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

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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

Image result for jail

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.