. Apparently, there is no compassion for people who threaten to topple your champion.

I have been very disappointed with my conservative and evangelical friends for their lack of empathy toward Dr. Ford and their ready willingness to tear her down in order to advance their agenda. I think I read somewhere that someone said, “Love your enemies.”

The left is no better. They are willing to judge a man on an accusation. Not because he is clearly guilty, but because he doesn’t represent their point of view.

Slay anyone who gets in your way. And to hell with my Christian faith and the evidence.

MY AGENDA IS ALL IMPORTANT AND PEOPLE BE DAMNED.

Oh, my friend, we need desperately to REPENT. And return to CIVILITY.

 

Thank you for reading.

The Lord be with you.

Jay

LETTERS FROM JAIL #12

Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.letters from jail 6

Started July 8, 2013

Dear _____

It’s my birthday. ♪ It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to . . . ♫

I trust you are doing well.

Because of the holiday our mail is backed up in the front office. They check all our mail coming in. It will all be back to normal by Wednesday, I guess.

The guys have settled down. There have been no incidents the past couple of days. The whole thing reminded me of what I used to tell the teenage foster kids I counseled, “Temper tantrums were cute when you were two. But they have ceased to be funny a long time ago. Now. They’re just pathetic.”

I guess you’re not supposed to intervene or comment. But I said I hoped the 4:00 AM drama was over. I was angry. They disturbed my morning routine. Hey, if they’re all afraid of the “crazy dude,” (what they call me) I may as well use it for some good. LOL!

K____n is an African-American man that’s been here for 22 months. He’s spiritually minded. (Although he flirts with all the females.) He showed me his baptismal certificate last night. He was baptized in jail. I also noticed he took a Bible study correspondence course. He asks me questions from time to time about spiritual things. He appears to really care.

One of the guys wanted me to preach the other night. I’m not sure I am ready for a “sermon-on-demand.” (“Now, let us look to the word of God today. It is like an artesian well ever flowing with words of comfort for this occasion.” That used to be the introduction to my funeral sermon. But I had so many funerals in that small town that I had to get another funeral sermon or two. Everyone in town had heard the first one.) But, K____h has shown some interest.

We watched the “Walking Dead” marathon on AMC over the weekend. It can be an interesting series. But gory. The guys watch movies, sports, BET, and anything that has sexy women on it. I take off my glasses, turn my back, and pray or think. K____h likes wrestling. They also watched the four “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. And flip. Flip. Flip during commercials.

During pop call I bought chocolate milk for myself and a bag of corn chips to pass around. That was my birthday party.

I wrote my brother. He sends a card about every 10 days. When he was in prison he was really faithful about sending cards and letters. He compares my time to his – although 20 years to one is no real comparison.

There are always a few short timers that come and go.

I imagine you had a lot of clashing feelings on your birthday yesterday. Celebrating with your friends. Mourning the loss of a unique birthday tradition because of your loss. Trying to help a friend that’s shut-in (How’s that for a euphemism?) on his birthday. Remembering your loss on this day of the week several months ago. I’m sure you handle it all with grace on the outside. Although you feel the conflict between joy and pain on the inside. You are in my thoughts. I appreciate you being strong for others and me. But, you need to take time to cry. It’s okay.

July 9, 2013

I received your cards and letters today. I love the funny card. Laugh or cry. You’ve got to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh.

I’ve been thinking about my divorce proceedings. It reminded me of my mother. She was estranged from her father the last 25 years of his life (not on her part). When he died I made sure Mom was okay, as did my brothers. At one point she looked at us and said, “Sons, I’m okay. He killed my love long ago.” I feel that way about my marriage.

Thank you for the note in the birthday card. I choose to have a good day. I choose to grow in the grace of God this year.

I’ve been thinking about the video of me that is circulating in the news. It’s the “if-only” game. If I hadn’t gone outside into the yard I wouldn’t have had those five wanton endangerment charges. By going outside, I broke the law.

You can tell by the video that the person taunting me was not scared at all. Just agitating and revengeful. S/he kept coming in and out of the house taunting me and mocking me the whole time. S/he knew I wouldn’t hurt him/her. Although s/he meant evil toward me, I love him/her. In January s/he told me s/he would turn on me and gave me the reason. It had nothing to do with me personally.

Thank you for the reference to Psalm 40. You probably know the song, “He brought me out of the miry clay . . .” is based on this Psalm.

There are two new guys in the cell. They are young. Brash. Vulgar. I like the older cons. They do their time quietly.

Goodbye for now. I want to get this in the mail before I go to bed.

 

Thank you for reading.

The Lord be with you.

Jay

REMISSION AT LAST

I have discovered the secret. To a vitally important question. The answer has eluded me for twenty years. But, it is now within my grasp. It may make me a very rich man. It’s very simple really. I’ll tell you more in a moment. But, first . . .

How do you know when you have emerged from clinical depression?Image result for depression recovery

My first episode of clinical depression began in October of 1999. For the next four-and-a-half years I walked down a very dark path. Suicidal thoughts dogged me daily.

But, I know the exact day when it was over.

It was after a Friday night concert given by some former classmates of mine. They were on the road to fame and success in the world of Southern Gospel music. In contrast, I had lost nearly everything. My life’s purpose – the reason I lived – lay in tattered rags beneath my feet. I left the concert early. Their success and my failure could no longer abide in the same room.

At home I retrieved the pistol that I kept in the top draw of my chest-of-drawers. Got out a loaded magazine clip. And jammed it into the grip.

I had put the pistol to my head before, but had never loaded it. It was loaded now and I put it to my head with every intention of pulling the trigger. Except fear, and a glimmer of hope however dull it was, intervened. I called a friend.

He came. My wife followed him in. We talked. The pistol was still in my hand, but now loosely held between my legs below my knees.

That day in April 2004 marked the beginning of my recovery. For the next three years I was free of depression.

My next clinical depressive episode started in March 2007. It lasted about four months.  I was hospitalized for the first time. Remission from that chapter was more vaguely defined. The suicidal thoughts and severe depression were gone. What remained was not recovery. It was more dysthymic. I didn’t feel bad, but I didn’t feel good either. It was like living with a rainy, cloudy day every day.

By April of 2008 I had slipped back into severe depression. The week after coming home from my second hospital visit, my wife asked me to leave. I called my Dad. He was living in a grandparent apartment attached to my brother’s house. While there, my brother did not give me time to feel sorry for myself. I mowed his yard. Cleaned his pontoon boat. Scrubbed down his wrap around deck. He kept me too busy to think about how bad I felt.

At the end of the summer I took a ministry position in a small church that had gone through some rough times. On my first Sunday there I told them, “You are hurting and I am hurting. Let’s heal together.” And we did.

Four years passed. In August 2012 I found myself overwhelmed with a far-too-large counseling load. A two-church circuit. And desperately trying to save my 33-year marriage. It was too much. I collapsed under the weight of it all into yet another depressive episode.

During the next two-and-a-half years I lost it all. Was hospitalized twice. Landed in jail for a year. And only after some very hard work spiritually and mentally did I slowly escape from the abyss. Individual and group therapy. Medication adjustments. Personal dedication. A supportive friend, family, and church. At last in January 2015 I could say I was in remission.

Although the dysthymia persisted, I was free from the most crippling aspects of my mental illness.

This last depressive episode began in August 2017 and ended June 30, 2018.

How can I be so precise?

It was the day we left for a traveling vacation.

And that, my friend, is the secret for defeating depression. It is the sure cure. The enemaImage result for cartoon enema that will flush you clean of the bile of melancholia. (How’s that for an impactful word picture?)

I jest, of course.

But, it worked for me. It was the commitments made to be at a certain place at a certain time. The routine of travel. The tight schedule. Days filled with activity. Visiting friends and family. Talking. Listening. Comforting. Storytelling. Making memories.

You know by now that I have no secret solution to overcoming clinical depression. Each of my episodes have had both commonalities and peculiarities. It takes time. Effort. Commitment. Support. Planning your recovery and working your plan. Hope.

I can tell you one thing with certainty. You will emerge stronger.

Here’s to the journey. The discovery. The recovery. The remission.

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 AND PTSD

Where were you when . . . ?

I guess we could go back through history and discover our ancestors asked the same question.

“Where were you when the British fired on the American Minutemen at the Lexington green?”

“Where were you when the Charleston cannonade exploded on Fort Sumter?”

“Where were you when the Lusitania was torpedoed in the Atlantic?”

For my parents’ generation, it was, “Where were you when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor?”

My generation asks, “Where were you when John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., or Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated?”

Image result for FIRST responder 9-11My children remember where they were on September 11, 2001.

Only two months before we had moved and were just settling in to our new home and place. I was on my way to get a drug test for the new job I was about to begin. The Human Resources Department found a little 12-inch TV and had it blaring. No one really knew what was happening and the situation there was one of concerned calm.

By the evening hours we all knew we had been attacked and were at war. My daughter was five months pregnant and clearly anxious. She asked me, “Dad, are we in any danger here?” I smiled. Not because I thought it was a humorous question, but because of where we lived. Our home was very rural with nothing of military or terroristic value for 75 to 100 miles. I reassuringly said, “Honey, there’s nothing here that anyone wants. We’re in one of the safest places in the United States right now.”

The immediate impact on the mental health of the first responders and their families was immense. The stress on our government was obvious as they struggled to formulate a response. Our military had few delusions about their new responsibility.

Others were affected, too. I went out and bought a flag. It was the last one they had. We proudly displayed it on our front porch. Some ran off to a military recruiting office. A blood bank. A Red Cross volunteer station. A donation depot. Most of us were glued to our TV’s. At one of the residential mental health facilities in our area they had to turn off the 24-7 news stories. The residents were showing signs of PTSD.

Waving goodbye to a local army reserve or national guard unit became common. As did the parades that welcomed them home again. Very few of us that had any understanding of what was going on in those days were unaffected.

One of the results of 17 years of war is a mental health crisis. It is not unique to our times, but there is more coverage of it and more help available for it than in times past.

I listened as a World War II veteran told about forty years of continuous nightmares. Running to an imaginary machine gun on the front porch of his home in Eastern Tennessee as unreal planes dropped their illusionary bombs. Sometimes in the middle of the night he would wake his wife and children and gather them into an unseen front porch bomb shelter until the raid had ceased.

A wife talked to me about her Vietnam veteran husband and the violent screams and shakes he still had after a dozen years. Then president Richard Nixon pinned a Distinguished Service Metal to his chest. But the recognition did little to relieve the trauma.

Today the emotionally wounded and traumatized walk among us. Most of them go about their day with little notice. They don’t talk about it. They don’t let you see their worst moments. They suffer in silence. Nightmares are only one of their symptoms. Exaggerated startle reflex. Social anxiety. Flashbacks. And more.

If you know a first responder, a veteran, or a civilian who was in a war zone remember the coming of September 11 each year may mean something quite different to them then it does to you and me. Be sensitive to their moods. Be understanding of their needs. Give them your full support.

 

The LORD be with you.

 

Jay

LETTERS FROM JAIL #11-B

Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

Began July 3, 2013

Dear __________ (continued from last week)letters from jail 6

July 5, 2013

The tension in the cell just went up as two guys argued over lunch. It was over a deal gone bad. I don’t make deals or trades. There are too many misunderstandings.

By God’s grace I don’t plan on making a big deal over possessions ever again. People? That is a different matter, but “things” can be replaced. (I’m expecting to be really tested on this resolve soon.)

One of the guys came to me and said God wasn’t helping him or talking to him. I spoke with him about the way God speaks to us – primarily through the Scriptures. He said he was praying for wisdom. I asked him if he was the same man he was 22 months ago when he came to jail. “No,” he replied, “I’ve changed a lot. I used to be a very angry man.” “And you don’t think the Lord is helping you or speaking to you,” I asked. “Oh,” he said, “I can see now.” So often we look for God in a presupposed way and miss Him in all the obvious ways.

Another guy told me I was the nicest guy he has ever met in jail. I took that as a compliment since he’s been in and out of jail for the past 35 years.

My brother sent me a card and deposited some money on my account. My other brother left some money on account for me during his last visit. And some people from the church I pastored did the same after they visited. That’s my letter writing money. Well, I also get toiletries and a chocolate milk now and then. I try not to spend much. One fellow spent $300.00 dollars in 10 days. He liked to throw his money around. My worth in not in my pocketbook.

Do you have any pictures of us during our high school years? Mom and Dad kept some pictures of people I used to run with back then. You know, when some of your old flames stay close to your parents after you break up, it can be a problem. I know Mom and Dad kept track of you until they left Anderson in 2001 after their health broke. They both liked you very much.

The guys say I talk so proper when I’m asleep. “Now, we won’t tolerate that kind of behavior.” “Let’s stop the cussing now.” And, “Don’t say that word in front of the kids.” LOL! I’m glad what I say in my sleep does not contradict what I say and live when I am awake.

July 6, 2013

The guys are messing with my sleep schedule. Some stay up until 4:00 AM and don’t get up until 4:00 PM. They start getting noisy around midnight. I still wake up at 3:00 AM and begin my devotions at 5:30 or 6:00 AM. But, I’ve started sleeping in the mornings some after breakfast. I can’t seem to sleep at any other time now. Yea!

In my devotions this morning the Psalmist talked about putting your trust in the Lord. As I prayed I began each petition with, “Lord, I trust you for . . .” It was a special time.

On being wronged. I’ve been very anxious about my other legal problems. I’ve played different scenarios over and over in my head. It really troubles my spirit to think on these things. None of my scenarios end well. I’m having a hard time accepting that things that belonged to my employer, the church, and my inheritance from my parents have been taken. The hurt that continues to be inflicted . . . I will trust in the Lord. He knows all. I’m not there yet, but I try to turn each hurt, each pain, each troubling scenario, each thought over to the Lord. How long does it take to become a distant memory instead of a festering wound?

Oh, how I want to be free. Jail is bad enough, but the bondage of my other legal issues and the prison of troubling memories make this experience worse. Oh, the regrets. The “what ifs” that stir the contentious waters of the soul.

Mostly I hide the pain behind a laugh, except for in the still of the night, or on the pages I write to you, or in the pleas I cry out before our God. Oh, to be free. Oh, to be free. Oh, to be able to live again instead of standing still in the quicksand that threatens to engulf me today.

Well, enough complaining. I would love to put in an audacious laugh line here, but I don’t have one.

Happy birthday. I bless your mother and father for rearing such a beautiful person.

There was trouble in paradise last night (not me). Lots of yelling and threats. No action.

Church was okay. I wish they had music.

Oh, I’ve been given another nickname, “Preacher.” It beats “Chainsaw” and “Shotgun.”

Take care of yourself. Trust your family is well.

Sincerely,

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay

LETTERS FROM JAIL #11-A*

Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.letters from jail 6

 

Began July 3, 2013

Dear F_____

 

I trust you are doing well. I think of you often in my prayers.

Did you notice I quit numbering my “tomes?” I lost count. It is one of my joys to be able to write each day. By now I suppose you have noticed that I hold your letter in one hand while writing with the other. In between paragraphs of response to what you have written, I insert the main and exciting events of my day. (If you did not notice that last phrase was sarcasm.)

The chaplain’s wife, Peggy, did Bible study tonight. She’s good! Her lesson was on Gideon. Before beginning she asked the 40 men in the room who had heard of Gideon. F_____, I was the only one to raise my hand. The generation Xers and beyond are ignorant of the simplest Biblical knowledge. How can they hear without a preacher?

One of the guys got a 180-day sentence today. He cried. I tried to share with him in his grief. I think his dad was behind the harsher sentence. Tough love. I try to walk through each door God opens.

July 4, 2013

It’s the fourth of July. I’m sitting in the yard. Alone. Celebrating. I spent time exercising and singing loudly. Walking and doing push-ups. Then I read a chapter of a book called, “Unchained.”

I had some troubling dreams last night. They’re signs of unresolved conflict, I think. I woke up praying that God would help me forgive and put to rest the thoughts that trouble me. For a while I’d stopped talking in my sleep. Now I’m doing it almost every night. Putting to rest my disappointments and tribulations is one of my main goals. I don’t want to continue walking through the nights acting out in my sleep.

I’m sorry you’re feeling overwhelmed. There’s nothing quite so frustrating as having work piling up and no means of doing it all. Well, if you get through this crisis you’ll be a veteran.

A new computer should be fun – all the latest gadgets. Others in the office will become envious. Tell them the old computer wouldn’t work for a political conservative.

Yes, you have to do the traditional “man” things – mowing, fixing the AC, trimming trees, etc. I loved your scissors comment about the way you trim the bushes. I suggest you get some week killer or gasoline. Pull the weeds the mower can’t get and pour on the weed killer and forget about it until next year. Perhaps your daughter and granddaughter can help. My dad didn’t mow a yard for 18 years – children – boys. By that time grandchildren came along to help. I imagine, with your high humidity, you have to mow a couple of times a week. When I lived in Mississippi I mowed early mornings – before 7:00 – or late evenings – after 7:00 – so I could skip the hottest parts of the day. I found out the mower will cut wet grass, too.

Your reference to the “tree in the car” was classic. Just tell others you don’t have AC in your car so you were trying to travel with your own shade.

The “pipe” coming from your AC is the drain. All that moisture the AC takes out of the air has to go somewhere. Keep it clear or your AC won’t work properly. Sometimes spiders will weave webs on the inside of the tube. That can be enough to clog it up, too. Just take it off and blow through it to destroy the web. Fun! Fun!

It’s crowded here in the jail. Most cells have someone on the floor and they have some in the gym. I imagine the drunk tank will be full tonight. I love your use of the word “confined.” Yes, ma’am, we have a “lock” on this holiday.

Does your town have a parade? Fireworks? Other activities? on Independence Day? I’m not a big one for large crowds either. I get claustrophobic. I like my privacy bubble to be about two-arms-length in circumference. I only let family in closer than that. And no one touches my head. Now, how did I get there from the fourth of July celebrations?

Do you remember the midnight parade in our hometown? It got so rowdy that they had to discontinue it. I remember going out to Killbuck Park for the fireworks. Several times we would have a picnic and fish before the main show. Sometimes they had a comedian or magician. It was a whole evening of events. Later we went to the fireworks in Chesterfield and had a cookout at home or at Mounds State Park. We always tried to watch fireworks. What did/do you do?

In your hunt for stationery you may find some at a card shop or a business store. But, whatever you write on is fine with me. White paper, blue. Stationery, notebook – whatever the vehicle of transfer is is fine with me. I’m enjoying writing and receiving letters, although I question my ability to write. Maybe, I could get my hands on a yellow legal pad to add some variety.

I quit reading the “chick book.” It was moving too slowly. I’m reading “John Wesley on Prayer,” Hannah Whitall Smith’s book, “The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life,” and “Unchained” by Mac Gober. The library isn’t organized and everything is old, but I keep finding decent titles to read. The chaplain got me a Bible and the “Our Daily Bread” monthly devotional series. I’m reading from Psalms and Proverbs daily and I’m reading through the New Testament. I’m currently in the Gospel of John. I also use the book by Wesley in the morning and the one by Smith in the afternoon. I get up before the TV comes on for my main devotional time. I also spend some time each morning, afternoon, and evening writing.

*The second half of the letter will be posted next week.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

BETRAYED

(What I will share at the end of this article I have disclosed to only one person and that only about four years ago. Because of this week’s news stories, I felt it was time to go public.)

One Thousand Plus Reports of Sexual Abuse by Catholic Priests in Pennsylvania

read one headline as a grand jury report was released to the public last week. It was shocking. Disheartening. Disappointing. Painful. Although I am not a Roman Catholic, I understand some of the sense of betrayal and disbelief that many of them feel. You see, I have been there, too.

As a pastor’s son and a former pastor myself, I have watched clergy fail and leadership cover it up. I have seen the pain in people’s eyes. Watched as they slipped away from the Church and away from God. Witnessed their tears of anguish as they tried to process what had happened. And, from my own personal experience, I know the questioning it has caused. The inability to process or even believe what they and I have experienced. The shaking of one’s faith in the clergy and leadership of the Church.

As a boy I remember well when a beloved, respected, and well-known pastor was removed from his church because of an affair. When his soon-to-be-ex-wife and their son, who was my age, stepped onto the grounds of our annual campmeeting, I heard the whispers. Looked at faces filled with both compassion and doubt. Saw them stand alone in the midst of a crowd. If I recall correctly, it was the last time they attended a district function.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. I could write about a beloved teacher and personal friend of my father being removed from ministry when a multitude of women came forth with accusations of abuse. Another one of my teachers was forced from his/her position because of an unfaithful spouse. A few months after hearing a camp evangelist preach, he, a district superintendent, was indicted and imprisoned on a sexual related charge. I knew the father and brother of another church leader who went to prison under similar circumstances. After abusing under-age girls, two ministers that I knew personally were defrocked and faced possible charges.

My heart broke as I read this headline,

Sex abuse report lists a beloved Pittsburgh priest, and a church reels.

I had a similar experience. I was hired on staff at a church about a month before the pastor was to leave. People wept with grief in losing their beloved pastor. Unbeknownst to me, others wept in anguish. A couple of months later I found out that this pastor had been arrested for sexual solicitation of an undercover officer in a city park in a large Mid-Western city. The local church covered it up. In the process they learned that soliciting for sex was a regular, albeit infrequent, occurrence of their pastor. It had been going on all during his ministry. But, the local church leadership was afraid that if such a thing became public it would destroy their church. In spite of their careful silence, or perhaps because of it, several people left the church and some lost their faith.

But, that wasn’t the worst of it. The man was allowed to go to a different church to pastor. When his former district superintendent found out he informed his present superintendent. The two of them went to the highest leadership in our church, general superintendent, to tell their story. Because of the fear of being sued by this immoral pastor, the three of them agreed to continue covering it up. I heard, and it was later confirmed, that his behavior continued in that church. It was a travesty of unconscionable proportions. As a brand-new member of the clergy it shook my faith in the leadership of my church.

I listened to several interviews from the victims of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church of Pennsylvania. Two women interviewed were raped, one by six different priests, and impregnated. Three men told of being raped, fondled, and photographed. There were six people in one interview, all of whom left the Church. One angrily expressed the loss of her Church, her faith, and her God.

It was during my freshman year of college. I was 17. A beloved missionary who had grown close to my family, especially to my parents, was in the area. He called and asked me to come see him and spend the night. I readily agreed. The host pastor was not expecting me, of course, therefore I shared a bed with my missionary friend. I had no reason to be apprehensive about this arrangement.

In the morning as I awoke I could feel his hand near my crotch. He was trying to “tickle” me. Or so he said. With each “tickle” attempt he moved his hand closer and closer to my private parts. It was very apparent what his goal was. When he finally reached his destination and touched me, he immediately withdrew his hand. As if it were an accident.

During this entire time, I was frozen. Unable to move. Unable to speak. Unable to believe what this “man of God” was doing and did. It really rocked me.

My faith was not shaken. My belief in God did not waver. My confidence in my church and in the professional clergy was not altered. But, my trust in him was forever changed.

The guilt I carry for not stopping it comes to the fore from time to time. Shame has caused me to hide it for 41 years. Disbelief that this actually happened has made it difficult to process. Suspicions of other victims both before and after me crowd my thoughts. Even now, although I’m sure he has long since died, I protect his identity. Fortunately, it was the last time I ever saw him.

When I hear of the horrific abuse and sexual violence some people have experienced, I know I have no comparable story. There is no way, in my estimation, that I could even sit at the same table or in the same auditorium as they. But, in a very small way, I understand the trauma of trust betrayed.

National Sexual Assault Hotline

Call 1-800-656-4673

The LORD be with you.

Jay

A PRAYER

Our Father and our God, as I read Your word may I hear Your voice speaking to me. May I understand Your word more fully and completely in order that I may more perfectly serve and worship You. May I not only be a willing hearer of Your word, but may I also seek to put it into daily practice as a doer of Your word. And, LORD, help me to hide Your word in my heart that I may not sin against You and memorize Your word that I may have a ready defense for the hope that is within me.

Father, in Jesus name, and through the Holy Spirit may I worship You in Your character of holiness and divine love. Sovereign LORD, let me know You, to gain a true and accurate understanding and knowledge of Your character and Your ways. As much as I am capable, let me know You in the manner You have revealed Yourself in Your word. Help me to recognize and praise You for Your absolute attributes of spirituality,18620974_10155412045859198_1985248405556161235_o infinity, eternity, immensity, immutability, and perfection; Your relative attributes of omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, wisdom, and goodness; and Your moral attributes of truth, justice, and righteousness. I praise You too, for Your works of creation and redemption.

Father, I desire a vital relationship with You. Help me to abide in You by depending upon You and getting my spiritual nourishment and life through Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. I submit myself to Your Lordship: all of my dreams, all of my plans, all of my desires, all I am and have is Yours. Blessed Trinity, I love You and I want to love You more perfectly with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind, and all of my strength. Help me to love others as Jesus has loved me and put that into visible practice wherever I may be.

Father, You know my needs before I ask, yet You invite me to come boldly and make my requests known to You.

  • I desire wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. I need Your guidance. Let me be prudent and discreet in all my actions.
  • As a parent, I pray for wisdom. Help me to be more grace than law, more understanding and less condemning, sweeter, more affectionate, and more involved. Help me to focus more on the positive and less on the negative. Help me catch my children and grandchildren being good more than I look for what they may do wrong.
  • Lead me safely as I navigate through trials, tests, and temptations. Help me to grow in grace and add to my faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. May I grow in holiness, purity, and righteousness. Give me a keen sense of when sin is at the door and help me to hate sin in all of its forms.
  • LORD, never let me become so arrogant that I fail to confess and ask forgiveness for my known and unknown sins. I acknowledge my faults and shortcomings. For my sins that were unintended, unwitting, and thoughtless I ask for Your forgiveness. I confess and repent before You of the times when I have been unfaithful, unintendedly deceptive, or committed sins of omission.
  • Help me to be a humble man and to be real before You and others. Let me recognize my personal poverty and unworthiness. Help me to lean fully upon Jesus. Whatever accolades I may receive or successes I may enjoy, let me recognize that Your hand was there to help me. I owe all the glory, praise, and thanksgiving to You.
  • I pray that the Holy Spirit will be my control over my anger. Cleanse me of unrighteous anger. Let me not deceive myself by calling carnal anger “righteous indignation.” Rather, let my anger be an instrument to motivate me to righteous action.
  • Give me the grace to forgive and purge me from any grudge I may harbor.
  • Help me to discern clearly the difference between manipulation for personal or selfish gain and instruction in righteousness. Let me not be afraid to do the latter even when I am accused of the former while doing it. Convict the hearers of Your word in truth, righteousness, and judgement.
  • Be my healer. Stabilize my depression and help me to do my part to achieve remission. I pray for my counselor and the counseling process that it may be rewarding for my counselor and beneficial for me.
  • Be the inspiration of my writings and help me to garner the discipline necessary to write, do ministry, and the other tasks that lay before me.
  • Prompt me to be diligent and take delight in prayer.
  • For my relationship with my wife, I pray, oh God, that I would always treat her with value, dignity, and respect as a person made in the image and likeness of God. May I strive to love her as Christ loved the Church and willingly give my life for her. Help me to edify, encourage, and build up her spirit and self-esteem. Let me be found serving her while expecting nothing of her. May I always count her a gift from You.

Father, it is not Your desire that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Jesus died that these may have abundant life and live eternally. Jesus rose that they may have victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave. I pray for family and friends to be convicted, repent, confess, believe, and receive Your salvation and walk in that newness of life.

Father, I pray for our pastoral staff as they lead our church and break to us the words of life. Our children, family, and friends who are involved in ministry. Our children, family, and friends who are in other cultures and other countries ministering. May my worship be alive and my service acceptable in Your sight. May I live Christ-centered and other-focused. Help me to be an example of a disciple and spiritual leader and be a discipler in my home.

Father, I pray for the God-appointed authorities over us that they would promote morality, hold truth sacred, protect our nation and communities in order that we may live in peace and security, implement justice, pass just laws, act in just ways, help and protect the poor, and be kind and helpful to the strangers among us. 

Father, I pray for my family. For physical and mental health, education, submission to authority, parenting, finances, safety, work, spiritual growth, ministry, marriages, emotional pain, and purity. May they be devoted to You and to Your will. May those that influence them do so for righteousness and draw them nearer to Jesus.

Father, I give you thinks for my daily provisions and temporal blessings. Thank You for my heritage through my parents, church, college, and seminary. Thank You for bringing me out of darkness into light; from death to life; from sin to righteousness. Thank You for all that You give me in the way of talents, abilities, and spiritual blessings. I give them all to You and assign to You all the glory and praise for anything and everything right I may do.

In the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay

 

DETERMINED TO BE A SURVIVOR

*After 22 years of continuous service, I had to leave the ministry. No, neither my wife nor I were unfaithful. Pornography is not an issue. All of my financial obligations are current. None of the salacious and sensational applies. I had to leave the ministry due to a severe recurrent major depressive disorder (MDD).

Depression is more than just “the blues.” To have a clinical diagnosis of depression youImage result for a survivor not a victim must have five of the following symptoms most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks: 1) A depressed mood. 2) Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities. 3) Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain; or decrease or increase in appetite. 4) Insomnia or hypersomnia. 5) Psychomotor agitation or retardation. 6) Fatigue or loss of energy. 7) Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt. 8) Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness. 9) Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide. (DSM IV) To be designated severe requires eight or all nine symptoms be present, and recurrent means you have had more than one episode of clinical depression.

According to the Mayo Clinic web site, contributing factors to depression include: heredity, stress, medications, illnesses, personality, alcohol, nicotine, drug abuse, diet, and loss. Other factors include hostility, anger, poor social networks, a lack of control over one’s circumstances, and perfectionistic thinking.

In the past those of us with depression were often suspect. “Sin is the cause,” said Job’s comforters. “You lack faith,” is the second stanza. Songs about being happy all the time and never being discouraged only add to our anguish. We suffer in silence. Often question our spiritual standing. Frequent the altar during revivals, camp meetings, and penetrating sermons. Many are yet to learn that depression is an illness. It is no different than diabetes or cancer or any other persistent affliction. It is NOT always attributable to a spiritual lapse.

In my fight to overcome depression I am learning several important lessons.

First – Challenge haunting self-talk. You must. You ought. You should. Always. Never. Irrational beliefs and what Albert Ellis calls “demandingness” cause stress and frustration.

Second – Accept God’s grace. Trying to please God through works is a direct route to depression. The Galatians were entangled in a yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1) because of “works righteousness.” The only way to please God is in and through Jesus Christ.

Third – Acknowledge limitations. In my perfectionistic thinking (what I call “internal legalism) I felt I had to work 60 hours a week, be on time every time, rarely make grammatical errors, never allow the congregation to see me discouraged, and always be a tower of strength on which everyone could rely. “I can do all things,” was my motto. (Obviously I left out the most important part, “through Christ who gives me strength.”) I failed to acknowledge that even Jesus took breaks from ministry, grew weary, and needed rest.

Fourth – Get help early and as often as needed. For each of the above symptoms and causes of depression there is treatment available. It is CRITICAL to seek help if depression persists. Suicide is a leading cause of death among the depressed.

Despair is also a great temptation for the Christian with depression. Despair is not only dangerous physically, but devastating spiritually. Without hope we are lost. Indeed, “hope is an anchor for the soul.” (Hebrews 6:19)

Fifth – You are not alone.  Job was depressed after his tragic losses. Elijah experienced depression from exhaustion and disappointment. He even prayed to die. You cannot read some Psalms without recognizing the author was struggling with depression.

The great Baptist pastor and teacher, Charles Spurgeon, wrote about personal depression. David Brainerd, an early missionary to Native Americans, woke up from depressed-induced sleep not knowing what day it was.

I do not take comfort in their misery; I take courage that people of God have found a way to minister and endure despite personal mental health issues. They also heard God’s “still, small voice” through the gloom and desperation of severe depression.

Although I am currently limited in what I can do in the ministry, the call of God still burns on my soul. Sermons come that I hope to deliver. The desire to pastor and minister is very much alive. Someday, with God’s help, I will again return to full-time ministerial service and answer “aye” to the ministerial roll call.

*I wrote this article for the February 2004 edition of The Wesleyan Advocate. By God’s grace I stayed very active in ministry up until May of 2013. After that I had to retire, but I still look for opportunities to minister. The call still burns.

The LORD be with you.

 

Jay

 

WILL YOU TALK TO ME IN HEAVEN?

“I have to forgive him, but I don’t have to reconcile with him,” was the statement I heard through the phone line. The caller and I were discussing a situation in her family where a daughter would not speak to her father. The daughter had cause to be upset. Her father had put her and her children in a very dangerous circumstance. However, he had repented, confessed, and attempted to make amends, but she would have none of it. Forgive? Yes. Reconcile? No!Image result for reconciliation

From the time of that conversation I have become aware of several Christian families who are estranged from one another. Daughters won’t speak to their mothers. Sons won’t speak to their fathers. Brothers and sisters carry irreconcilable grievances against one another. Spouses will not step foot in the homes of their in-laws. I have written about family members and former friends that will not speak to me because of my offense in May of 2013. Oh, each one would profess to have forgiven – after all that is commanded by God – but reconciliation is illusive.

In some of my past writings I have struggled with this question of forgiveness and reconciliation. God both forgives and reconciles with the repentant sinner at the same time in the same action, but I will concede that for we humans it is often a two-step procedure. The process of forgiveness is often worked through between the offended and God long before the offender ever asks for it, if they ever do. However, the process of reconciliation requires a whole other level of commitment. It requires intimate, one-on-one interaction. You can forgive from afar. Reconciliation is up close. Personal.

The thing that bothers me the most is that this is occurring between those professing to be followers of Christ. I am not talking about the offenses perpetrated by a sinner upon a saint. Criminal upon Christian. Reprobate upon the righteous. NO! It is saint upon saint. Christian upon Christian. One follower of Jesus upon another follower of Jesus. Is this the way it is supposed to be? In exasperation I asked my wife a few weeks back, “Do you think they will talk to me in heaven?”

So, does the Bible say that we do not have to reconcile with our brother and sister in Christ? You be the judge. (All references are from the New International Version [NIV].)


John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” 

Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

I Corinthians 3:3, “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?”

I Corinthians 10:24, “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

I Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

II Corinthians 2:5-8, “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you. Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.”

II Corinthians 5:17-18, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

II Corinthians 7:8-12, “For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter. So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the offender nor for the sake of the one offended, but that your earnestness on our behalf might be made known to you in the sight of God.

II Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Galatians 5:14-15, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”

Galatians 6:1, “If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

Galatians 6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

Ephesians 4:1-3, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Philippians 1:9-10, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”

Philippians 1:27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.”

Philippians 4:5, “Let your gentle spirit be known to all.”

Colossians 1:19-20, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Colossians 3:12-15, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Colossians 4:5-6, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

(I stop here because I have not finished my survey of the New Testament as of this writing.)


I want to challenge anyone to produce one verse of scripture – Old Testament or New Testament – that clearly states we need NOT reconcile with our fellow believer.

Oh, Lord, bring peace to your children.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

VACATION LESSONS

Twelve days, 2950.03 miles, and eight states. That was our vacation. But, it was so much more than that.

We were able to see wildlife in their natural habitat. Elk. Bison. Turkey.

And we saw some majestic animals in captivity, but nonetheless beautiful. Lions. Tigers. Bears.

As a history buff, I had to stop at any venue that my family would indulge me. The Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson. A view of the John Roebling bridge in Cincinnati. This was a model for the one he designed for New York – the Brooklyn Bridge.

We enjoyed a night among the music venues of Nashville and a tour of Cincinnati. It was especially nice to show my family the scenic visages of The Land Between the Lakes in Western Kentucky.

While in Northern Kentucky, we took in the Ark Encounter. It is the largest wood structure in the world. Enormous. Although, I did not agree with all their conclusions and the resulting displays, (I am not a young earther.) what they presented was plausible. And in the realm of science or history that you cannot reproduce, plausible is about the best standard you can hope for. It was worth the visit.

As a final treat on the way home, we stopped at Lambert’s Cafe in Sikeston, MO. It was fun for all.

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But this vacation was about so much more than place and things. It was primarily about people. I had the privilege of having supper in Memphis with one of my former students. I wasn’t sure what to expect from her and her husband, but I need not have worried. She was accepting, edifying, and encouraging.

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We stopped by to see a dear friend along the way. She was/is my wife’s best friend and she and I went to school together from 7th grade to graduation. The three of us shared many youth camping experiences at our church campgrounds. She also wrote to me and prayed for me while I was in jail.

We did not come at a happy time. She had just suffered a devastating loss. But we had the opportunity to minister grace to her, hear her strong testimony, and sing together of our love for Jesus as she played the piano.

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Both my wife and I immersed ourselves in as much family as we could.

I visited my parent’s grave site. It never fails to move me to tears. Perhaps its the pain that could have been avoided had I listened to their advice. Perhaps, I miss my talks with Mom and the wisdom of my dad.

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There was a first on this vacation. Although I have shared my story with my readers and a couple of friends and family, it was the first time anyone has asked me to share my story with them. Five years, two months to the day someone said, “Jay, tell me what happened.” Thank you for asking. Thank you for listening.

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I learned a few things on this vacation.

  • I still need to work on being patient and my OCD tendencies.
  • I still need to work on that “respect button” triggering anger.
  • If my wife were a Roman Catholic, she would be a candidate for sainthood.
  • Unconditional love and kindness do not depend upon the recipient, but upon the giver.
  • Don’t take history haters to a historical site.

Some lessons were reaffirmed.

  • Misery loves company.
  • Hurt people hurt people.
  • Keep Jesus as the center of your life.
  • Make people your focus. People are far more important than anything else on this earth.
  • You need air-conditioning for a 1,200 mile trip into the southwest.

Oh, I brought home a sweet little 1998 S10. The most important thing about it? It was the last vehicle my wife’s mother owned.

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The LORD be with you.

Jay

ELUSIVE REMISSION

I am in my fifth clinical depressive episode since 1999 and have been for more than 10 months. There are a few things different about this experience than the others.

It is not as severe. The lines between mild, moderate, and severe depression are blurry atImage result for yo-yo best. For example, in the DSM moderate depression is defined as somewhere between mild and severe. Dah! Like that really helps. For me, the line that defines severe depression is consistent thoughts of death and/or suicidal ideations. Thankfully, I have not traversed that boundary this time.

A second difference is that it is up and down. Not in a bi-polar sense of extreme highs and lows, but in the sense of better and worse days. My journal is full of yo-yo like recordings. In one entry my mood is improving, three days later it is depressed. Stable. Down. Lifting. Dark.

Another difference is the fixation with what might have been and what ought to be. In previous episodes I have been occupied with staying alive and putting one foot in front of the other. Now, however, my mind spins with credentials lost, relationships broken, spiritual abandonment, and incongruous Christian walk. Although the former is far more frightening, it is also much simpler. You have one thing to think about – staying alive.

These thoughts are filled with neglect, regret, failure, unimportance, anger. It is the unrewarded effort. The untouchable soul. The rejected logic. The dismissed rebuke. The futility of revelation. When the house is quiet and everyone is asleep or gone, it the roar that screams against my peace.

Just this evening (June 19, 2018) I was telling my counselor that there was this persistent feeling that my life was a mistake. Oh no, not that I should not have lived, but that I should not have done with my life what I did. From the time I was 14 years old, I sensed that I was called to be a pastor/teacher. Now, however, with the way things have turned out and my inability to handle stress, I wonder if the “call” came from God or was it me wanting to walk in the footsteps of my father and brother. Perhaps I should have focused on the teaching part of ministry rather than the pastoral side. Can a series of mistakes made at 14 derail his life for the next 40 plus years? Leaving him to wonder in the desert? Uncertain? Detoured? Lost?

This episode has had its physical dimension. Sleep has eluded me night after night until I am so exhausted that I sleep for 12 or 14 hours straight. Nightmares are abundant. For 10 months this cycle has not abated and little has helped. “There is no long-term remission without sound sleep,” one entry in my journal states. Physical exhaustion results in mental and emotional depression.

I have gained weight and although it is currently stable I seem incapable of losing. I’ve had three cancer scares. Diagnosed with second stage kidney disease. Gall bladder surgery. A bad case of the flu. And a knee and a back that just won’t heal.

Please! Please. I’m not complaining. It’s the old warning about the straw that broke the camel’s back. Most people can handle one thing or two things or even three things. But, even a healthy person will eventually break if enough pressure is applied.

Hence, remission has been elusive. On May 31 I wrote, “I think I’m in remission.” On June 3, “depression.” It’s almost humorous. Remission is stalled. Short-lived.

Letting go is the key to my recovery, but it is so very painful and difficult. I asked my wife tonight, “Do you think I am less than the husband and father that I could be because of my inability to let go of the hurts of my past?” It was an unfair question, but I could see the answer on her face. My past is robbing me of my present joy and my future happiness. This cannot, must not, continue.

I have a challenge before me. The way is unclear. I’m not sure how to proceed. But I am determined to face it. Defeat it. Be victorious. By the grace of God.

 

The LORD be with you.

HE VOTED FOR ME

I wrote this piece some years ago during one of the presidential election cycles. With all the primaries and run-off elections occurring, I thought I would share it with you.


 

Long before I met Jesus, He voted for me. Before the foundation of the world, He voted for me. As a babe born in a manger, He voted for me. Tempted in the midst of great weakness He overcame and voted for me. As Jesus taught His generation and healed them of their diseases, He voted for me. When He prayed in the garden, “Not My will, butImage result for i vote for Jesus Thine be done,” He voted for me. As one disciple betrayed Him with a kiss and another denied Him with an oath and the others fled into the night, He voted for me. While Jesus was tried before a kangaroo court, before religious leaders, a King, and a Governor, He voted for me. With each indignity He bore from the slaps, spittle, and stripes, He voted for me. As He walked down the Via Del A Rosa carrying His own death instrument, He voted for me. When the crowds jeered at the LORD with cruel mocking and laughter, He voted for me.  Even as three nails pierced His hands and feet, a crown of thorns pressed upon His brow, and a spear punctured His side, He voted for me. Forsaken by the Father He trusted still, commended His spirit to God and voted for me. In the darkness of the tomb, He voted for me. Up from the grave He arose victorious over sin, death, hell, and the grave and He voted for me. Ascending into heaven, He voted for me. Sitting at the right hand of the Father making intercession on my behalf, Jesus votes for me. And if I go by the way of the vale with Him or meet Him in the air I know He votes for me. I voted for Him because He first voted for me.

MAYBE THERE IS A PLACE FOR ME

For several weeks now, I have been feeling that I needed to find a way to answer the call of God on my heart. It has been there from the time I was a 14-year-old boy. As I read the scriptures the desire to preach and teach still burns in my heart. But, with my present standing in the Church, I have felt disqualified. Then, a couple of Sundays ago a very redemptive thing happened.

One of the pastors on staff at our church and I have talked from time to time in a veryImage result for invited into a group informal way about my situation. Recently, I sensed the need to make that conversation more formal and detailed. I caught him outside the worship center right as the service was getting started. We were alone in the hall, which for a church of 3,000 is very unusual.

I poured out my heart to him about the calling for which I still carried a burden. Tears came to my eyes and my voice broke with emotion. That was quite unexpected. In the brief time I had to open my soul to him, I noticed he looked at me with compassion and understanding. He then said, “We believe in redemption around here.” I wanted to shout.

A few days later I met with him in his office and told my story. Again, the same words poured from his heart from his lips through my ears and to my heart. He was open to the idea of me teaching a spiritual growth section in the future and we tentatively scheduled a time. I left rejoicing in the amazing grace of God.

I am well aware that some sins and offenses are permanently disqualifying from the ministry a person had before their fall. In my case, it is doubtful that I will ever pastor again. But, does that mean an individual may never again use his/her gifts and talents in some type of ministry? I think not.

Although I have read II Corinthians multiple times during my time following Jesus, I failed to notice Paul’s successful use of church discipline.

The person that Paul told the Corinthian church to “deliver” to Satan (See I Corinthians 5:1-5) had apparently repented and been restored to fellowship with Christ. Paul takes note of this and tells the church “to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.” And they were to reaffirm their love for him. (II Corinthians 2:5-8)

I wonder how many repentant people have slipped away again after experiencing suspicion and rejection at the hands of their church.  Too many times we forget that the aim of church discipline is never to punish, but to be redemptive. We, of course, feel sorrow at the need for discipline, but we do not regret it. And we are to rejoice when that discipline results in repentance and restoration to fellowship with God. We need to hear and see more rejoicing.

Since that meeting with one of the church pastors, my mind has been racing with ideas for promotion and lessons. I am so thankful that there is a church that chooses to rejoice over me. And I am rejoicing over this ministry opportunity.

 

The LORD be with you.

LETTER’S FROM JAIL #9-B

Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociativeletters from jail 6 episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

Began June 27, 2013

Dear F__________

6/28

I value your friendship. The person I knew back in high school is still very much at the core of who you are today. I admire your spirit, appreciate your wisdom, wonder at your resilience, and enjoy your letters.

If you are anything like me you fear the expectations of others. Do they expect perfection? That is only in the future for any of us. We panic. We worry. We do dumb things. We raise our voices in anger. We have fears, insecurities, and questions about ourselves. Obviously, I am not flawless as my current situation testifies. But, it is good that we know our weaknesses and are able to admit them. That is the only way we can begin to grow in grace and maturity.

I’m thankful that you are not a shallow person. There is a depth to you that I greatly admire. Some people are a mile wide and an inch deep. You, on the other hand, have deep pools of wisdom, experience, faith, and spirituality. Although the core of who we are today is rooted in our childhood, we are not the same teenagers that met in high school.

You asked about what kind of food I like. Well, I’m not real fond of fast food. I will eat healthy when it is offered or available. (I do like chocolate.) I like fish, fresh or salt water, – not breaded unless it is catfish – and salads. Wendy’s is my favorite fast food. Papa John’s is my favorite franchise pizza. I like beef and other red meat. (Do you know why a rump roast is called a rump roast? Because no one would eat cow’s butt.) I like fowl, fruit, cooked and/or raw vegetables, whole grain breads, brown rice, beans, etc. I like baked over fried. I like farmer’s markets and local shops when they are available and affordable. I like to top my salads with fat-free dressings and low-fat cottage cheese. I like skim milk, water, lemonade, and sweet tea. (I can’t stand diet drinks.)


6/29

My timing for renewing an acquaintance with an old high school friend is off, perhaps even bad. But, I’m so thankful you are not repulsed by my circumstances and continue to correspond with me.

I woke up today about 3:00 AM with tears forming in my eyes for my family, especially A_____ and my grandchildren. Will they ever understand? Thank you for your prayers.

One of the men, S_____, lost his mother last week. He couldn’t go to the funeral. He appears contemplative. I’ve talked to him a couple of times. It’s hard to accept that time and life moves on for others while it is standing still for you.

F_____, M_____ is not your failure. You must not shoulder all the burden yourself. Trust in God and realize there is time yet. Don’t feel bad about being tired or feeling overwhelmed. Jesus healed many, but He didn’t heal them all. You can’t do it all. I hear your frustration. I feel the ache of your heart. Look up. God is able. There is hope. Help is available.

They reordered my meds, thank the Lord. I’ve seen them pull people off meds without any exam or reason. So far, I’m doing well.

I got to witness to one of the guys in the yard today. He shared with me his experience. He, along with a couple of others, are first timers. By now, I’m an old veteran.

Time for bed. Four o’clock comes early tomorrow. Good night.


6/30

I went to church today. There were three speakers. It reminds me of my first sermon. There were four speakers – none of us spoke more than five minutes. These guys spoke more than that. The first two were pretty good.

We had communion, too. The chaplain’s communion services take some getting used to, especially for a high church liturgy and solemnity fellow like myself.

A couple of nights ago one of the guys wanted someone to sing him to sleep. I started singing:

Great is Thy faithfulness O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not. As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness. Great is Thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

They clapped. (I entertain them talking in my sleep, too.)

Happy birthday. My heart is saddened for you because of your first birthday without G_____. Just feel assured that you are a very, very special person to many more than you might imagine. I pledge to remember you on your birthday as will dozens of others, I’m sure.

From what you told me about your co-worker’s incident, I guess it was a good thing that the police were not called. I called the police in my case, but I didn’t have the strength to hold on until they got there. I broke. It’s a blessing that your co-worker could walk back from the edge. I couldn’t.

Like you, I didn’t believe in divorce either. I tried for 14 years to save my marriage, but only one person wanted to save it. I should of . . . I wish I’d . . . Simply put, I tried to do the right thing, but . . . Tell your co-worker to not lose herself in trying to save her marriage.

Thank you for sharing your heart with me.

Sincerely,

Jay

 

The LORD be with you.

NOTE TO A FOSTER PARENT

A few years ago when I was a mental health counselor in a foster care program, I wrote the following note to a struggling foster parent. (Names have been changed.)


Image result for foster careHenry, Amanda did not come from Macy’s or Nordstrom’s with the smell of newness and the feel of quality. She came from the Goodwill or Salvation Army store discarded, used, damaged, with a tag that said, “Needs TLC.”

Henry, when you signed up for foster care no one told you, you were signing up to have your heart broken and your feelings hurt. But, you signed on to this momentous task to give unconditional love, to share the love of Jesus, and to be a redemptive influence in a life. This you have been doing very well. Henry, it hurts because you love this child. It hurts because she does not know how to love you back. Love her still. Time and eternity alone will reveal the good you are doing.

Stay the course, fight the good fight, and the grace and the strength of the LORD sustain you.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

How to Move from Forgiveness to Reconciliation

March 29, 2012

He said I am sorry, but it’s at least the tenth time! I don’t know what to do. I am told that it’s my Christian duty to forgive, and the Lord knows I’ve tried. But each time I forgive him, he changes for a little while and then returns to the same behavior. I have a gut feeling I am handling things the wrong way. He never really changes, and I just get angrier. What should I do?Image result for forgiveness and reconciliation

Sound familiar? I encounter people all the time who are trying to forgive someone who has repeatedly hurt them. They know it’s their Christian duty to forgive, but they often feel they’re either being deceived or taken advantage of. They also have a disturbing sense that they’re enabling the selfish behavior of the very one they’re trying to forgive. Is this what forgiveness requires?

Is it possible to forgive someone and to withhold reconciliation? We must learn the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is always required by God, but it does not always lead to reconciliation.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Not the Same

Jesus clearly warned that God will not forgive our sins if we do not forgive those who sin against us (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25). It’s not that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving; instead, God expects forgiven people to forgive (Matthew 18:21-35). Yet forgiveness is very different from reconciliation. It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation.

It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with her offender. But reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. And where trust is deeply broken, restoration is a process—-sometimes, a lengthy one.

Differing from forgiveness, reconciliation is often conditioned on the attitude and actions of the offender. While its aim is restoration of a broken relationship, those who commit significant and repeated offenses must be willing to recognize that reconciliation is a process. If they’re genuinely repentant, they will recognize and accept that the harm they’ve caused takes time to heal.

In many cases, even if an offender confessed his wrong to the one he hurt and appealed for forgiveness, the offended person could justifiably say, “I forgive you, but it might take some time for me to regain trust and restore our relationship.” The evidence of genuine forgiveness is personal freedom from a vindictive or vengeful response (Romans 12:17-21), but not always an automatic restoration of relationship.

Even when God forgives our sins, he does not promise to remove all consequences created by our actions. Yes, being forgiven, restored, and trusted is an amazing experience, but it’s important for those who hurt others to understand that their attitude and actions will affect the process of rebuilding trust. Words alone are often not enough to restore trust. When someone has been significantly hurt and feels hesitant about restoration with her offender, it’s both right and wise to look for changes in the offender before allowing reconciliation to begin.

Timing of Reconciliation

The process of reconciliation depends on the attitude of the offender, the depth of the betrayal, and the pattern of offense. When an offended party works toward reconciliation, the first and most important step is the confirmation of genuine repentance on the part of the offender (Luke 17:3). An unrepentant offender will resent your desire to confirm the genuineness of his confession and repentance. The offender may resort to lines of manipulation such as, “I guess you can’t find it in yourself to be forgiving,” or, “Some Christian you are, I thought Christians believed in love and compassion.”

Such language reveals an unrepentant heart. Don’t be manipulated into avoiding the step of confirming the authenticity of your offender’s confession and repentance. It is advisable in difficult cases to seek the help of a wise counselor, one who understands the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Such a counselor can help the injured person establish boundaries and define steps toward reconciliation that are restorative rather than retaliatory.

It is difficult to genuinely restore a broken relationship when the offender is unclear about his confession and repentance. We should strive to be as certain as we can of our offender’s repentance—-especially in cases involving repeated offenses. Even God will not grant forgiveness to one who is insincere about his confession and repentance. The person who is unwilling to forsake his sin will not find forgiveness with God (Proverbs 28:13).

Of course, only God can read hearts; we must evaluate actions. As Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16a). We must not allow superficial appearances of repentance to control our responses. Displays of tears or appearing to be sorry must not become substitutes for clear changes in attitude and behavior.

Seven Signs of Genuine Repentance

There are seven signs that indicate the offender is genuinely repentant:

1. Accepts full responsibility for his or her actions. (Instead of: “Since you think I’ve done something wrong . . . ” or “If have done anything to offend you . . .”)

2. Welcomes accountability from others.

3. Does not continue in the hurtful behavior or anything associated with it.

4. Does not have a defensive attitude about being in the wrong.

5. Does not dismiss or downplay the hurtful behavior.

6. Does not resent doubts about their sincerity or the need to demonstrate sincerity—-especially in cases involving repeated offenses.

7. Makes restitution where necessary.

“If we can restore to full and intimate fellowship with ourselves a sinning and unrepentant brother,” John R. W. Stott wrote in Confess Your Sins, “we reveal not the depth of our love, but its shallowness, for we are doing what is not for his highest good. Forgiveness which by-passes the need for repentance issues not from love but from sentimentality.”

Ten Guidelines for Those Hesitant to Reconcile

Those who have been seriously (and repeatedly) hurt rightfully feel hesitant about reconciling with their offenders. When your offender is genuinely repentant, however, it’s important to be open to the possibility of restoration (unless there is a clear issue of safety involved). Jesus spoke about reconciliation with a sense of urgency (Matthew 5:23-24). If you are hesitant to reconcile, work through these ten guidelines:

1. Be honest about your motives. Make sure your desire is to do what pleases God and not to get revenge. Settle the matter of forgiveness (as Joseph did) in the context of your relationship with God. Guidelines for reconciliation should not be retaliatory.

2. Be humble in your attitude. Do not let pride ruin everything. Renounce all vengeful attitudes toward your offender. We are not, for example, to demand that a person earn our forgiveness. The issue is not earning forgiveness but working toward true reconciliation. This demands humility. Those who focus on retaliation and revenge have allowed self-serving pride to control them.

3. Be prayerful about the one who hurt you. Jesus taught his disciples to pray for those who mistreat them (Luke 6:28). It is amazing how our attitude toward another person can change when we pray for him. Pray also for strength to follow through with reconciliation (Hebrews 4:16).

4. Be willing to admit ways you might have contributed to the problem. As Ken Sande writes in The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict:

Even if you did not start the dispute, your lack of understanding, careless words, impatience, or failure to respond in a loving manner may have aggravated the situation. When this happens, it is easy to behave as though the other person’s sins more than cancel yours, which leaves you with a self-righteous attitude that can retard forgiveness (i.e. relational forgiveness). The best way to overcome this tendency is to prayerfully examine your role in the conflict and then write down everything you have done or failed to do that may have been a factor.

Such a step, however, is not suggested to promote the idea of equal blame for all situations (Matthew 7:1-6).

5. Be honest with the offender. If you need time to absorb the reality of what was said or done, express this honestly to the one who hurt you. Yet we must not use time as a means of manipulation and punishment.

6. Be objective about your hesitancy. Perhaps you have good reasons for being hesitant to reconcile, but they must be objectively stated. Sometimes, for example, repeated confessions and offenses of the same nature make it understandably hard for trust to be rebuilt. This is an objective concern. Clearly define your reasons for doubting your offender’s sincerity.

7. Be clear about the guidelines for restoration. Establish clear guidelines for restoration. Requirements like restitution can be clearly understood and include such factors as maintaining financial accountability, holding down a job, or seeking treatment for substance abuse.

8. Be alert to Satan’s schemes. In Ephesians 4:27, Paul warns about the possibility of giving Satan an opportunity in our lives. Significantly, this warning is given in the context of unchecked anger. A few verses later, he wrote, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 4:29-5:2). Meditate on these words and put them into practice.

9. Be mindful of God’s control. As the apostle Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). And to the Romans, he wrote, “We know that God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

To quote once again from Ken Sande,

When you are having a hard time forgiving someone (i.e. being restored), take time to note how God may be using that offense for good. Is this an unusual opportunity to glorify God?  How can you serve others and help them grow in their faith? What sins and weaknesses of yours are being exposed? What character qualities are you being challenged to exercise? When you perceive that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness (i.e. restoration).

10. Be realistic about the process. Change often requires time and hard work. Periodic failure by an offender does not always indicate an unrepentant heart. Behavior patterns often run in deep channels. They can place a powerful grip on a person’s life. A key indicator of change is the attitude of the offender. While you may proceed with some caution, be careful about demanding guarantees from a person who has truly expressed repentance. If they stumble, the process of loving confrontation, confession, and forgiveness may need to be repeated. Setbacks and disappointments are often part of the process of change. Don’t give up too easily on the process of reconciliation. Be open to the goal of a fully restored relationship.

 

You Are Not Alone

By Mary A. S. King

Mary is one of my former students and we have kept in contact through the years. She posted this on her Facebook page and gave me permission to share it with you.

I had an anxiety15095077_10154127518968100_2922391958952435121_n episode recently. I don’t usually talk about anxiety or depression very often, but from time to time it needs to be discussed because I know there are others who suffer silently too. I was recently in a crowded room, in a social setting. The majority of the time I can mix and mingle, smile and be sociable without difficulty. I’m an extrovert and can make conversation with a wall. This time was different. My right leg jiggled like a crack addict in withdrawal. I fought and tried to keep still and I could not. My mind was on two tracks: look & act “normal”/fit in and situational awareness. My sixth sense radar was working overtime. I was sweeping the room and taking mental notes of body language, facial expressions, tone, exits. It was exhausting. I knew there was an alcoholic in the room and a subconscious part of me kept this person’s location pegged at all times. “To the left of me, walking behind me…in front of me now.” I was also ready to take him down. I was restless. Clock watching, waiting until I could retreat back to a safe place, decompress and relax. You get into a “fight or flight” mentality.

I can’t explain any of this, except that when you grow up exposed to drugs, alcohol, abuse, violence…it changes you at your core, how you are hard wired to deal with people and situations. I didn’t understand until well into my adulthood what my early childhood did to me and how it affected me in the present. As a child, my anxiety manifested itself by my stomach getting into knots to the point of making myself sick enough to throw up. Shutting down emotionally for days to the point of numbness, indifference, apathy, self-destructive behaviors, self-sabotage, low self-esteem, despair and deep depression. It’s hell, really.

What triggers these kinds of reactions?

I couldn’t tell you. A look on someone’s face, the smell of a particular food or cologne, a behavior or reaction from someone else, body language…it varies. Sometimes there is no obvious reason or rhyme, until I can go back and hit the replay button in my head to see where I was set off. I want to say it gets easier with time, but I’m not sure it does. You learn rehearsed coping mechanisms, reactions, but sometimes I think those only get you safely from point A to point B without a complete melt down.

Why do I mention any of this? To let someone know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You are not a freak of nature. It’s not for nothing. It’s called self-preservation. Sanity. The way your body reacts is its safety mode. Listen to your gut. Pick your battles. Breathe deep. Anxiety and depression don’t have to define you.

So, what now?

First, whatever the cause for anxiety or depression…it does not determine your worth. You are valuable. Unique. Needed. Loved. Worthy. By merit of being human…you have value. Claim that value and give yourself permission to feel. Own the emotions. They don’t own you. Acknowledge them and then dismiss them. They’ve served their purpose. Move on. Give yourself permission and the time and space to react and recover. If you need a moment, a couple of hours, give yourself permission to retreat, decompress and hit the reset button. Preferably in a positive, healthy way. Take a walk, get alone, jam to music, go work out at the gym, meditate, pray, call a friend and vent, see your therapist. Whatever it is you need to do, give yourself the down time you need.

Depression is a funny beast. Mild and monotonous one day and a raging, fiery dragon consuming everything in its path another day.

TAKE INVENTORY OF YOUR SELF CARE.

Are you getting enough rest? Eating right? Finding fulfillment in your life? Have a healthy outlet for stress? Setting healthy boundaries for stressors? Recognizing triggers? Are you taking care of you? The people who love and care about you the most are not mind readers. Communicate your needs to your person/people. Don’t assume they know you are struggling. The best person who can take care of you is YOU! Be pro-active in seeking out the help you need.

SEPARATE FACT AND FEELING.

Anxiety and depression can set off false flares of feelings that have nothing to do with reality and fact. Take an inventory of what you are feeling and compare that to your list of facts. Reality bites sometimes, but reality is always real. Feelings will ebb and flow like waves lapping the shore, close and then distant. Our emotions can at times be the social chameleon, changing to whatever situation we find ourselves in… stressful situation = stressful reaction & emotions. Make sure you’re not defining everything through one frame of time or one experience. If you need perspective, ask a trusted person for a different point of view. A new set of eyes on your situation may help give you the guidance you need.

Most importantly,

Your reason for doing what you do. My why is my kids. They need me to be the best version of me that I can be so that I can be who and what they need. Your why may be your spouse, your children, your parents, a friend, your beloved pet, a personal goal, a work, a charity. Whatever your reason, it is important and it matters. Keep throwing yourself passionately into your investment. Find purpose in your “why” and keep pressing forward. Just remember…progress isn’t always measured in miles…sometimes it’s measured in millimeters! It’s not a contest. It’s life and it is to be enjoyed.

First Impressions

A few weeks ago I wrote about changing my therapist. Today, I’ll tell you my impressions after two sessions with a new counselor. Two 50-minute conversations with someone is not going to give you all the information you need to judge them or their skill level. With that caveat, I proceed.

The first session did not go well because she did not show up. She told me one day and Image result for first impressionstime and wrote down a different day and time for herself. This was both disappointing and discouraging. I spent time preparing for my session by filling out paper work and editing and printing some of my previous articles in order to give her a more complete picture of who I was and at what stage I was. My anticipation and expectations were high. After being told she wasn’t coming, I was sullen. I went home and went to bed at 8:00 PM and slept till 6:40 AM the next day. My wife encouraged me to reschedule, so I did. I was seen the next day amidst some embarrassment and groveling.

For our next session I expected my therapist to read what I had written about myself. But, she read only one page. Admittedly, I gave her enough material to make a small book, however I emphasized to her that I did not want to start from the beginning with a new therapist but progress from my current status. Once again, I reiterated the importance of getting familiar with my story and the work I have done to get where I am.

She said a couple of things during that second session that made my eyebrows lift. The first statement she made was that I should be over this episode of depression already. My first clinical depression lasted four-and one-half years, my second five months, my third four months, my fourth two years and four months, and my current episode is into its tenth month. In her defense, studies report that the median length of a depressive episode is 20 to 23 weeks or roughly six months.

Notice the word “median.” It does not say “average,” which is the addition of the months that each individual was depressed in the whole study group divided by the number of people participating. You will not find an average length of time in the literature, you only find the median.

“Median” means that half of the people in the study were depressed for longer than the other half. In other words, it is the person in the middle that determines the standard. If the study included 301 participants, 150 people had shorter episodes and 150 had longer and number 151 determined the expected “normal” amount of time to be depressed.

I wanted to scream, “I AM NOT NORMAL!” I have a severe recurrent major depressive disorder which only happens to .025% of the world population according to the World Health Organization. Hey, lady, I’m a rare bird. BUT, I know what she was trying to say although she said it awkwardly. If I were working my plan (she specifically mentioned having friends and giving back by volunteering), I should be better.
Touche´!

The second thing she said was that people do not fundamentally change. I strongly disagree. People who are sick can get well. The irresponsible become responsible. Angry, peaceful. Addicted, sober. Abusive, respectful. Envious, contented. As a Christian I believe people can come from darkness to light and sinfulness to righteousness. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, the new is here!” (II Corinthians 5:17)

Although I have some constructive critiques, I am hopeful that this relationship between therapist and client will be rewarding for her and challenging for me. I reserve my lasting judgement for later.


THANK YOU!

I want to thank everyone who read, “like,” and comment on my submissions. You may have noticed I added a couple of new features. That makes four predominate subjects.

  • Depression:

I try not to be prescriptive, but descriptive in my writings. My desire is that those who have a mental illness may find solace in that they are not alone, feel some comfort, and renew their hope.

  • Restoration:

I am primarily concerned about Christians who have embarrassed themselves, their families, and their church through some sinful or troublesome act that may require public discipline (correction) and private confession and repentance. There appears to be a systemic problem in the Church universal with ministering to the above-described individuals. If I could spark a conversation or goad someone into thinking and acting because of my experience, then I will have been successful. It is not my intent to solicit sympathy or cast blame, I simply want to bring the issue out of the shadows into the light.

  • Monday’s Prayer:

This is new. I was inspired by what my former professor, Dr. Matt Friedeman, said about Psalms and Proverbs. He reported that he reads the Psalms in order to learn how to praise God and he reads the Proverbs to learn how to pray for his children. This past December I started writing prayers for my children and grandchildren in my prayer journal. Now that some months have passed, I wanted to share them with you so that you too can pray the Scriptures over your posterity.

  • Friday’s Journal:

My second new addition. These are my thoughts during my fourth depressive episode. I offer them to you as insight into the life and thoughts of someone experiencing severe depression. Perhaps they will help those who have never had a clinical case of depression to understand a little better what their loved one or friend is experiencing. It also may help someone know that they are not the only one thinking these kinds of thoughts.

Again, I am very grateful for you all. May God make my humble submissions reach and help those who are in need.

Jay

The LORD be with you.

LETTERS FROM JAIL #9-A

letters from jail 6Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

Began June 27, 2013

Dear __________

I trust you are doing well. My mind keeps going back to your last letter. I feel that my response was so inadequate. Perhaps I was just supposed to listen and pray. Please forgive me for such a pinch of a reply to such a hand full of revelation.

A…….r, the man I wrote about before, is going home today. A new law took effect in Kentucky and a lot of people are being released. Kentucky has an overcrowding problem. I hope they’re still overcrowded in August.

I had another anger management class today. I’m enclosing some things that may help explain a few things better regarding the chart I made in a previous letter. I thought I would complete the “Belief Box” for you.

“Beliefs about self:” I believe I am a person made in the image and likeness of God, bought with a price, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, I am loveable, worthwhile, good by grace, and capable. I do have insecurities of being good enough and capable enough. My feelings of low self-esteem come from those two sources.

“Beliefs about others:” I believe about others what I believe about myself. People have inherent worth regardless of quality of life. I trust to the point of being naïve. People are predictable if you know what to look for. A person should be judged on their own merits – “the content of their character.”

“Beliefs about relationships:” I don’t believe another person can “complete” me or meet my needs. I believe good relationships complement each other based on common goals, purpose, values, interests, etc. I am a rational being. I don’t like to make decisions based on my feelings or emotions. I like to think things through. I’m not easily rattled; I’m generally calm in a crisis. I use logic to influence others most of the time, and yes, I believe I can persuade them.

“Beliefs about God:” God is. His nature is holy love. God does not cause everything that happens to happen. I believe some things are no one’s fault. I believe in the providence of God and His personal presence. “Yes, He cares, I know He cares.” God allows choice. If we choose based on His principles good generally results. If I ignore His principles bad things may happen.

“Beliefs about God’s feelings:” God loves me soooooo much, John 3:16. God’s love is unconditional, but my choices make a difference in my relationship with God.

“Beliefs about doing:” My moral code is based on the Bible. I strive to love God and others. I have a strong sense of justice, respect, and honesty. These areas can cause trouble for me as I sometimes get angry in a negative way. I’m working on it.

“Beliefs about purpose:” I was created to be holy. All human life has purpose.


I came across a story that I thought you might take comfort in. It is about a woman whose husband put her in a bathtub and covered her with his body as a tornado ripped apart their home. He died, she lived. She wrote that on the worst day of her life she knew she was loved. _____, during all these difficult days you have gone through or are going through, you have been and are being loved.

Thank God for Uncle _____ and Aunt _____. It appears to me that _____ is reflecting his/her environment, as you have already observed. S/he is used to negative attention. Medication will not address the fundamental issue – parenting. I would hate to see him/her get an oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) diagnosis when parenting is the fundamental issue. Perhaps ______’s increased dosage will help, but there also has to be self-interested improvement and action.

I always told my clients that mental illness is like a journey. Medication will get you up and in the car, but the rest of the trip is up to you. Medication covers over, but nothing really changes. The change only comes through concerted effort. I have learned to overcome negative anger through application of learning, practice, and experience. No medication can teach me how to manage my anger.

_____ is only ___ years old. S/he has come through a lot of trauma in his/her life. S/he needs consistency and routine in abundance. You have time with him/her, _____. This is my opinion, but I would be very hesitant to give him an ODD diagnosis – age and environment would preclude me from doing so.

Trust in the LORD. I know this must be painful for you. Have patience. Tribulation may be a part of patience, but I have found the blessing is worth the wait. Try not to worry, “Fret not,” lean on the LORD and take advantage of the resources available to you. Remember, you can’t fix everything. Let others help.

_____ is in my prayers. I have a lot of experience praying for children, precious children, like him/her. There is hope. There are success stories. There are remedies. Remember me saying, “I believe in redemption or I couldn’t do this job?” _____ is redeemable.

Do you have any old pictures of me lying around? Maybe you could get my mug shot off the web. lol. I give you the thumbs up, too.

(To be continued)

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

A Tale of a Fallen Leader’s Family

Image result for divorceDuring my travels some years back, I met a former minister’s wife. I thought of her again as I have been preparing this series on the fallen and gave her a call. Rose (names have been changed) graciously agreed to tell me her story. Even though more than 25 years have passed, I could still hear the pain and quivering in her voice as she recounted her tale.

She and her pastor-husband, Rick, and their five children, ages 13 to three, moved to a village in upstate New York to start a new church. It was a growing and promising community not far from the Syracuse metropolitan area. With a core group of people, they were excited to start this new chapter in their lives.

Rose was a faithful ministry partner, good homemaker, excellent parent, and loyal wife. She homeschooled their children, carried the responsibility of the household on her shoulders, and did everything she could to make their home a safe and warm place for Rick.

The first five years were filled with great times of ministry. The church grew from the original founders to over 250 in attendance. A new building was nearing completion. Everything looked fantastic, but it was a façade, at least for Rick.

It all started innocently enough, as so many of these things often do. Rick was the on-call chaplain at the local hospital when a young college girl came into the emergency room severely injured. It was not life-threatening, but traumatic enough for the 22-year-old woman to think about her spiritual state and eternal destination. He ministered to her in the hospital and later she became a regular in his office for spiritual counseling.

The young lady was sincere in her new-found faith but continued to indulge in the remnants of her former life. She used Rick as a father-confessor and was often graphic and detailed in her telling. She even challenged him about what she thought was his “prudish” and “innocent” upbringing and lifestyle. He became curious and enamored with her worldly ways. They began to spend time together outside of the church office and he started to flirt with and dabble in her lifestyle choices. Before long the two of them plunged into the depths of an affair.

In a moment of conscience Rick told the local board he and Rose were having marital problems, but he did not confess to an affair. The board sent them to a two-week intensive marriage recovery program located in North Carolina. It was while they were there that Rick disclosed the affair.

Both the local church and the district supervisor were notified and upon their return to New York, Rick was immediately discharged. The elders involved thought it was necessary that he make a public confession and they required Rose to be present as well. She was humiliated and appalled at this indignity. Rick further compounded the problem by leaving his family. Rose was devastated.

The elders and district supervisor told Rose that she would have to get a job to support herself and her children posthaste. There was no salary extension, no money coming in. The district supervisor arranged for her utilities and rent to be paid for two months but required her to submit a detailed copy of every dime she spent.

Rose took a night shift job because there was no money to pay a sitter and no one volunteered to help her while she was at work. The one luxury she kept was basic cable service as a means to entertain her children while she was at work. When the district supervisor saw the cable bill, he called her and very harshly said, “If you need money, why do you have cable?” Rose canceled the service.

Several ladies were very supportive and called to comfort and advise Rose at every turn. Some of the men of the church came and got the children for outings on the weekends. They performed as the body of Christ should.

Tragically, her marriage did not survive and she was left to manage her family largely alone. She testified to the faithfulness of God and reports that her children are doing well after some very difficult and turbulent adolescent and young adult years.

She went on to say, “There are some images you just cannot get out of your mind.”

Some observations:

  • The local church performed admirably as an organism. In both the Old and New Testaments, God expresses his concern for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. God did and does advocate for just treatment. As a living body of believers, Rose was treated well by people who attended the church.
  • However, as an organization the church failed. I asked Rose if the church, district, or general church gave her any formal support beyond the initial help with rent and utilities. She said, “I didn’t think the church had any obligation to help me. I thought it was like any other job where a person gets fired.” As soon as she found a job, all financial support ceased and she never heard from the district supervisor again. She told me later that she felt “shamed and humiliated” by him.
  • Counseling for her and her children was not suggested or provided.
  • Although the members of the church responded appropriately, there was no formal involvement or plan. People did the right thing, not because the church was prepared for such an event, but out of the goodness of their hearts.
  • Rick rejected any initial attempt at restoration and the district supervisor did not pursue it any further.
  • The young mistress was never contacted by anyone, offered any help, or given any care. The relationship between her and Rick ended a few months later and she disappeared from everyone’s consciousness.

The most jarring thing I heard Rose say was that she expected to be treated like anyone else who was fired from a job. As the body of Christ on earth, the Church has a higher calling. The Church is not like any other business or corporation. The Church is to be redemptive and restorative.

As I have stated before, I believe the Church has a systemic problem in relationship to ministering to the fallen leader, their families, and the fallout from such an occurrence. There has to be a better way. To any denominational leaders that may read this blog, I throw down the challenge. I pray you will step up to it.

On Changing Therapist

Image result for mental health therapy session animationI’ve come to the conclusion that I need to change therapist and the therapy center where I have been receiving services for the past three years. It doesn’t come easy. The Boy Scout law begins, “A Boy Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, . . .” I was a Boy Scout and I take loyalty seriously. But, there has been a lot of change.

First, the director left and the board decided to put a much younger and far less experienced person in as the new director. I wasn’t really attached to the old director so it was not a great personal loss for me, but it introduced a lack of continuity, a change of structure. Somehow there was a dent in the sameness from which I drew comfort.

The man that took her place was promoted from within. He is very capable and competent and will do a good job. Perhaps because he is the age of my youngest son and far less experienced than the previous director, I look upon him as someone I want to mentor rather than a peer. I want to give him the benefit of my years of experience as a supervisor, leader of non-profit organizations, and as a college teacher of administration. My offer to help has not been utilized to this point. Maybe it borders an ethical violation to allow me, as a consumer, to help. Maybe it’s because I’m viewed as a fossil with out-of-date and out-of-step ideas. I don’t know. He and I have had some long and serious conversations, but now that he is director, things have changed.

Second, my therapist left and went into private practice. I miss her. She knows my story. She’s been listening to it for three years. She knows what I am passionate about, what pain I carry, and what issues I have overcome and those which I have yet to overcome. When she left, I dreaded the necessity of a new therapist. I didn’t want to have to tell my story all over again. I wanted to continue from where I was and not wait for a new therapist to catch-up.

But, that is exactly where I started. I told my new therapist to read my chart because I didn’t want to start over. At the first and second sessions, she told me she has yet to find my clinical notes. There I was, forced to start over. The very thing I wanted to avoid.

She’s also new to the field, only recently completing her Masters and internship. It’s probably not fair to her to have me as a client. I have been counseling people for nearly forty years and have twenty years dealing with my depressive disorder. My career has included varied experiences from children to the dying, difficult cases that no one else wanted or had given up on, and I have been a supervisor. Although I try not to be, I can see where even a seasoned therapist could be a little intimidated by me. With all of that I feel she has just been several steps behind me. After each session, I have come home and complained to my wife that she is giving me things to do that I already have done and am doing. I don’t need a review. I need a challenge.

Third, the most capable, experienced, intelligent, and gifted therapist left due to a family illness. He was a core and essential part of that place, in my opinion. He led the twice-weekly men’s groups I attended and was my trusted critic at the writers’ group of which I am a part. If the balloon already had a small leak, it burst the day I found out he was leaving.

Since hearing that news, the motivation to go back has just left. For the past couple of weeks I have found it is taking more energy for me to go than I care to expend. Yes, as a person with depression I should make myself go where I need to go and not succumb to my feelings. But, when all is said and done I want to walk away from the experience that I forced myself to participate in knowing that it was worthwhile. I just don’t feel or think that way anymore.

Therefore, I made an appointment with another therapist at a different counseling center.

This week I will say goodbye to a friend who has been there for me as a trusted member of my support network. They were there when I cried and when I laughed. There when I slumped and when I danced. There when I mourned and when I rejoiced. They have been faithful. I love them for that and will always recommend them highly.

As a former mentor, I knew it was my job to train and imbue with understanding and wisdom the person who would someday take my job. I counted it a privilege without resentment or a need for competition. My life and work live on through my students.

I feel the same about the place and people that I am leaving this week. They did not fail me, they prepared me for the next step.

Goodbye, my friend. Keep the faith. Fight the good battle. Live on.

 

The LORD be with you.

VOICES of the FALLEN

Recently, I ran across a documentary aired on HBO in 2006 about Ted Haggard. He was the founder and pastor of a mega-church in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals when he failed in a very public way. As a result of his adultery and illegal drug use he was justly removed from his pastoral leadership. The documentary disturbed me on a very personal level, not because he did not deserve to be removed from his church, but because of the treatment he received from the church as a result of his actions.

His church demanded and he agreed to be banished from the state of Colorado until such a time as they decided he could return. As a result, he, his wife, and his children lost their home, their network of family and friends, schools, and familiar places. Former friends abandoned and rejected him. He was exiled to Arizona and ostracized from any spiritual support. He received hate mail and was vilified by the media and on social networking sites. Although not in words, by their actions the church told him and his family to, “Go to hell!” I understand that the Ted Haggard’s and those of us who publicly betray the trust of the church are not sympathetic figures, but God has called His Church and the followers of Jesus Christ to a higher standard.

A few weeks back, I shared my story of failure in a blog I entitled, “Failing the Fallen.” In the spirit of that writing, I want to share some of the stories that I have gathered of other church leaders who have failed and how they were treated as a result. From my own experience and that of others it appears that the church has a systemic problem that shouts for change. Here are their stories about the treatment they received at the hands of the church.

“We were abandoned,” said one couple. “Exiled!” The denominational supervisors apparently didn’t want to hear from them until a two-year sentence was over. They said they were on their own to find their way back to God, fix their marriage, support themselves and their family, and any other of the myriad of problems that can arise as a result of such actions. The man said he felt like he and his family were being punished for embarrassing the denomination. His wife said simply, “We were shunned.”

Another man wrote, “The leadership of the church in which I grew up decided it was wholly appropriate to not only read a list of my sins from the pulpit to shame me, but also demanded that I write an explicit letter (18 pages) to my prayer and financial supporters outlining those sins.”

Leaders who fail, almost without exception, say what this man reports. “Almost everyone I knew in the ministry walked away from me – especially when I rejected a few initial efforts at restoration. Within a short window of time, friends stopped calling. Mentors stopped reaching out. Texts stopped coming. Emails stopped arriving.”

This issue is not exclusive to men. One woman confessed, “I brought it on myself and I can’t justify it and apologize enough for my actions. I feel so alone. So lost for fellowship. I am glad God is there and Jesus is always interceding on my behalf. This is not a fun adventure that came as a result of my own actions. It appears that those I was once close to are without mercy or understanding.”

Another woman wrote, “It seems true forgiveness is only found in the LORD.”

I have been in contact with a friend who failed. He has been very transparent and honest. He writes, “I am confronted and reminded often of my brokenness and especially the brokenness of the past. Nobody knows my failures more than me. I have lived with them daily. I am reminded almost to the point of distraction some days. Although I have found God to be full of mercy, love, compassion, and grace it has not been so with all human beings. For the last two and a half years I have fought the battle to rise above the condemnation and judgement of others. I have not doubted God, but I have struggled.

“There are days when I miss the people I genuinely thought were my friends. There have been painful, disconcerting times that feel more hate then love. Avoidance. Shunning. The longed-for phone call that never comes. The text with accusing and non-forgiving words. The public encounter with people who once professed to care, but now turn away without speaking. I am afraid they have taken my failures personal. Especially, because I was ‘one of them.’ Shunning, being hateful, boycotting, gossiping, and rejection is the result.

“All of that mercy, compassion, and grace we sing and preach about drains out for the fallen man or woman. The church is very good at welcoming ‘outsiders’ in, but angry, stigmatizing, and labeling when an ‘insider’ fails.”

Another of my friends said we who fail should, “Embrace the (Christian) community as a safe place to grow. Within holy community, we have a freedom to fall and get back up again. We shouldn’t leave when we fail!” But that does not appear to be the experience of so many. Instead of a forgiving “embrace,” we find rejection. Instead of “safety,” hostility. Instead of a “place to grow,” a toxic and unhealthy environment. Instead of “freedom to fall and get back up again,” condemnation and ostracization.

It concerns me when Christians profess to believe in forgiveness and reconciliation and fail to do either. If a leader – be s/he a deacon, elder, pastor, superintendent, or bishop – falls in a dramatic or public way, embarrasses the church, and betrays its trust the reaction is often critical, condemning, unforgiving, and unwelcoming. Although that person has repented over and over, asked forgiveness, and tried to make restitution where possible, the wound lives on because the church doesn’t know how to respond to people who broke, failed, and fell down in their spiritual walk.

My parent’s former pastor wrote me and said, “This subject (of leadership failure) has long been close to my heart. I served for many years on boards of ministerial standing/development and always felt we did not function well when it came to restoration. Some boards tried harder than others, but there was little success on any of the district boards with which I served.”

There has got to be a better way. Every one of the above can testify about the ones who were faithful, loving, caring, forgiving, and encouraging and we earnestly thank God for them. But, too often, the structure and organization of the church promotes more failure. My friend cries out, “Is there no place of shelter for the fallen?”

LETTERS FROM JAIL: # 8

letters from jail 6Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through my experience you may find hope and help.

 

Dear __________                                                                                                Began June 6, 2013

I wanted to share some from my reading that relates to what I wrote in my last letter. The author talks about us giving our “burdens” to the Lord. As often as anxieties and circumstances return to worry us and/or remain unchanged we give them back to the Lord. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee.” Me thinks this applies to forgiveness, too.

It sounds like you have a mission field at work. May the Lord bless your work and make your witness effective. My prayers are with you that you may shine.

It sounds like K_____ has gotten herself a good opportunity. Perhaps she will stand on her own financially soon. I imagine she wants/needs your help with N_____ for a while. Work the good work. She may act independent of you, but she is crying for your help. It will be a real trick to be Mom, Mom-Grandma, and Grandma-Grandma. You will, or perhaps already do, feel taken advantage of more than you care to admit. But, because you believe in redemption, you will continue to help as long as you are able. May the Lord be your strength.

How is D_____ doing? As a foster care therapist I’ve seen countless children long for that which they cannot have from a person incapable of giving it. I never knew quite what to do, but it never failed to break my heart.

I’m so glad your support group, Naomi Women, met for your sake. I could tell you were missing it. It’s good to have such support and receive such comfort from those in similar circumstances. I’m sure you were thrilled to get away and discover the world did not end in your absence. lol!

I like 1, 2, 3 Magic. The keys are to 1) Tell your child what s/he did wrong. “That’s one for fighting with your brother.” 2) Have restart times – from rising to noon, noon to supper, and supper to bedtime. And 3) One minute of timeout for each year of age the child is. It’s a good book. SOS has some great principles, too.

I am shy like you, but I have a public personality. At an office party I am the guy sitting in the corner by himself. Put me in charge and I’m the life of the party. It’s a learned trait. Given some training and experience you can do things like that with minimal awkwardness.

I like oatmeal, grits, cream of wheat, etc. No elbow macaroni. No! No! No! (We were served elbow macaroni with macaroni and cheese, chili, spaghetti, and Alfredo in jail.)

Oh, I heard a couple of guys sharing their regrets and what-ifs in the yard today. I hope I’m not one of them. Drugs, sex, streets derail potential. I have regrets, but I think there’s been meaning, too, and I believe there’s more yet to give and receive.

Is your granddaughter’s father involved at all? I call my grandchildren’s dads “sperm donors.” That’s about the only thing they’ve given to those precious children.

I have OCD tendencies, but I’m not a perfectionist by any means. (That was written while I was still in denial.) I’m hard on myself and grow frustrated when I don’t accomplish all I think I should. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking “me” time or play a game instead of writing or working. In the midst of the chaos in my home I had to have order just to remain sane.

I’m neither a night owl nor a morning person. I’m a daylight person. I like to go to bed around 10:00 PM and get up around 6:30 AM. Of course, in here I find I’m wide awake at 3:00 AM and having my devotions by 5:30 or 6:00 AM.

I hope I’m not being too hard on D_____ about “poisoning” me. She always used chemicals when I was asleep and always with the same results – me choking and running outside to breathe.

Honda’s are good cars and the Civic is good. Check Edmunds.com for details and prices. Kelly Blue Book is a good resource, too. Anything with less than 100,000 miles should last 10 years with normal driving.

I’ve given this some thought . . . as I sit here in my boxers while my stripes/uniform is being washed. Keep that image in your mind and try not to laugh. Boxers, t-shirt, midcalf tube socks, and black casual shoes. Okay, I’ve thought that I am the same man you knew years ago – a heart for God, a quest for knowledge, and a boat-load of insecurities. However, in many ways I am different – experience, maturity, rationality. In some ways I am trying to rediscover who I was. You have been such a precious resource and encouragement in this endeavor. In many ways I am still growing – spiritually, in knowledge, skills, and discernment.

There have been several events in my life that have shaped me – John Maxwell on discipleship, my first church, a family member’s crime, my education, and my depression.

On church services: I like blended services that combine hymns with contemporary choruses. I like strong Biblical preaching with very practical application. And I like to see what a church is doing locally, in their state and nation, and in the world. I want to see a church that has a passion for God and doesn’t need to be pushed or dragged toward spiritual growth and discipline. A church who loves poor, needy, and hurting people and will share in ministry to them. A church with values and principles. A church that believes their relationship with Jesus is the foundation of all that is attempted and achieved.

I’m praying for you. It’s hard to live with someone who yells. When my daughter yells at my grandchildren I get on to her. She says, “You yelled at us.” (I am ashamed to confess that I did, but she is me on steroids.) When she says that I reply, “Did you like it?”

Thank you for keeping me in your prayers and thoughts.

Sincerely,

Jay


Thank you for reading. The LORD be with you.

MY DEPRESSION and MY SPOUSE 2

Image result for broken marriage rings

I really don’t like sequels. They are often a waste of good talent on a poor script. Yet, here I am writing one. However, I hope not to duplicate the material from the previous post in July 2017 but add to it. As before, this is in response to my wife asking me to enlighten and teach her how best to respond to me when I am having a bad day, month, winter, . . .

 

Dear Charity,

Thank you for your willingness to learn about my depression and how best to help me when I am in the midst of a major depressive episode. I don’t know that I am capable of expressing how much appreciation I have for you when I am sick. You run toward the problem when many fleet away. You seek to help when others are ready to quit. You try to understand when countless lose patience. Truly, you are a gift from God.

When I am depressed, especially when it is as severe as it was in February, I need you to:

Take Care of Yourself.

There is a reason why airline personnel tell you to put your oxygen mask on before you help others with theirs – you can’t help anyone if you are dead. I need you to take care of yourself first.

On those nights when it is futile to try to sleep, I enjoy having you sit up with me. Even if I’m on the computer and you’re reading a book and we rarely exchange a word it is so comforting to have you near. But, you need your sleep. I can’t sleep. You can. Although I love your companionship, you cannot afford to risk your physical and emotional health by staying up with me beyond a reasonable hour.

When you discover I have left the bed and you come looking for me, put your arms around me, and say, “Oh, honey,” it makes me feel so very special. But, please, don’t think you need to linger. I am not offended that you need your sleep. In fact, I feel quite guilty if I am the cause of you not getting enough sleep.

Rest, my love, you need it.

Not Reflect my Mood.

If words were defined by pictures yours would be next to compassion, sympathy, and empathy. The prophet Isaiah (53:4) says of Jesus, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” How well you emulate Christ in that regard with me.

Walter Wangerin Jr. wrote the story of the Ragman who gave new and bright rags for old. Every time the Ragman traded an old rag for a new he also took on the burden of the person with whom he traded. A weeping woman’s tears are wiped away while the Ragman goes away crying. A wounded child is healed, but the Ragman leaves bleeding. An unemployable one-armed man receives an arm and the Ragman walks away with an empty sleeve. At the end of the day the Ragman is weeping, bleeding, dismembered, stumbling, falling, old, and sick.

What understanding you must have for me to reflect my mood. If you could, I’m sure you would take on my depression in order that I might go free. That’s the kind of person you are, but alas you cannot. The children and I need you well. You need you well. Love me. Identify with me. Connect with me. But, please, don’t be me.

Not Worry.

I know, I know, it is easier said than done. Asking you not to worry is like asking a leopard to change its spots or a tiger to alter its stripes. However, I need you to wait before you start worrying. There is no need for you to expend the mental and emotional energy required before it is necessary. Let me reassure you, I have had melancholy moods since I was eight years old and clinical depression for the past twenty years and I have survived. It may take time, but if the past is any indication of the future, there will be an end to the worst of my symptoms. The man you married will return – hopefully a better man.

There may come a time when you need to fear. If I talk about death, confess to suicidal thoughts, or express deep despair and hopelessness in word or deed then you can start to be, in the words of my father, “mighty concerned.” Until then, more than likely I’ll be okay.

Live.

Finally, I want you to live. When I am depressed I often do not have the energy to go places, see people, play games, or work on projects. In many ways my life stops, goes in reverse, or progresses at the speed of a sloth. Just because my life is on hold does not mean that I want yours to be.

I’m a big boy and I can take care of myself while you go to church, take the children to the park or a movie, go shopping and running around, socialize with your friends, and etc. Live, Charity! I’m not offended or hurt that you have a life.

My dear, you are my hero. When very few thought me worthwhile, you believed in me. During the darkest hours of my life, you came as a ray of light. You demonstrated such wisdom. You listened. You accepted. You loved. For all of that and more, I adore you.

Love,

Porter


The LORD be with you.

My Depression: Weary of Winter

Image result for gray cloudy skyDuring this twenty-year journey with clinical depression weather has never been a factor. The onset of my episodes has been in the spring, in the fall, and the latest one during the summer. Although I entered this winter already clinically depressed, I thought things were looking up. I started 2018 with a clean bill of health and my mood was lifting and I was feeling stronger emotionally. At the end of a group session on or about January 4, I told the group therapist that I thought I was in remission.

How wrong I was. My sleep pattern was already messed up and it grew worse during January. Sometimes I was sleepy in the mornings, sometimes I was sleepy in the evenings. My sleep was erratic with one exception – I wasn’t sleeping at night. (I am writing this at 2:27 AM during yet another sleepless night.)

Another sign of continued depression was the feeling of failure. During 2017 I had managed to lose 23 pounds and in two months’ time I gained it all back. My mood had improved, but my eating was still out of control. (I discussed this in my blog post, Depression: Feed It or Starve It.) I also had to stop home schooling our granddaughter. What with my depressed mood it became too much. I felt like I was failing her and my wife, but I had come to the conclusion that it was beyond my emotional ability to cope. Accepting one’s limitations doesn’t come without a price. (Thankfully, she appears to be doing quite well in public school.)

I don’t like talking about having PTSD because I feel like a fraud. Soldiers, first responders, law enforcement, and the like have real reasons to have PTSD. People who have been abducted, physically and sexually abused, stared down the barrel of a gun, or had a knife to their throat have a legitimate reason to have PTSD. I, on the other hand, have experienced none of these. And yet I suffer from violent nightmares, hyper vigilance, exaggerated startle reflex, among other symptoms. For several weeks the nightmares had subsided but came roaring back the other night in quite dramatic fashion. They have continued almost nightly since. How I’ve prayed for my sub-conscious to be at rest from conflict and pain.

January ended with the flu invading our home. First, it was our granddaughter. Then it was our grandson. Our granddaughter had another round. Finally, it was me. I missed five weeks of church taking care of the sick and afflicted, including myself. My mood suffered. My hygiene became haphazard. I isolated and did not talk to anyone for days. My spiritual life was neglected. Feelings of uselessness crept in.

It didn’t help that February was a dark, cloudy, foggy, damp month. According to the National Weather Service we had one clear day during the month here in south-central Texas. Count ‘em . . . one! My mood reflected the weather. Severe depression. No energy. No drive. No life. Guilt for being a burden to my wife. The trees appeared more barren, the clouds grayer, and the grass browner. Everything looked like an old movie – black and white. Totally devoid of color.

This was something new. The weather had never affected my mood before. Seasonal affective disorder was not in my wheel-house of experiences. It was a revelation to me that my mood was so affected by the winter months. I thought I was in remission from my months-long depressive episode, but alas it was merely a string of good days. Darkness crashed upon my parade.

Depression can be so subtle – slowly choking the life out of you. At other times it is like the proverbial Mack truck or GE locomotive that mows you down. I sat in my chair and pulled back the curtains from off the window with hope of seeing something different, but day after day it was dark. And with each murky day I became more and more enveloped in my own kind of darkness. There were days I thought of death although I was not actively suicidal.

I started to feel sorry for myself. Five Sundays and five Wednesdays had passed since I was able to go to church. Did anyone miss me? For six weeks I missed my support group and writers group. Perhaps I overestimated how much I was liked or how well others thought of me. I had to pray, “Save me from feelings of self-importance and do not let my pride cause me to stumble in my spiritual, mental, and physical recovery.”

I am thankful that winter is mostly over, but I must admit it was not totally devoid of light. I managed to turn an old entertainment center into a computer desk and a TV stand. Both pieces look really nice. Over the weekend I worked in the yard and installed a replacement garbage disposal. Insomnia persists, but otherwise the forecast calls for sunny skies with a side of improving moods. All is well.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

Failing the Fallen

I lift my pen today to attempt a delicate task – to critique the process by which I lost my ministerial credentials. It is fraught with danger. I risk sounding bitter. Self-serving. Holier-than-thou. I risk the appearance of white-washing my own culpability and casting aspersions on others. I risk the accusation of evoking sympathy for selfish purposes.

Nearly five years have passed since the day of my humiliation. This distance in time has allowed a more thorough examination of the process and of my own motives in telling my story. During this time, I began to discover that the church at large appears to have a systemic issue related to helping the fallen Christian recover. We are heavy on discipline and short on recovery. Quick to remove, but painfully lacking in redemptive spiritual restoration. Our credo is correct. Our practice is insufficient.

It is my hope and prayer that the record of my experience will contribute to the conversation regarding fallenness, recovery, and restoration in a positive way.

Image result for i've fallen and i cant get upIf you watch cable channel reruns you have heard the Life-Alert commercial. An elderly woman laying on the floor pushes a button and a friendly receptionist answers. She says, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Presumably, she is rescued because she subscribed to the promoter’s product. On May 8, 2013, I fell and no one from my church denomination came to help me up.

Although my church denomination states in its principles of restoration that “every effort shall be made to bring back to the Lord any who have wandered from Him,” no one came looking for this lost coin or searching for this lost sheep or watching for this lost son (See Luke 15). I wasn’t hard to find – I was locked up in a county jail for 360 days. The distance from the nearest church of my denomination to where I was incarcerated was less than 40 miles and I had attended that church on occasion. I was known to the district superintendent. He and I crossed paths in college and served together in a mid-east camp meeting. My brother had been interviewed for a church he was leaving. His father had preached in one of the churches I pastored at my invitation. My family and his daughter’s family went camping together. We had met.  Yet, no one came.

Another principle set forth by my church denomination states, “A sincere and reasonable effort shall be made to resolve an accusation or to deal with an offending person in keeping with scriptural admonitions.” After getting out of jail I contacted my district superintendent (A new superintendent whom I did not know had been appointed in the interim.) and inquired about my credentials. I was informed that my credentials had been pulled by recommendation of the district superintendent and the appropriate committee and approved by the district conference a few weeks after I went to jail. No formal or informal accusation was sent to me. No one asked me about my story. I was not informed of the disposition of my credentials until I inquired about them after being released from jail.

A third principle states, “Each accusation and all proceedings shall receive prompt and careful attention by the proper authorities.” In June of 2014 I inquired of the new district superintendent about a path to restoration. He told me that I would have to wait until after campmeeting season ended in two months. I contacted him again in mid-August and was informed the process had yet to begin. In November of 2014 I sent him an email saying in part, “Sir, I have not heard from you in several months.” He replied that my case was under review by the appropriate committees and that I would receive a letter in two to three months.

During this time, no one from my church denomination asked me to tell my story. No one asked for me to provide character witnesses. No one asked for my legal documentation. No one asked me to provide my medical records which stated that I was in a dissociative state at the time of the incident. The only thing asked of me was to give a “brief description” of the reasons for my divorce. I received no guidance from anyone as to how to respond to the committee’s inquiry. As of this writing I have never seen any formal accusations brought against me nor been given any reason for refusing to give me a path to restoration of my credentials.

After being refused a path to restoration of my credentials, I called the district superintendent about the process of appeal. I was told that even if an appeal was successful on the district level that the general superintendent had stated that it would never pass the General Board of Administration per her recommendation. This dumbfounded me since I had never met the general superintendent and did not know on what basis she had made such a statement.

The final guiding principle states, “Restoration to good standing of a minister and recommendation for the return of his or her credentials is to be considered in a process separate from and subsequent to efforts seeking the recovery of the health and well-being of the minister and any party(s) harmed by his or her actions.” Perhaps it was inevitable that this step would fail since none of the previous steps had been followed or even attempted.

Someone asked me if I thought these things were done intentionally. I quickly and empathically said, no! The problem was not that my beloved church denomination set out to intentionally abandon me. There was, I believe, a complete lack of intentionality. And, therein lies the problem. There was no intent to harm, but neither was there intent to help.

So, how do we move the conversation forward?

First, any governing body should take seriously the responsibility to restore a fallen Christian, be s/he a minister, staff person, or laymen. Principles are well and good, but if there is no commitment to implementation they are useless scribbles on a bathroom stall.

Secondly, a plan that involves training, designation of personnel, and an outline of tasks and duties should be developed and executed. Any deviation from the plan would need to have the written approval of a higher authority.

Thirdly, a spiritual recovery team would be identified and consist of a parliamentarian to ensure adherence to proper procedure; a spiritual advisor to redemptively help the fallen in the recovery process; professional counselors trained to meet the mental health, marital, legal, or other needs of those most affected; and an interim pastoral team to guide the congregation through this crisis of faith. Such a recovery team should make first contact no later than 24 to 72 hours of being notified of a failure.

Unless we intentionally embrace Jesus’ call to redemption and restoration, intentionally plan for contingencies, and intentionally implement them then we will unintentionally fail every time.

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay

Letters from Jail #7 Part 2 of 2

letters from jail 6Suffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that through them you may find hope and help from my experience.

Dear ________                                                                                                  Began June 19, 2013

Well, I hit the news again. You may remember I told you A_____ stuck a camera in my face. I guess it’s been released to the media. It shows me chasing them off with a shotgun in my hands. You could probably see it on the internet.

I’m disappointed. It keeps my story alive and makes it less likely they’ll release me sooner. I guess I need to start thinking 360 days instead of 180.

Do you think they included the clips of A_____ laughing at me, taunting me, and mocking me? Did they talk about the Status Quo order being violated? Did they report the fact that the police escorted them off the property two days before? What about my depressed state and being relieved of my churches that morning? What of the lies published on Facebook in an attempt to ruin my reputation?

What I did was wrong, but there were mitigating factors. I wish the whole truth could be told and not just the parts that make me look madly insane. I pled guilty because I couldn’t prove my case, not because I thought I was guilty of everything they said. Lord, I forgive. Help me to forgive.

My brother cleaned out my stuff. He said they didn’t leave me much. If that is true they have taken a lot of my inheritance. I told my brother they can give an account of themselves before God. Lord, I forgive. Help me to forgive.

Neither my brother nor I have heard from A_____.

I may be a very poor man deeply in debt by the time I get out. “If I were a rich man . . .” Limited prospects. I’ll be “living on love, buying on time . . .” (Hey, Fiddler on the Roof and a country song in the same paragraph. How wrong is that?)

Mom started working me in VBS when I was 15. I was only 14 when I started working at Junior Bible Camp. Mom always had me in two VBS’s until I was a teenager – North Anderson and Alexandria, and/or a church on 31st St. that I walked to. VBS is a good program. When I pastored in Lawrenceburg and in Kokomo, we always had real big ones.

The San Antonio Spurs will rebuild. They are a good franchise.

We went to the library last night. I picked up an old classic, A Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whiteall Smith, and a western. I don’t know which one to read first.

I talked in my sleep today. My rack mate was so troubled by what I was saying and doing that he got up and stood on the other side of the cell. Lol! I told him I was a harmless man. He said that coming from “Shotgun Shuck” (my new nickname) and a guy who took on two police officers. I had to laugh. How can you argue with wisdom like that? Oh, how I want to be a peaceable man, known for piety, not violence. I figure the bad news throughout the week disturbed my sleep. I need to pray more.

I don’t put a lot of stock in dream analysis, but I have found it helpful at times. Often dreams reveal our unresolved conflicts. I think that is what happened to me.

You spoke of forgiveness. I guess you and I both are having our crisis of forgiveness. I’m struggling with my story being on the news, but I think it’s political – this being a local election year – and the fact that I’m a minister. If I had not been a minister this would be a non-story. I don’t know that there’s anything to forgive here, but I am embarrassed that it is still in the news.

But to take all of my stuff – my inheritance, my gifts, my collections, my non-marital assets. How much do you have to hate a person to want him in jail, no contact for three years, bankrupt him, and take what little he has left? Yes, I’m struggling to forgive.

I desire them no harm. I want them to have what they need. I was willing to be generous. Why, if they profess to be Christian, do they not only wish me ill, but also are actively attempting to bring ill into my life. I’m struggling. Lord, help me.

Did she ever truly love me or was I just a means to an unknown and ill-conceived end? Wow, I can’t feel sorry for myself. Let it go, Jay, release the grudge. God fights our battles. The most important thing is not the accumulation of goods here, but the storing of precious things over there.

Thank you for listening. Why kick a man when he’s already down? Lord, I forgive. Help me to forgive.

Tell me, do you ever get over the sense of betrayal and abandonment? How much time do you spend sitting by the phone expecting an apology? When do they quit inflicting pain?

I guess it’s what I tell my clients – you don’t experience emotional pain over things you don’t care about. When can I stop caring? Do you ever?

I sang in church today. I doubt they hear many classically trained vocalists. “Give Them All to Jesus” seemed appropriate for all of us in jail.

Thank you for Psalm 37. I’ve been reading it daily. It brings peace, comfort, and resolve.

On a lighter note: “A man with a headache does not want to get rid of his head, but it hurts him to keep it.”

Movie quote: “Yesterday was the tomorrow we thought we couldn’t get through today.”

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

I Miss the Sun

Please forgive me for not publishing today. The weather here in south-central Texas has been particularly gloomy this winter. It has been cold, wet, and cloudy. In the twenty years I’ve battled depression, the weather has never been a factor. But, this year, with each passing day without sunshine my mood has grown darker. Add to that a bout with the flu and I feel spent and wasted. This must be what it’s like to have seasonal affective disorder. I miss the sun.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

I Am Depression

Image result for depressionI am depression. I am black and white in a colored world. Grey clouds on a sunny day. Brown grass after a spring rain. A barren tree at the height of summer. Shadows at noon.

I am depression. I laugh with others, but cry alone. Smile when deeply sad. Appear full when truly empty. Believing when doubting. Optimistic when pessimistic. Hopeful when hopeless. Loving life when despairing. Behind my pleasant mask is bottomless darkness. Unexplainable misery. Persistent unhappiness.

I am depression. I am the wrong side of the bed. The short fuse. The last nerve. The final straw. About to be pushed over the edge.

I am depression. I am the whole punched in the wall. The dent in the door. The tire rubber left on the cement driveway. The whimper from the dog. The cowering child.

I am depression. I am the missed Super Bowl or seventh game of the World Series. Cob webs on the golf clubs. An untouched camera. A grounded drone.

I am depression. I am a daughter’s missed pinning. A son’s missed basketball game. A spouse’s missed community production.

I am depression. I am uncombed hair. Unshaved face. Unbrushed teeth. Wrinkled clothes.

I am depression. I am the lonely chair in a dark room. The closed door. The “do not disturb” demeanor. The affectionless bedroom.

I am depression. I am the extra bowl of ice cream. Tight fitting pants. Grazing. Craving. Insatiable appetite.

I am depression. I am spoiled milk. Moldy bread. An untouched meal. Dysfunctional taste buds.

I am depression. I am the movies watched through the night. Tossing and turning. Twisted blankets. Untucked sheets.

I am depression. I am the missing Wednesday between Tuesday and Thursday. The endless nap. The 18-hour sleep.

I am depression. I am the shortened shopping trip. Half-mowed lawn. The rest required before completely dressed.

I am depression. I am the leg that endlessly jumps up and down. Drumming fingers. Wringing hands. Pacing feet. Exaggerated startle reflex. Trading chairs.

I am depression. I am the unexplained back pain. Relentless headache. Upset stomach. Cramping colon.

I am depression. I am the “what ifs” and “if onlys” that crowd your thoughts. The “should haves” and the “ought to haves.” The bowed head and slumping shoulders. Evasive eyes. Dreadful memories. Exaggerated faults. Unforgiveable mistakes.

I am depression. I am the third reading of the same page. Unheard radio. Unwatched TV. Unfinished puzzle. The long pause between sentences. Unanswered question. The unmade decision.

I am depression. I am the missed meeting. Unfinished assignment. Incomplete project. Late paper. First warning. Pink slip.

I am depression. I am the second glass of wine. Third bottle of beer. Extra pain pill. The anxiety med taken before time. The chased loss. Fast curve. Equipmentless climb.

I am depression. I am the thoughts that envy the dead. The settling of accounts. The saying of goodbyes.

I am depression. I am both young and old. Rich and poor. Educated and uneducated. Male and female. I am every race, color, religion, national origin, ethnic group, and sexual orientation.

I am depression. I make survivors strong. Sufferers compassionate. Wounded healers. Victims advocates.

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline   1-800-273-8255

For information about depression see:

NIMH » Depression

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression

Principles of Restoration

Image result for where sin abounded grace abounded moreOnce a Christian individual, organization, or church recognizes, accepts, and adopts the fundamental truths God has handed down through the authoritative scriptures, principles of application will naturally result. The following are principles established by Christian denominations regarding the discipline and restoration of a fallen Christian.

I have added very few of my own thoughts, but I have rearranged and edited the material. In doing so it is my intent to convey the intentions of the primary source material. *


In order that the purposes of the church may be realized, discipline shall be administered in accord with the following principles:

  1. A prayerful and Christlike spirit shall be maintained at all times.

Pray that all actions will:

  • produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness,
  • promote holiness of heart and life,
  • preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,
  • serve as a warning to the vulnerable and careless, and
  • rescue those who are in spiritual danger.

The people of God are marked by holy love. We affirm that, above all the virtues, the people of God are to clothe themselves with love. The people of God have always welcomed broken people into our gathering. Such Christian hospitality is neither an excusing of individual disobedience nor a refusal to participate redemptively in discerning the roots of brokenness. Restoring humans to the likeness of Jesus requires:

  • confession,
  • forgiveness,
  • formative practices,
  • sanctification,
  • and godly counsel –
  • but most of all, it includes the welcome of love which invites the broken person into the circle of grace known as the church. If we fail to honestly confront sin and brokenness, we have not loved. If we fail to love, we cannot participate in God’s healing of brokenness.

** Therefore, our response to the fallen Christian must be:

  • prayerful,
  • loving,
  • filled with grace and forgiveness,
  • and redemptive. 
  1. Every effort shall be made to bring back to the Lord any who have wandered from Him.

We believe that after we have experienced regeneration, it is possible to fall into sin, for in this life there is no such height or strength of holiness from which it is impossible to fall. But by the grace of God one who has fallen into sin may, by true repentance and faith, find forgiveness and restoration.

  • When a person is caught in sin, it is our responsibility to restore them gently and with all humility, aware that we also can be tempted, and that we seek to counsel and guide toward healing those who have been harmed by the sin of another.
  • The church recognizes its responsibility to extend the hope and healing of God’s redeeming and renewing grace to any minister who, by surrender of credential, voluntary or otherwise, have been relieved of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of being a member of the clergy due to conduct unbecoming a minister.
  • Without regard for the severity of the minister’s misconduct, the likelihood of his or her eventual return to ministerial service, or his or her initial receptivity to grace and offers of help extended, the recovery of the minister’s well-being (spiritually and otherwise) is to be diligently, prayerfully, and faithfully pursued by the supervising authorities.

Therefore, our response to the fallen Christian must be to make every effort to restore him or her to fellowship with God and spiritual health. 

  1. A sincere and reasonable effort shall be made to resolve an accusation or to deal with an offending person in keeping with scriptural admonitions.

If an accusation is shown to be true, all action by the church is designed to lead to:

  • repentance,
  • forgiveness,
  • and return to fellowship with God and the church.

The church assumes the responsibility to follow the patterns of Jesus by consistently exercising grace and truth to restore a sinning member to wholesome relationships as made possible through Christ.

Where there are persons who are harmed by a sinning member, the church will offer ministry to them in the protection of a transformational community and through the loving care of a godly individual.

All discipline must be intended to lead to the restoration and rehabilitation of the guilty party(s) and the safety and edification of the party(s) harmed.

Therefore, our response to the fallen Christian must be to redemptively discipline the offending party(s) and mitigate the damage he or she (they) may have caused through intentional ministry to the party(s) harmed.    

  1. Each accusation and all proceedings shall receive prompt and careful attention by the proper authorities.

Therefore, an immediate, active, and purposeful response is to be implemented if at all practicable.

  1. Restoration to good standing of a minister and recommendation for the return of his or her credentials is to be considered in a process separate from and subsequent to efforts seeking the recovery of the health and well-being of the minister and any party(s) harmed by his or her actions.

Therefore, consideration for restoration to ministerial standings will not be considered until the first three responses are satisfactorily accomplished.

Here I ask – What good are principles if we do not live by them?  If the truths we say we believe in are fleshed out into adopted principles, yet we fail to live by them, do we really believe in the truths we confess and the principles we profess?

*I have intentionally withheld identifying the source material at this time.

**Statements in bold print are my personal summation of the preceding material.

LETTERS FROM JAIL #6

Image result for letters from jailSuffering from severe depression, experiencing extreme paranoia, and during a dissociative episode I committed some crimes. Although I don’t remember much of what I did, I took and take full responsibility for my actions. I accepted a plea deal that resulted in a 360-day sentence served in the Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. These letters are a record of my journey and recovery both mentally and spiritually. They are offered to you as written with only minor editing. It is my prayer that you may find hope and help from my experience.

 

Dear __________,                                                                                          Began June 17, 2013

 

A month of days have passed since I came to jail to stay. It has been an eventful month.

I moved cells twice today. The first cell was a holding cell. I expected to be there two or three days, but they moved us again in three hours. There were a lot of young pups in that cell that made a lot of noise. Another man had schizophrenia and was talking to the TV. One of the guys came to get me to see what I could do. At one point 18 guys were in an eight by ten room. The man with schizophrenia was pretty delusional. I started doing deep breathing exercises with him to help keep him in reality. I felt useful.

I’m in a much quieter cell now. It’s a ten-man cell. One of the guys (A_____) from my old cell is with me. It makes the transition easier. A_____ is a nice guy. Quiet. Thoughtful. He reads his leather-bound Bible and prays over his meals. He has a wife and two children, a girl and a boy. He has an addiction issue that has him in and out of jail often.

I’m watching the NBA finals. Since the Indiana Pacers got knocked out . . . Go Spurs! Old ABA (American Basketball Association) fans have to stick together. I’m not much of a sports fan, but I do like to watch the baseball, football, and basketball playoffs. I like the Olympics, too. I follow NASCAR as well. I watch the start of the race, take a nap in the middle, and wake up for the end.

Sin sure causes messes, doesn’t it? Many of the children I worked with hardly knew where they belonged or had any family identity. Rearing children that are not your own is a difficult job. But, be assured that the Father of the fatherless blesses and sustains you.

On the eighth of each month (The recipient of my letters spouse died on that day of the month.), I try to lift you even more before God. That day may always bring pain to your heart and a tear to your eye. I’m sure it was special that S_____ spent the evening with you and C_____. Shared memories are always good to sooth one’s soul. I’m sure you were a comfort to her as well.

Sometimes I feel near God, sometimes distant. There are times that I think I have messed things up to the point of being irredeemable. Silly, isn’t it? How can God make something good out of such an ugly situation? See what I mean? I’m okay. I’m not okay. Normal, I guess.

Re: self-reproaches. You would think with all my education, experience, successes, and accolades I could overcome my insecurities, but I never feel good enough. I know it’s my background, but grace overcomes. You have exposed one of my greatest weaknesses. Having “grace” as a “hobby” tells a lot about my struggles. Shoo! This is painful. One of my pastors called me a “frustrated perfectionist.” Another of my counselors said I was a slow learner. Acceptance eludes me sometimes. Being a foster care therapist was beneficial. You went into every session knowing you had a hostile audience. Overcoming reluctance was a major task. I succeeded more times than not. You have to be secure in who you are to overcome that hatred and vitriol.

I’ve been thinking about what to do when I get out. I can pastor. I can teach college. I could counsel in jail, prison, or in a substance abuse program. People tell me I have a good voice for radio. Maybe I could read advertisements, read books on tape, or be a DJ (I did that for about six months in 1992).

I just read Psalm 37 on Monday. I reread it today. Okay! I get it! “Fret not!”

I must confess that I struggle with contentment, too. It really hurt me to leave K_____. The people were responding to my ministry. But after a year of pain and six months of deep depression, I put the church’s needs before my own desires. (The depression lasted four-and-a-half years. I’m still learning how to manage it.)

I keep my goatee short. I only shave twice a week, though. That’s how often we get the clippers in jail. I can’t stand electric razors. They don’t shave close and they burn my neck. (A pain in the neck . . . hey!) Give me a safety razor every day. So . . . I’m thinking about not shaving until I get out of here. (Can anyone say Duck Dynasty?)

Question? How do you determine God’s will? I confess that I’m frightened by people who profess to always know God’s will and are so sure of it. I’m sure of what the Bible says, but when it comes to details I struggle. I’ve come to the conclusion that God expects us to use good common sense to fill in the details. We must not rely on special revelation for everything. Reason and experience must be considered. I worked with a young man facing prison time. Another man told him God was going to deliver him. God didn’t. Misrepresenting God is pretty serious, I think. One thing I know, I don’t want to be so vested in my will that I ignore His will.

Something I read in my devotions today I wanted to share. “We may face sorrow, pain, and hardship; but we don’t have to sink into self-pity. The same God who allows our suffering also showers us with His compassion.” “With God . . . we can ‘play’ in pain.” Lamentation 3:31-33 reads, 31 “For the Lord will not abandon him forever. 32 Although God gives him grief, yet He will show compassion too, according to the greatness of His loving-kindness. 33 For He does not enjoy afflicting men and causing sorrow.” (The Living Bible)

I hope you continue to find my letters uplifting.

Sincerely,

Jay

YOU DIDN’T REALLY JUST SAY THAT

Image result for 13 childrenI was reading with dismay an article in the Los Angeles Times updating the frightful and horrific treatment 13 children received at the hands of their biological parents. Then it happened. In the last paragraph Riverside County Sheriff’s Captain, Greg Fellows, is quoted as saying the parents presented “no indication of mental illness at this time.”

“YOU DIDN’T REALLY JUST SAY THAT,” I screamed silently. The same old prejudice that arises every time there is an inexpressible crime against humanity – “The mentally ill did it.”

I thought of some of the other unfounded and, frankly, ignorant and stupid prejudices I have heard in my life time.

“All Pentecostal men beat their wives.” Apparently, the couple who perpetuated this absurdity witnessed a Pentecostal preacher beating his wife. Therefore, they extrapolated, “All Pentecostal men beat their wives.” “YOU DIDN’T REALLY JUST SAY THAT.” This kind of logic is what I have come to call the “If one person does it they all do it” rule. I’m very thankful our criminal justice system doesn’t follow this standard.

“Black men rape white women.” On the small campus where I attended college news spread quickly among the 300 or so students that one of the girls was allegedly raped. (I say allegedly because it turned out to be untrue. The next day it was discovered the girl faked the rape in an effort to get the college to forgive her considerable debt.) As the campus waited for news of her condition, I joined some guys sitting cross-legged in the hallway of the men’s dorm. Then one of them just had to go there. He said, “All the black men in this city should be shot.” “YOU DIDN’T REALLY JUST SAY THAT.” There it was. That asinine and ugly prejudice. I stood up angrily, rebuked him soundly, and walked away disgustedly.

“All Hispanic/Latino fathers break in their daughters before they’re married.” I couldn’t believe my ears. And it came out of the mouth of a Christian woman who should’ve known better. “YOU DIDN’T REALLY JUST SAY THAT.” This ludicrous and slanderous accusation against a culturally rich and hard-working community. I live in a majority Hispanic/Latino neighborhood and am very grateful I do. We have great neighbors.

“Appalachian people are products of incest.” My jaw dropped and I immediately replied, “That’s a myth.” I was talking to the director of an assisted living home about one of my clients who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was from Appalachia. And, of course, we know that people living in Appalachia go to family reunions looking for a date. “YOU DIDN’T REALLY JUST SAY THAT.” My client turned out not to have schizophrenia but a traumatic brain injury from being put through a windshield during an automobile accident. Unfortunately, the good people of Appalachia have been the subject of more than their share of prejudices.

I found a few other excuses Capt. Fellows could have used to explain the behavior of these disgusting parents.

“There is no indication that their fathers had tuberculosis at this time.” According to a study released in 1924 of the inmates of San Quintin, there was a correlation between fathers who had tuberculosis and their sons who committed crimes. (L. L. Stanley, Disease and Crime, 14 J. Am. Inst. Crim. L. & Criminology 103 (May 1923 to February 1924))

“There is no indication of a sexually transmitted disease at this time.” In the same study it was found that 66% of the inmates had a STD.

“There is no indication that the hot weather played a role at this time.” There is multiple statistical data that demonstrates crime increases as the weather gets warmer. Because this couple lived in the warmer states of Texas and California, it could have been the weather.

“There is no indication that alcohol or drugs were involved at this time.” This one may have actually sounded intelligent.

“There is no indication that they had an infection at this time,” or “There is no indication that they had the flu at this time.” These illnesses were discussed in relation to criminal activity in a book by Robert Peckham (ed.), entitled Disease and Crime: A History of Social Pathologies and the New Politics of Health, New York; London: Routledge, 2013.

Write Captain Gregory Fellows at 137 N. Perris Blvd. Suite A Perris, CA 92570 and tell him that people with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of crime than a perpetrator. Let him know that people with a mental illness commit no greater number of crimes than the average population and in fact there are indications that they commit less crime.

Also send an email to the LA Times writers who published such dribble. The article is titled, “Horrific details emerge as parents accused of holding 13 kids captive are charged with torture.” The writers are Paloma.Esquivel@latimes.com (State Bureaus and Immigration desk), Sonali.Kohli@latimes.com (Education staff writer), and Joseph.Serna@latimes.com (City Desk, Mornings) (Note: The article has since been updated and the quote deleted.)

Say, “YOU DIDN’T REALLY JUST SAY THAT.”

The LORD be with you.

Jay

RESTORATION: Fundamental Truths

The purpose for last week’s blog was to establish a philosophical foundation for today’s blog. The title of my site is Depression and Restoration. It reveals my two primary interests. Depression, because I have a major depressive disorder, and Restoration, because I was and am a former minister and fallen Christian seeking redemption and restoration. The article today is primarily concerned with restoration.

Image result for christian restorationThe mercy and grace of God threads through all of Scripture – both Old and New Testaments – weaving a blood-washed garment available for all to wear, even the fallen. You know Adam and Abraham and Moses and Miriam, Samson and David and Peter and Thomas. And as you recall the most famous sinner of all: Paul the Apostle. We can add Jacob, Judah, Tamar, Aaron, Gideon, Job, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and the nations of Israel and Judah. All sought and found a place of forgiveness after great failure.

There are some fundamental truths underlying the entire discussion of Christian restoration.

First, God is love. (“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I John 4:8). Love is not simply an attribute of God, or something God does. Love is descriptive of the very nature of God, something God is. Love is at the core of the very essence of God.

According to Christian theologian, H. Orton Wiley, “The motive for the atonement is found in the love of God. This is sometimes known as the moving cause of redemption.” John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” (“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8) (“This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” I John 4:9) Wiley states that soteriology or the doctrine of salvation cannot be properly understood without “God’s righteous and holy love.”

A second fundamental truth is “Christ died for sinners.” (See Romans 5:8 above.) (I Corinthians 15:3, “. . . Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.) (I Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. . .”) If the love of God is the “moving cause of redemption” then Jesus Christ is the direct cause. The ancient Apostle’s Creed states that Jesus was born, suffered, crucified, dead, buried, rose, and ascended. The Nicene Creed tells why Jesus did all these things, “For us and for our salvation.”

That all humans have intrinsic value is the third truth. Genesis records that we are made in the “image” and “likeness” of God. (“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness . . .’” Genesis 1:26) In addition, humankind became living beings by being infused with the breath of God. (“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7) Christians believe that this is what separates humankind from the animal kingdom and all other created things upon the earth. Human life is precious.

It is this truth that also supports the Christian belief of the soul. It is in the spirit and soul of humankind that the image of God exists and must be rescued and revived from the ravages of sin. This soul is eternal and will live on in eternal life or eternal death. Therefore, both the life of the body and the soul are of utmost importance in the Christian faith.

A final truth is found in the nature of the Church. The pastor and author, Jack Hayford, rightly stated that the nature of the Church is a reflection of the nature of God. (Restoring Fallen Leaders) One of the major reasons for the Church is to share God’s love in seeking and saving lost humanity.

The first truth above is an eternal truth just as God is eternal. There has never been a time nor will there ever be a time when God is not love. The other truths are universal truths. As long as there is an earth and humankind dwell upon this earth, these truths are operational.

So, I ask the question again. What good is truth if we do not believe it? “But,” we object, “We do believe these truths.” Yet our actions betray our testimony. How can we believe God is love if we are indifferent toward our brother or sister in Christ? (“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” I John 4:20) How can we believe Christ died for sinners if we do not look for the lost coin, search for the lost sheep, and long for the lost son? (See Luke 11:1-32 The Parables of the Lost Coin, Lost Sheep, and Prodigal Son.) How can we believe in the value of human life and the eternal nature of the soul if we do not attempt to regain our brother or sister who sins? (“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. Matthew 18:15) How can we believe in the mission of the Church if we do not actively seek to restore those who wander from the truth? (“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20)

Beliefs unpracticed are not beliefs at all. If we betray our belief system by not actively participating in its tenets than we are fooling ourselves about what we believe. If our beliefs flow from an accepted standard of truth than we will implement principles of living that support our belief. To fail in this is the height of hypocrisy.

O God, save me from not practicing the things I say I believe, and practicing the things I say I do not believe.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

MIDNIGHT MUSINGS

musingsA few nights ago after everyone else had gone to bed I sat alone in front of my computer. The house was quiet except for the occasional snore of our asthmatic cat and the plastic rhythm of the keyboard. The only luminaries were a Himalayan salt lamp and the computer screen. In this setting I began to muse about all the unapplied best intentions. My thoughts began with a series of questions followed by some observations.

 

What good is truth if we do not believe it?

What good is science if we do not apply it?

What good is law if we do not abide by it?

What good is principle if we do not live by it?

What good is a mission if we do not agree upon it?

What good is purpose if we do not pursue it?

What good is a plan if we are not guided by it?

What good is policy if we do not follow it?

All truth is God’s truth. Truth is independent of historical or cultural context. Neither is it dependent on the person(s) who said it or wrote it. Truth is not truth if it changes from era to era, culture to culture, person to person, or situation to situation. Individual interpretations, community standards, or period applications are not determinate of truth.

Science is often ignored in favor of what is expedient or popular.

Laws are only effective as long as people choose to obey them. A law will not deter a determined lawbreaker. People will not observe a law that is not just and reasonable.

Without conviction, principles are merely conveniences. Principles that are rigid and inflexible are frequently broken. They must be able to bend and bow to knowledge and truth. Principles based on truth do not change. Principles based on faulty premises must change. Principles are guidelines that may (should) evolve.

A mission is an agreed upon focus. It doesn’t matter what road you follow if you do not know where you are going. A group without a mission is a rabble – everyone is doing what everyone else is doing without knowing why they are doing it. Some missions are not worth pursuing. Make sure you give your life to a worthy cause.

A purpose gives direction. If a purpose is not pursued it is simply a notion. A purpose is a map to a destination, it is not the destination. Purpose statements limit, direct, and define our work.  (You do not build the world’s largest car company by buying apartment buildings.)

Plans must serve the purpose. The plan reflects the priorities of the mission and purpose. Plans must be flexible enough to follow opportunities. Work worth doing is work worth planning. Plans are not the goals, they are the plans for reaching the goals.

Policies implement plans. Policies will develop a life of their own if they do not serve the mission and purpose.

If there is no commitment to truth, science, law, principle, mission, purpose, plans, or policies, none of it really matters.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

I LOVE TO LAUGH (Humor and Depression)

I love to laugh. The big belly laugh that brings tears to your eyes, makes you hold your sides, and causes you to hide your face in your hands. The kind where your body shakes, your should269054_248420058503284_485974_n (2)ers heave up and down, and you bend at the waist and knees.

I love to laugh. The lengthy tickle that sticks with you and keeps coming back up over the course of minutes, hours, and days. The one that comes with odd looks and embarrassing moments for its untimely eruption. The kind for which your peers and co-workers require an explanation, but you cannot give for laughing.

I love to laugh. The well-crafted humor that takes thought, planning, timing, art. Don’t expect me to like the cheap laugh that appeals to elementary school boys by referencing body sounds and bathroom functions. Or the uncomfortable laugh that accompanies foul language and crude talk. Especially distasteful is the guilty laugh that preys on the weak, the imperfect, the vulnerable, and the different.

I love to laugh. My tastes include slap-stick, farcical, hyperbole, irony, and highbrow. I have a dry sense of humor and after living with depression for nearly twenty years, it tends to be dark. My loved-ones know that if I stop laughing or making attempts at humor, I am very seriously ill.

Do you find it odd that a person with depression loves to laugh? People with depression are supposed to be miserable, sad, humorless; right? They’re not supposed to laugh, or smile, or experience happiness; are they? Come on! We who fight depression have not exited the human race, yet. Yes, we still laugh.

In fact, a Dr. Rita Labeaune, Psy.D., recognizes a condition she calls, “smiling depression.” She defines it as “appearing happy to others, literally smiling, while internally suffering with depressive symptoms.”

I don’t know what to think about that, but I do laugh. However, my laughter may be at different times, at different levels, and for different reasons than yours.

I may laugh to fit in. The sadness in my soul and the pain in my heart may be hidden behind a public mask of humor. Think of the sad clown or the depressed comedian. Although there are no definitive studies to support a connection between stand-up comedians and depression many, like Sarah Silverman and the late Robin Williams, publicly share their mental health struggles.

Laughter may be my way to cope. “Laugh or cry, you have to laugh or cry,” is a phrase that I use frequently. What am I to do when my thoughts are dark? My mind is in a thick fog? Gloomy shadows surround? Or my spirit is haunted and tormented? Cry? Crying is surrender. Why not laugh? Laughter is my rebel yell, bugle blast, or siren’s call announcing that I am not dead, yet.

Embracing humor is my way of reinforcing life. Someone said, “Depression is a war within your own mind and it feels as though you are constantly losing.” At times I am among the walking wounded – pierced, beaten, bleeding, bruised – a casualty of my conflict with depression. Laughter lives. Life may exist without laughter, but laughter cannot exist without life. “Help me Clarence, I want to live again.” (George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life)

To my chagrin, I have fewer belly laughs and lingering tickles than I had in my youth. Maybe it is maturity. Perhaps the simple and naïve pleasures of the yesteryears have dissipated with knowledge. Possibly the experience and observation of pain and loss, misery and poverty, cruelty and injustice has dulled my funny bone. But, I reject the notion that I must never, will never feel bliss again.

Martha W. relates, “I have often been accused of having ‘no sense of humor.’ So wrong. Before depression took over my life I smiled and laughed as much as the next person. Now, having lived with depression for over 15 years, the humor I find in a joke or situation is rarely visible on my face or heard in my laugh. I feel humor, but it’s just too much effort to express it. I don’t have the energy.”

With all due respect for Martha’s difficult experience, I choose to find the strength and expend the energy to laugh out-loud. Forgive me if your joke or story only evokes a smile from me instead of the hearty laugh you think it deserves, but laugh with you I will.

I will laugh in 2018. I will laugh openly, unapologetically, with gusto and delight. And, I hope to have at least one belly laugh and one lingering tickle this year. Please join me. Ha! Ha! Ha! He! He! He! Ho! Ho! Ho!

The LORD be with you.

Jay

Reflections on 2017

2018DIFFICULT! That is my one-word summation of 2017. Requiring much effort, labor, and skill. Not easily accomplished. Hard. Yep! That pretty well sums it up.

My first 2017 journal entry was for January 2, “It was a very bad night. I had to stretch my meds and I’m suffering the consequences. . . My IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is flaring. It’s a DIFFICULT start for the new year.”

There were DIFFICULT health scares in 2017. In August I became aware that I was in early stage two kidney disease, my fatty liver was enlarged, and I had an inflamed gallbladder with stones and a polyp. Some health issues pointed toward cancer – skin, gallbladder, and blood. Surgery, a first for me, took care of the gallbladder and diet will take care of the others. However, all of this took its toll on my emotions, and stress levels were high, but alas all ended well.

My mood was DIFFICULT. The “D” word (depression) made its first appearance in my journal on February 26 and continued sprinkled throughout for the rest of the year. I end the year with moderate clinical depression, but I am improving. The stressors that contributed to my depression have mostly been resolved. The task before me is to slog through my Slough of Despond toward stability.

Character flaws are DIFFICULT to admit, but 2017 rudely exposed a couple of mine. My too-sensitive-disrespect-button was stepped and stomped on multiple times. My response was less than stellar. Anger and frustration became unwelcome and far too frequent companions. It has forced me to face head on one of my greatest weaknesses. What makes me think that I deserve everyone’s respect at all times? As much as I like to think that I’ve matured in my thinking enough to acknowledge that life has many grey areas, I’m still a black and white, right and wrong, law and order kind of guy. I believe in absolutes, but I fear I have an overabundance of them accompanied by too many rules and too many expectations. It is necessary to play the “law” character in my life’s drama from time to time, but I hope to play the “grace” character more often in 2018.

Another DIFFICULT character issue required my attention. I’m a perfectionist. There, I said it. I’ve tried to pass myself off as a person with perfectionistic tendencies, but 2017 demanded I drop that lie. I am a perfectionist, albeit a frustrated one, but a perfectionist nonetheless. Buzzard behavior is one of the side effects. I tend to pass over all the beauty and life I observe in an effort to find the carrion. How I long to be an encourager. How I pray to catch others being or doing right rather than witnessing the wrong and noticing the negative all the time.

This applies to my judgement of myself as well. I save my harshest critiques for myself. I am so entuned with my faults, flaws, and failures that it’s hard for me to accept my successes. When others compliment me, I find it hard to accept or see myself as that person.  Perhaps next year I can take myself a little less seriously and give others a break, too.

Not everything was DIFFICULT in 2017.

I learned to pray differently. For years my efforts toward and prayers for reconciliation and restoration of broken relationships have been both arrogant and presumptuous. I’ve prayed that the parties I offended would learn to forgive and embrace love, mercy, and grace. On January 31st, I ended my four plus years of complaining to God and started to pray, “O LORD, prosper them spiritually.” “Bless and guide their footsteps today.” “Pour out Your love, mercy, and grace upon them.” “Protect them.” “Draw near to them.” “Encourage their hearts.” Frequently, I blessed them before God from Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV), “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

My wife taught me a few lessons in 2017. Like many of us, I interpret the words and actions of others by my own prejudices, experiences, and expectations. But, she has this annoying habit of looking at the same set of evidence and seeing an alternative explanation. At the end, I must admit that this kind and gentle spirit enlightens me with her grace and mercy. On my own, I’d never thought of what appears to be instinctual for her. I want to be more like that. I want to look beyond the surface facts and reach understanding.

My children demonstrated character and godliness in overcoming severe and DIFFICULT personal challenges in 2017. I want to be more like that, too.

Last of all, I made a great find on Easter weekend in a small town in west Texas. I recorded it in my journal, “I found the best long john (fill bar) ever. A curled yeast donut, infused on either side of the twist with crème, and topped with chocolate icing.”

I guess 2017 did have some redeeming qualities. Now forward to 2018.

Happy New Year.

Jay

The LORD be with you.

 

Our Most Important Christmas Tradition

25626328_383507402074549_4837261375287770076_oChristmas preparations came early around our house every year. In November Dad opened a Christmas Club savings account at the Anderson Banking Company for the next year’s celebration. Before I started earning my own money, he saved $50.00 dollars in an account with my name on it. That was quite a lot of money for a little boy in the 1960s and I was always ever so careful to spend it right. Ten dollars for each of my brothers and $15 dollars each for Mom and Dad. It was so much fun. Dad didn’t interfere with my purchases but let me choose what gifts I wanted to give. Helpful teaching moments. Good memories.

That Christmas Club account was one of our family traditions.

Another tradition was going to Grandma’s on Christmas eve. She lived in a tiny four room house on the side of a steep hill a few hundred yards from White River. An old-fashioned picket fence stretched across the front of her tidy yard filled with flower beds prepared for spring. Even as a child I remembered it being crowded when Mom’s brother, two sisters, Dad’s brother (who was partly raised by Grandma), and Jimmy (who Grandma raised after he was abandoned) and their families gathered in – perhaps 15 to 20 of us. The food was great. There was this squash dish that Grandma made one year that has left my taste buds yearning ever since. The preferred gift to give Grandma was clowns. Glass sculptures to add to her collection. They looked like expensive works of art to a little boy’s mind.

Another Christmas tradition. Going to Grandma’s came to an end when Mom became Grandma and her home became the center of our celebrations with our children.

Coming home from Grandmas one year, my brothers and I begged our parents to let us open one gift before bedtime. One reveal, one gift unwrapped on Christmas eve.

And thus, a tradition was born.

Christmas morning was our time for gathering around the tree and exchanging gifts. I recall one Christmas that I was the first to greet the morning. Quietly, I set myself in front of the tree and shared stares between the gifts and my parent’s bedroom door trying to wish them both open.

Collections seemed to be a theme of our giving. I received Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and Johnny Lightning cars. The family also added to my 1:32 scale slot car collection with a new racer, more track, and/or a new controller.

Mom’s collection of Lionel trains was added to annually, as well. She loved trains. I think my nephews still display them at Christmas.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, my parents exchanged underwear gifts with each other. You could count on Dad getting her bras, panties, girdles, or slips and Mom giving him tighty-whiteys and A-shirts every year.

The first memory I have of choosing a Christmas gift for anyone was one I chose for Mom. We were in a short-live21551780_383507875407835_728833796971233732_od glass shop on Pendleton Pike (now Martin Luther King Jr. Way) in my hometown of Anderson, IN. A set of glasses caught my attention. Four tall glasses etched with bronze shields, four pewter colored cup holders stamped with the image of a Spartan warrior, and a chrome plated carrier. To my little eyes it was regal, royal, and elegant. Just the kind of gift worthy of my mother. I don’t remember her response on opening my gift, but thereafter it was prominently displayed in her china cabinet. After my parents passed, the set was given to me and it now has a special place in my home.

Giving gifts, adding to collections, embarrassing moments, and special packages were part of our Christmas traditions.

Lemon meringue pie, chocolate and peanut butter fudge, pumpkin pie, and divinity candy were among the foods that gave us a sugar high by the end of the day.

It was tradition.

The most important tradition of our annual Christmas festivities was started by Dad. Before the gift exchange could start, he opened his large black leather-bound Thompson Chain Reference Bible and turned it to the gospel of St. Luke chapter two. He read verses one through twenty from the beautiful Elizabethan/Shakespearean English of the King James Version. Then he prayed. If he was present at our family gatherings, no gifts were opened, no celebrations began without his reading and praying.

It was the best, most sacred, and special tradition of all.

Of all the traditions I could have passed on to my children, the reading of the Christmas story followed by prayer is the only one I have faithfully kept. I read it to my children and they read it to theirs. I pray it never ceases from any generation to follow.

Image result for merry christmas

The LORD be with you.

Jay

DEPRESSION: Feed it or Starve it?

Image result for emotional eatingThe old adage goes, “Feed a cold, starve a fever.” I don’t know if food has anything to do with colds or fevers, but it is such an important ingredient in diagnosing major depression that it’s classified as a symptom. My interest? Last month (November 2017) I gained 15 lbs., but more about that in a moment.

I started pastoring my first full-time church at 20 years of age. Yes, I was young, inexperienced, idealistic, unqualified; a babe in grown-up clothes. My weight was 165 lbs., two years later it was 212 headed toward 230. You see, I’m a stress eater and that first church needed a far more mature and experienced person than I.

There were several stressors. I was a full-time student trying to finish college. The church was a full-time charge with heavy expectations. It had a reputation of disgruntlement, but I was naïve and thought I would be different. I wasn’t. My idealism was shattered, a world-rocking stressor for me. The church more than doubled in two years. That’s a good kind of stressor, but it is stress none the less.

After a round with stomach ulcers and with my blood pressure rising, my doctor sat me down for a talk. She said that if I didn’t get control of my eating habits, my health could be negatively affected. I made eye contact with her and shot back a reply, “Food is the only thing I have in my life right now that doesn’t talk back.” And thus, I fixed my course for obesity over the next 31 years.

However, weight gain or loss alone is not enough to suggest depression. Although my weight gain was significant in those early years and eventually topped out at 280 lbs. three decades later, it lacked rapidity. To be considered as one of the nine symptoms of major depression, weight is limited in both time and amount.  It must be both rapid – within a single month – and significant – plus or minus five percent of your body weight – without conscious effort. During my six episodes of depression since 1999, weight was a factor twice. In the spring of 2014 I lost 20 lbs. in a single month – eight percent of my body weight, and last month I gained approximately eight percent.

Since late August, I have been in a mild clinical state of depression. In November, I dropped to a moderate state and I fed it like a growling grizzly. I raided the children’s left-over Halloween candy. Ate two bowls of ice-cream a day. Lunch consisted of cookies, candy, or any other sweets I could find. Thanksgiving was indulgent. My appetite was insatiable. I hated myself for doing it, but regardless of the every-morning-promises I made to myself; I couldn’t stop. It was a primeval scream for gratification; an urge, a drive, a hunger that had to be satisfied. For 2017 I vowed to lose 20 lbs. Before November I had lost 23. If I hadn’t already been depressed, that alone was enough.

Mood and food have long been related, but more research has gone into what moods we feed and what ones we starve. “Many people with depression lose both energy and interest. This can include a loss of interest in eating” or cooking, or lacking the energy to prepare meals, says Dr. Gary Kennedy, of Montefiore Medical Center in New York. (Major Depression Resource Center)

Sadness, worthlessness, guilt, and other negative emotions appear to be connected with eating. “Depression can also result in emotional eating, a common event in which the need to eat is not associated with physical hunger,” notes Debra J. Johnston, RD, of Remuda Ranch in Wickenburg, Arizona. Some may eat to avoid feeling or thinking. (ibid.) (Depression’s Effect on Your Appetite by Chris Iliades, MD)

Anger, frustration, and excessive and prolonged stress are also associated with eating. (Ibid.) Here, I must plead guilty. Generally, I can handle a single stream of stress, but multiple streams tend to bring me down rapidly. August, September, and October saw a convergence of stressors until it became an overwhelming torrent. An education problem, a family relationship issue, and six medical matters of which half pointed toward cancer was more than I could bear. Although, the medical issues were less problematic by November – after informative or negative results from tests and retests, a surgery, and a new medication – it was too little too late to make a difference. My stress had to be fed.

I just love the way the literature addresses this subject. Make wise nutritional choices, it says. I’ve reached two conclusions about the depression advice givers: First, I think their intended audience is people who have symptoms of depression but do not meet yet the clinical definition of a major depressive disorder and/or those who have met the very minimum of requirements. Please don’t misunderstand my words as discounting or belittling the seriousness of depression at any stage, but at this point rational thought and wise decisions are easier to come by.

My second conclusion: the writings are not for people with severe depression. I’m not whining or looking for a “poor Jay, he’s had it so rough.” Save your sympathy. I’m observing a deficiency in the literature that lacks the ring of truth or practicality for a woman who can’t get out of bed, regardless of her best effort. The man who every day exhausts the resources he has in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Stop asking people to make rational and wise decisions when the biggest choice of the day, the only important choice, is to live or die.

So, I gained 15 lbs. in November. I feel terrible and don’t like myself much right now. But, by the grace of God I will overcome.

By the way, I’ve lost six lbs. so far in December.

The LORD be with you.

 

 

My Sometimes Visitor: Catalepsy

Related imageIt was a Sunday afternoon and the third day of my first psychiatric hospitalization. I woke up from a nap feeling unusual – the kind of unusual you get help for quickly. It was a heaviness that seemed to engulf my torso and limbs, a restraint without visible binders. I got up and made my way down the long hall toward the nurse’s station. My room was the last on the unit. It felt like a short walk up a steep hill. By the time I arrived I was laboring for each step. One of the attendants noticed my strain and asked what was wrong. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” was all I managed to fearfully say. At that point I went rigid and mute.

It was my first experience with catalepsy – a paralysis like state in which one’s posture remains in the same position – and mutism – an inability to speak. Both are among the 12 symptoms of catatonia – a state of being involuntarily immobile or having abnormal movement. In either case you are unable to respond to your environment. Your motor activity is markedly decreased or meaningless. “Catatonia is typically diagnosed in an inpatient setting and occurs in up to 35% of individuals with schizophrenia,” (DSM5) but it presents most often with a mood disorder. Mine occurred in the context of my severe depression.

When this occurred, I was completely aware of my surroundings and heard everything that was being said, I simply could not interact with or respond to my would-be helpers. They managed to put me in a wheelchair, take me back to my room, and sit me on the side of the bed. Not long after the on-duty psychiatrist came in with a neurologist in tow.

It was perfectly logical for him to do so. Before diagnosing a person with a mental illness, other options have to be ruled out. Catatonia can have neurological causes. He asked me to explain to her what was going on. I wanted to answer. I tried to answer. I formulated a response. The words were on the tip of my tongue. But, nothing came out. We sat there for a few minutes in a staring contest before he rose with a snotty remark, “Well, when you get ready to talk, come find us.” I got mad. I wanted to talk, tried to talk, but nothing came out. I later told him he was rude and needed to learn better bedside manners.

Catalepsy and the other symptoms of catatonia are easily missed. I suppose a psychiatrist or a counselor could work through an entire career without seeing or recognizing a case. With catatonia some people can move while others can’t. Some can be posed into gravity defying positions while others resist such posturing. Some can speak while others are mute. Some can be unresponsive while others are agitated.  Immobility may be severe, moderate, or mild.

When I was young, our family enjoyed putting puzzles together. It would be laid out on the dinning room table and you could place a piece or two as you passed by. There was a competition to see who would put in the last piece. I wanted to be the winner, so I would tilt the contest to my advantage. I hid a piece and waited while others searched before miraculously “finding” that last one that made the picture complete. The same could be said about the difficulty of diagnosing catatonia or its separate components. There’s always a hidden piece.

Perhaps it was wrong of me to expect the psychiatrist and neurologist to recognize it. But, this was a teaching hospital. The biggest and best hospital in the state, attached to the biggest and best university in the state. I depended on them to tell me what was wrong with me, but they missed it.

A couple of days later it happened again. It was about 2:00 AM and I was answering a call of nature. As I walked toward the restroom my legs quit working in mid-stride. There I was cemented to the floor, unable to move. My upper torso was moveable, my arms were moveable, and I quickly proved that my vocal cords were usable as I cried out, “Help!” Again, the night staff helped me first to the restroom and then on to bed.

A short time later another doctor came into the room. It was not to be a repeat session with a neurologist, but a visit with an orthopedist. (I told you it was hard to diagnose.) As he began to move my legs about, bending my knees, moving my ankles and toes, I said, “Doc, I don’t think the problem is in my legs. I think it is in my head.” And, once again, they missed it.

It wasn’t until I came home, dived into my DSM4 and my copy of Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry, 11th Edition, consulted reputable sources on the internet, like Mayo Clinic, and talked with other professionals that the light shone forth. Since then, I’ve never had another episode of mutism. However, there have been several recurrences of catalepsy.

It’s a problematic diagnosis. Treatment from hospital staff and other caregivers can range from the harsh to the cruel. I’ve been slapped, pushed, berated, misunderstood, and treated rudely. Others have had it far worse by being posed, humiliated, and other such degradations.

Until this past November (2017) it had been nearly five years since an instance of catalepsy. During the month I had two episodes that lasted up to 18 hours. It’s not as scary as it used to be. I now know what’s happening and am familiar with the routine. By God’s providential grace, none have lasted more than several hours and never more than a day. When it comes, I’ve learned to accept it as my mind’s way of coping with stress and depression when my otherwise conscious efforts have failed. I wouldn’t call it a friend. It’s more like an occasional acquaintance that shows up for coffee now and then.

Hakuna matata!

The LORD be with you.

Letters from Jail #5* Part 3 of 3

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The following are excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. Normally, I edit and arrange the material for readability, but this month I offer it to you in chronological order with little editing.

My purpose for these excerpts is to: first recognize the grace of God under very different circumstances, open a window into my thoughts and struggles that may relate to yours, and hope that you may be moved to empathize for the jailed and mentally ill.

June 15, 2013

I was greatly saddened today. Tears have come to my eyes several times. My mood is melancholy. I think it is the loneliness that stalks me. When I left for college in January of 1978 at 17, I never got homesick. I’ve always been independent and my attachments to people and places are not that strong. But, after about three months, I fell into my parents’ arms crying. They were playing, “Will the Circle be Unbroken” – the first time I had heard the song. I thought of my brothers and made my way to my parents. We prayed together and I cried.

The guys in the cell have suddenly taken an interest in my writing. They want to know how I portray them. Most are here for drug charges. Their lives revolve around getting drunk or high. Some appear to be genuinely nice people who are enslaved by their addiction. Jail is routine for them.

It’s Father’s Day. The chaplain had to leave so we couldn’t have church. I really look forward to going. It’s a visible witness to the cell. Many of them read their Bibles, read devotionals, pray over their meals, but they don’t pray or go to church. I wonder how many church goers don’t do the amount these men do? Of course, they cuss, relish telling about their crimes, and lust over every female that comes on the screen.

It’s Father’s Day. I miss my children and grandchildren. The two oldest had a decent father, the grandchildren had a decent grandfather, but A_____ missed out. Most of the time I was too sick to be much of a father. During the other times, there was always conflict. I tried harder to instill a spiritual foundation in him and took a strong interest in his spiritual development. That has paid off.

A_____’s actions in cutting me off and not making any effort to contact me disturbs me. He needs to respond in a Christian way. I still believe he will.

The Wounded Healer concluded oddly, I thought, but I liked the emphasis on one aspect. The experiences of the leader and the more s/he immerses himself in the painful condition of humanity, the more qualified she is to lead others to the Kingdom of God. This is one of my desert experiences. Perhaps someday, somehow, I will get to use it to lead another out of their desert experience.

Father’s Day can be difficult for some. Feelings of loneliness, sadness, and heaviness may accompany the day. As a pastor, I was always aware that the holidays were not always so bright for everyone.

I watched the NASCAR race today and the cell is getting ready to watch the NBA finals.

I find myself saying, “I used to be…” I used to be a foster care therapist. I used to be a mental health counselor. I used to be a substance abuse counselor. I used to be a minister. A long time ago I’m so glad I discovered who I really am – a person made in the image and likeness of God, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. I do wonder what I’m going to “do,” though.

I’m doing well.

Sincerely,

Jay

May the LORD be with you.

*Because of the length of this letter, I have divided it into three posts. Monday, November 27, 2017, Wednesday November 29, 2017 and Friday December 1, 2017. Thank you for reading.

Letters from Jail #5 Part 2 of 3*

The following are excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. Normally, I edit and arrange the material for readability, but this month I offer it to you in chronological order with little editing.

My purpose for these excerpts is to: first recognize the grace of God under very different circumstances, open a window into my thoughts and struggles that may relate to yours, and hope that you may be moved to empathize for the jailed and mentally ill.

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June 14, 2013

It’s about 3:30 AM. Once again, I’m wide awake – actually I haven’t been to sleep. My thoughts are filled with prayers on the behalf of others and for my own concerns. It’s quiet except for an occasional turning and snoring.

Yesterday, I started reading a short book called, The Wounded Healer. I’d heard of it but never before read it. The author writes of compassion as being able to feel the joy and sorrow of others as if they were your own. He states that compassion is being able to recognize yourself in the actions of others – good or bad. I don’t suppose he meant we literally had to go to jail to feel empathy for the prisoner, but here I am. (lol) I like the quote, “Those who avoid the painful encounter with the unseen are doomed to live a supercilious, boring, and superficial life.” No one would accuse me of having a “boring” life. : )

In your last letter, you spoke of being a “simple” person. Yet, I find you deep in faith, profound in wisdom, and beautiful in character. Simplicity is awe inspiring when adorned with grace. You have a generous kindness and an utter selflessness about you. Your gift of seeing to the heart of people’s pain and nursing them with empathy is so engaging. Your ability to bring comfort to a hurting soul and ease an awkward moment is wonderful. You listen without judgement and correct without condemnation. Perhaps, you are without complexity, but it is the most beautiful and attractive simplicity I have ever observed.

My brother stopped by yesterday to take care of practical things. He is now my POA. Poor guy, I gave him a four-page to-do-list. He also said that my divorce attorney has received a proposal. I’m inclined to give her what she wants.

My children are still alienated from my side of the family. Thank you for praying for them. A_____ is preparing for the ministry and I don’t want him to have a black hole in his soul.

Pastor Ron H_____ came by today and I was able to ask him to intervene on my behalf regarding the work program. He appeared to understand and said he would do what he could. God’s will be done. Contentment till then.

How blessed I am. In the book I’m reading the author wrote, “No man can stay alive when nobody is waiting for him.” Again, “A man can keep his sanity…as long as there is at least one person who is waiting for him.” I have you, R_____, my brothers, R_____, and others. Thank God.

Sincerely,

Jay

May the LORD be with you.

*Because of the length of this letter, I have divided it into three posts. Monday November 27, 2017, Wednesday November 29, 2017 and Friday December 1, 2017. Thank you for reading.

Letters from Jail #5 Part 1 of 3

The following are excerpts from letters I wrote while serving a 360-day sentence in Hopkins County Jail in Kentucky. Normally, I edit and arrange the material for readability, but this month I offer it to you in chronological order with little editing.

My purpose for these excerpts is to: first recognize the grace of God under very different circumstances, open a window into my thoughts and struggles that may relate to yours, and hope that you may be moved to empathize for the jailed and mentally ill.

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June 13, 2013

I didn’t get back to the cell until late, therefore I didn’t write as much today.

Thank you for your prayers. I’ve learned that prayer is more than a session at morning and night, although that is important. Prayer is a relationship with the Heavenly Father all day long. There was a statement I read today that I liked, “Prayer is not a pious decoration of life, but the breath of human existence.” It lifts my spirit to know that others are praying for me.

Last night I talked to the chaplain about not getting to work. (For every day you work, you get a day off your sentence.) He said he would speak on my behalf. But, I’m content whatever the outcome. My brother told me it was the nature of my offense. (During a dissociative episode, I attacked two police officers.) He called the jail on my behalf, too. It’s in God’s hands.

Thank you for praying that this may be a time of healing and rest for me. It is peaceful except for the constant noise of the T.V., but rest comes easily. As for my healing – well? The battle between forgiveness and bitterness remains won as long as I don’t dwell on the offense or create alternative scenarios in my mind. The “old timers” used to talk about putting things on the altar and leaving them there. I find my hurts want to crawl off and I have to put them back on the altar. The more attentive I am to my sacrifice the quicker it is consumed by His holy flames.

Healing for some areas continues to elude me. I seek healing for the things that contribute to my depression. Sometimes I wonder if I should not embrace it. The Apostle Paul had his thorn that was at once his greatest weakness and his most glorious strength. I find depression is that for me. But, somehow there has to be a way to control the deeper and darker moments. (See II Corinthians 12:7-10.)

Healing of conscience is also an area in which I struggle. Often, I replay past sins and failures hoping for a different outcome. Then, when I realize that, in spite of my best efforts, it ends the same, I question my standing with God. However, I would rather be too conscientious than hardened to my deeds and my human condition.

Sincerely,

Jay

May the LORD be with you. 

*Because of the length of this letter, I have divided it into three posts. Monday November 27, 2017, Wednesday November 29, 2017 and Friday December 2, 2017. Thank you for reading.

Mother’s Holiday Table

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Mom was an amazing cook and the holidays were an opportunity for her skills to shine. As a child of the Great Depression she was efficient without being stingy, simple but not drab, and traditional while willing to try new dishes.

Her Thanksgiving and Christmas table always included succulent turkey and glazed ham. Fresh, never instant, mashed white Idaho potatoes and white gravy. But the real treat was the Indiana German egg noodles she made to perfection. In Indiana the absence of egg noodles on a holiday table is grounds for banishment. Thick, wide, yellow noodles boiled in the broth of a freshly cooked chicken and the addition of some Swanson’s chicken broth if needed.

After being away from Indiana for 12 years, I returned to interview for a pastoral position in Kokomo. The meal after our first visit with the church included several samplings of egg noodles. I looked at my wife and said, “Honey, I feel called.”

I asked Mom where her recipe for egg noodles came from. She told me it was an old family recipe that was passed from generation to generation and dates from the “old country.” For many years I accepted and repeated her story, which I’m sure was the one she was told many years before. But, there is a problem with that version of the tale.

My maternal grandmother was from a Scotch-Irish clan whose American roots were in Appalachia, specifically Huntington, West Virginia. Grandma’s father was a glass blower that came to Gas City, Indiana for work. That had to be sometime after my grandmother’s birth, but before 1910 when the natural gas field in Indiana went dry.

Grandpa’s side was native American either from the Cherokee or Choctaw tribes. Their roots in Indiana date back to the early 1820’s, only 20 years after Indiana was opened for settlement. They passed themselves off as white and avoided the removal of the eastern tribes to Oklahoma in 1838 and 1830 respectively.

Neither the Scotch-Irish nor Native Americans have a tradition of making egg noodles. Historically, that tradition came to Indiana after a large German migration settled there. Perhaps her father’s family picked up the recipe from their German neighbors. Whatever the origin, Mom’s egg noodles were the best.

Early Thanksgiving or Christmas morning she would get up to start the chicken to boiling and preparing the dough. After letting it sit for a time while she worked on the turkey and ham and other dishes for the table, she would begin the rolling process. Plenty of Pillsbury flour was spread across that antique oak round table we ate at in the kitchen. My earliest memories are of a wooden rolling pen, but she later traded it for a good size marble one that could’ve passed for a medieval weapon.

Image result for golden yellow german egg noodlesTearing off a workable amount from the giant ball of dough resting in a large bowl, she rolled it on one side than the other until it achieved the thickness and look she was after. She then cut the whole in quarters and to acceptable lengths and put them in a stack. Bringing her knife through the whole mound, she divided them into the width of a noodle. I always enjoyed watching her do this – slice, push aside with the blade, and slice again. There was a rhythm to it that almost looked like a choreographed noodle dance. This was done over and over again until the bowl of dough was empty. Again, she let them dry in the air of the kitchen.

It was during this time that I’d sneak an uncooked noodle or two until Mom chased me out of the kitchen. Oh, I know you’re not supposed to eat raw eggs, but that dough was almost as good as the finished product. Mom dropped her noodles gently through her fingers into the boiling broth. They were never put in a mess at a time, but almost separately one by one. The noodles were finished when they reached a golden yellow. Served over mashed potatoes, the way they are eaten in Indiana, each bite was savory and just what your taste buds expected from its memory of them during the last holiday they were served.

Mom’s egg noodles survive her. My nephew, Brian, is the new guardian of her recipe and the cook that carries on the tradition. Something’s different now. I can only conclude that it’s the one ingredient she sprinkled every meal with that none of us can replicate – her love.

Happy Thanksgiving

The LORD be with you.

The Flash – A Thought for Thanksgiving

It was a sweet ride. A 1981 fifth generation Pontiac Lemans, the last year for the old storied name that first appeared in 1962. It became a popular model with NASCAR and won the Daytona 500 and Pocono 500 in 1983.

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Mine was two-tone blue, wire wheels, and two too many doors – I was a family man after all. I bought it used in 1982 from a car dealer in North Vernon, Indiana who gave full-time ministers good deals. It cost me $4,500 at 18 percent interest for three years. It was the first loan I had taken out under my own name. The lack of credit and my age, 22, gave the bank an opportunity to make a handsome profit.

District conference had ended early in June 1985; therefore, I took advantage of the opportunity to spend the evening and morning with my parents. They conveniently lived on the way home. My wife, who was nearly eight months pregnant, and our 22-month-old daughter were with me.

After lunch at a restaurant in an industrial zoned park on the west side of Seymour, Indiana, we made our way home. On the east side edge of town, Interstate 75 intersected with the famous US 50 highway that stretches 3000 miles across rural America from Ocean City, Maryland to West Sacramento, California. It was there that it happened.

A couple traveling from Florida to Chicago to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary had stopped at the Marathon station for gas. Misjudging the speed of vehicles traveling on that heavily used road, the older gentleman attempted to dart across four lanes. He didn’t make it. I hit him doing nearly 50 mph, the speed limit for that area.

It was no contest really. The 600 to 800 pounds General Motors had siphoned off that model of Lemans and the Buick 231 V6 engine it traded for the previously standard 350 or 400 V8 was no match for that all-steel-bodied late 1970’s full size Cadillac. My Pontiac hit the proverbial immoveable object and crumbled up to the firewall. Although the force of the impact caused the Cady to do a 180 and broke the rear axle, they left Seymour the next day headed once again toward Chicago.

It’s amazing how fast your brain can compute information in a crisis. In an instant of time I saw two things: a big yellow vehicle fill up my windshield and my past and future flash before me. If you had asked me if such things happen, I’d have politely discounted the notion. But, sure enough, like a movie trailer, my life up to that time blared past my eyes and I also envisioned my pregnant wife and baby girl lying dead on the highway. As you might imagine, when everything came to a stop, I panicked.

Turning around, I grabbed my sleeping daughter out of her car seat to check her condition. She started crying, not because she was hurt, but because I woke her up from her nap so abruptly. She wasn’t even aware what had happened. My little princess was a victim of the old adage – If I’m in a panic, no one is sleeping. (That’s not really an old adage, I made it up.) Afterwards, I checked on my wife and quickly assessed that no one was injured, or so I thought. (Unknown to us at the time, my wife was injured and suffered the aftereffects for several weeks.)

Shoving open the now jammed door, I intended to look after the couple in the other car. At first you don’t realize how much force you exert braking nor how hard you struggle against the recoil. But, as soon as I put pressure on my right foot, no one had to tell me it was severely sprained. Being the “he-man” that I am, I hobbled on over to the Cadillac. Police and an ambulance arrived quickly and the process of collecting information and assessing damage to body and property began. I watched helplessly as a wrecker towed away my beautiful Lemans to a salvage yard.

After the initial panic, I functioned with calm and control. Then my mother walked through the doors of the restaurant where we had taken temporary refuge. I fell apart. The dark vision of my wife and daughter dead, my “only one payment left” car totaled, and the unknown future found me seeking solace and safety in my mother’s arms.

Life happens, they say. It did that day. I gave myself a moment to cry and be comforted before resuming my roles as a grown son, husband, father, and pastor. At the end of it all, I received enough in my settlement to pay cash for my next car, pay off the loan for our travel trailer, and put some money in the bank. My wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy about five weeks later. Normalcy reigned once again.

That baby girl I so rudely awakened grew up to give her father more joy than he deserves. She is the mother of my three darling grandchildren. The boy in utero has grown into a godly young man that loves his dad and would make any man proud to call “son.” Several years later another son was born, he serves God faithfully and with skill. I am a blessed man. “In (above) everything give thanks.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

I still miss my Pontiac.

The LORD be with you.

One Day’s Struggle Against the Dragon of Depression

July 15, 2017

Today is starting well. It is 5:30 and I’m ready to get up and start my day. But for the sakeImage result for dim light in darkness of Charity (my wife), I will read the news and check out the posts on Facebook until 8:00. Although my night was short, it was five hours of sound slumber without any PTSD dreams to disturb my sleep.

9:30 finds me in the shower getting reading for the day and anticipating brunch.

10:00. On the weekend, Charity almost always fixes a nice brunch on Saturdays. Today it’s pancakes and bacon. While I’m eating my breakfast a cloud of darkness descends and engulfs me in its blackness. I finish the meal with my head in my hands. My plans of putting baseboard down will have to wait.

Why am I suddenly sad? Every reserve of energy has evaporated like the morning mist does when introduced to the sun. My strength is failing as an abyss of sorrow overpowers me. Any will I had mustered for the task ahead, any determination and resolution, and any excitement and joy is being replaced with paralyzing fear and disabling weakness. Why is this happening? Is my tendency toward perfectionism causing me to question my ability? I have been undaunted about taking on projects that I previously had no experience doing. Why has my confidence left me now?

10:30 The night of restful sleep is consumed by my dragon of gloom until I am left chained to the desire for isolation and helpless against my eyelids forcing out the light.

2:00 Nearly four hours have passed. As I slump in my chair in various stages of sleep and wakefulness, my sleep is not deep enough to escape from Saturday’s normal house noises – our grandchildren playing, and Charity coming in to check on me and ask a question or two. Yet, my wakefulness is not enough to move beyond my four-legged dungeon. Only the call of nature makes the foreboding door open, but freedom is not within reach. A tether of sadness does not let me stray far.

2:30 Trying to chase away my dragon with numbing noise, I turn on the T.V. For a few moments as a story unfolds I climb upward, but with each commercial or the end of a story I fall off my ladder of escape. This repeats itself for the next eight hours.

4:00 Charity comes in again as she has done throughout the day. She comforts me with an engulfing hug, a tender and empathetic kiss, and a reassuring, “I love you.” Her kindness and supportive gestures are appreciated far beyond my ability to reciprocate. The bars of the dungeon are too strong and I remain trapped in the dragon’s lair.

Could it be a crisis of confidence? I wonder, looking for answers where there seems to be none. Has my fear of failure reduced me to inaction? Are my perfectionistic tendencies crippling my mind with a fog of mistakes? Bedtime releases me from the dungeon to walk two steps to my bed where the sense of gloom and sadness has me ensconced still.

10:00 As I prepare for the unknown night, the 25th day of my battle with the dragon comes to an end. It has won the day and gained ground. What will tomorrow bring – more defeat, a draw, or a little victory?

As I settle into the bed and pillow my head, I see a ray of light. It is the same Light that has always been there through nearly two decades of battle with the dragon.  It is sometimes so dull and faint the darkness threatens to shut Him out; sometimes bright, shining rays of hope into my despair.

Hebrews 6:18 reads, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast . . .” Hope is the best medicine for despair. If all of the things I treasure are suddenly gone and I still have a dose of hope, I can survive. I can thrive. Someone said, “There is nothing left but to bury a man when all hope is gone.” But, for the Light, however dim, I would be that man. Hope has kept me alive. It is when hope is fed that the shadow of death must give way.

A second thought entered my mind before I went to sleep. What can I learn from this depression episode? Here I confess my independence and the efforts to conquer my dragon by my own power. I need help – the help of God, my family, and my support network. When I humble myself and admit my weakness, that is when I grow in strength. May the lessons I learn be put to good use to help family, others, and myself.

11:00 Sleep joins my hope and willingness to learn, which together provides a peaceful slumber.  My last thought of the night is that tomorrow will be a better day.

May the LORD be with you.

WITHOUT DEPRESSION, I WOULD . . .

A person sent me a note last week that read in part, “I am so sorry you have to suffer from the illness of depression.” Immediately I responded with a “Don’t be sorry for me.”

The 19th century pastor, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, had a mega-church before that phrase was coined. By age 22 he hadImage result for charles haddon spurgeon crowds that surpassed the 10,000-seat capacity of the largest auditorium in London. Yet, he was plagued with disabling depression. However, he credited his depression with making him a better minister.  “The way to stronger faith usually lies along the rough pathway of sorrow,” he said.

“I am afraid that all the grace that I have got out of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable.… Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library.”

At another time he wrote, “I would go into the deeps a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.”

Since I received that note, I have thought about what I would have lost without depression.

Without depression, I would not have the understanding or insight I possess today. The food of despair, the drink of hopelessness, the bitter cup of feeling forsaken by God, the acrimonious prayers to die, and the dish of suicidal ideations have plagued my soul. I can sit with people who lounge in the cellar of darkness and understand the depth of their agony. I have more authority than most to speak to them in their misery, because I sat where they sit.

Without depression, I would not have discovered my capacity for empathy and compassion. Because of the losses I have experienced I can sit at the table of sorrow with others and weep with those who weep. It brings a modicum of comfort and mollifies the feeling of aloneness when someone who has hazarded the treacherous waters before you enfolds you with arms of mercy.

Without depression, I would not be able to effectively advocate for those hidden and forgotten by society. I was homeless four times, penniless – without a cent to my name – for seven months, without transportation, unable to get housing or employment because of my criminal record, prevented from being near my fiance’s grandchildren, slandered, shunned, and denied a path to ministerial restoration without a hearing. Many doors were bolted against me because governments erected hundreds of barriers for the criminally convicted that prevent housing, employment, and stability. The floor attachment of a vacuum is being used to clean the fine furniture. As a result the beautiful upholstery is being sucked in along with the intended dust. The resulting damage far outweighs the harm the dust could ever have done. Federal, state, and local governments demand science based outcomes, but they are guilty of ignoring that same science when it comes to making laws and regulations. I have experienced the injustice and can now give voice to righteous causes.

Without depression, I would not know the need to fight against the stigma of mental illness. I become angry when I hear others define the life and character of an individual with a mental illness diagnosis, “He is schizophrenic” or “She is autistic.” In every other health discipline stigmatic vocabulary has been eliminated. “He is a dwarf,” thankfully has passed from formal usage. To say, “She is retarded,” is considered cruel. There would be a rousing chorus of fervent criticism against any hospital staff that referred to its patients as “the heart attack at the end of the hall,” or “the cancer in room 303.” The purveyors of kindness in our society have overlooked the labeling, prejudice, discrimination, and separation experienced by the mental health community. This needs to change.

Without depression, I would not have experienced the freedom that came inside a jail cell. Imprisonment was the only thing that stopped me cold on the path of personal destruction. A year of confinement gave my mind and body the rest it desperately needed after nearly forty years of abuse. Most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to renew my relationship with God.

Without depression, I would not be on the path to becoming the man I always thought God wanted me to be. Gone is the uncontrolled anger and yelling. In its place has come a capacity and ability to love others unconditionally, forgive, humble myself, and grow as a husband, father, and grandfather. What I had aspired to be all my life is becoming a reality and the boundaries of who I can become are being moved higher.

Without depression, I would not know the joy of being in right relationship with Jesus Christ. Beyond elevated emotions, beyond a rule book and a uniform, beyond correct dogma and doctrine, and beyond creeds and rituals; I have come to know that abiding place in Jesus where I as a branch receive nourishment from Him as the Vine, submission of myself and the desires and plans I may have to the Lordship of Christ, and a desire to know God in His revealed character and attributes, the splendor of His creation, and the grace of His redemptive work.

Spurgeon professed, “This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing

a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison (blessing).”

Do not be sorry for me. Without depression, I would not have the experience, knowledge, and wisdom I have today. Several years ago I quit praying for healing. My prayer now is to learn the lessons God is trying to teach me through each depressive episode.

May the LORD be with you.

 

FRIDAY’S JOURNAL

One man’s journey from depression to remission.


October 23-24, 2014

Bad dreams again last night. I forgot to take my Trazadone. The day was spent putting in applications and mowing the yard. There were three other jobs that came up on my site, but I lack the motivation to do anything about them. I think my brother is gettingDeskJournal_Acadia_Tan_5625x7875_029402 impatient with my inability to find work.

MONDAY’S PRAYER

#Prayers for our children from the book of #Proverbs.


From #Proverbs 6:12-15

O Lord my God and my King, You are worthy to receive praise and honor and glory forever. Let my children and grandchildren stand before You. Save them from worthlessness. From wickedness. From perversity. Cause them to not wink at #sin or be dismissive of its risks or effects. Keep them from shuffling their feet in indecision when it comes to doing wrong. Rather than pointing their finger in notice of and enjoyment in transgressions, help them to turn away strongly and swiftly. Keep them from trifling with or playing around the edges of #sin. Deliver them from a perverse heart, evil devices, and seeds of discord. Open their eyes to both the immediate, long term, and eternal consequences of wickedness. Preserve them from the calamity and brokenness of #sin. If #sin, God forbid, should overtake them and/or breaks them. Convict them. Hear their confession. Acknowledge their repentance. Redeem them from the gates of hell. Restoreboy-prayer-dad them to fellowship with You.

In the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

FRIDAY’S JOURNAL

One man’s journey from depression to remission.


October 22, 2014

It was nice not to have any bad #dreams last night. Five straight nights with bad and violent #dreams doesn’t give me much confidence for the day. We talked about #values atDeskJournal_Acadia_Tan_5625x7875_029402 group today. I couldn’t help but feel that an awful lot of my #values have been compromised because of my #depression.

MONDAY’S PRAYER

Prayers for our children from the book of Proverbs


Proverbs 6:6-11

Our Father who art in heaven, Your eyes never close. You slumber not nor sleep. You are always watching. Never surprised. Never caught off guard. Always aware. I pray that my children and grandchildren will set a watch over their souls and not let their spirit slip into slumber. Awaken their hearts and minds to the temptations of leisure. Make them aware of the danger of laziness. Aimlessness. And satisfaction with mediocrity. Help them reach their full potential. First and foremost spiritually. In their character. In their relationships. In their service. And in their profession. May they be industrious and do their labors as unto the LORD. Whether their work be menial or great. Unnoticed or renown. Unrewarding or prosperous. In all that they do let them do it to the glory of God. Teach them through nature and good human examples the dignity of labor and theboy-prayer-dad satisfaction that comes with contentment.

In the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

FRIDAY’S JOURNAL

One man’s journey from depression to remission.


October 21, 2014

I dreamed about break-up sex last night. I hate sex dreams. They make me very uncomfortable. I also dreamed about trying to reconcile with my youngest son. It wasDeskJournal_Acadia_Tan_5625x7875_029402 not successful. I had a job interview today and two calls from headhunters. The doctor increased my Trazadone.

MONDAY’S PRAYER

Prayers for our children from the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs 6:1-5

Our Father, our God, and our Deliverer who frees us from the debt of sin through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I pray for my children and grandchildren to be free from slavery to sin and forgiven of their debt of sin to You. Lord, keep them from the love of money. The quest for possessions. And any attempt to find satisfaction through the accumulation of houses, lands, and any other temporal thing. Save them from the servile slavery of debt. Let them not be a surety – a co-signer – for another’s debt. Cause them to stay unyoked to an unbeliever. Train them to be wise and cautious in their business dealings. Should they fall into the trap of debt, help them not to rest or slumber until they are free from its snare. Teach them to guard their words and give a promise or enter into a contract with prudence, warily, and seldom. Give them courage to humbleboy-prayer-dad themselves when they get in over their heads. Learn from their mistakes. Repent of their sins. And determine to never walk the path of indebtedness again.

In the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen   

FRIDAY’S JOURNAL

FROM DEPRESSION TO REMISSION

One man’s journey through severe depression.


October 20, 2014

These continual dreams of conflict with my ex-wife and the hopelessness of obtaining employment make for very restless nights. Oh, LORD, help me. I can feel myself startingDeskJournal_Acadia_Tan_5625x7875_029402 to slip. Feelings of worthlessness. Thoughts of death. I’m thankful for a faithful friend that is standing by me. I wish we lived closer to one another.