WHEN A FRIEND DIES

My friend died this past Friday. He had just turned 58. It was sudden and unexpected. I am crushed. I am hurt. I am shocked.

Image result for john neihofJohn and I met in 1991. He and I were beginning our teaching careers at a college in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky at the same time. We became fast friends. My children called him “Uncle John” and his children called me “Uncle Jay.” He was like a father to my youngest son when illness prevented me from filling that role.

John was very familiar with the college where we were teaching. He had been born there and completed an AA degree from there. It was all brand new to me. As the youngsters on the faculty, I guess we had less appreciation for tradition and staid propriety then those who had served there for decades. To others, I’m sure, it appeared irreverent.

All meals were served family style with a faculty or staff member as the host. It was a time to learn proper etiquette and table conversation. John and I set a new standard – laughter. Either his table or mine would interrupt the quiet and respectful tone in the dining room with uproarious laughter. And, to make a confession, we were mostly to blame for starting it. His was an infectious laugh and loud – oh so loud. Many times we received correcting stares from other faculty and staff, but it didn’t stop us. Finally, they grew used to our hilarity and occasionally led the way.

We both were dedicated to pouring our lives into our students. John was a master teacher – many testified that he was the best they’d ever had. He also cared. We often cried with our students, prayed with them, guided them, grieved over their failures, and celebrated their successes. He became the Vice President of Student Affairs and he appointed me as Dean of Men. Later, I got a burden for starting pre-marital counseling for couples who were planning to marry over the summer. He jumped right on board and was involved in the first couples to take advantage of the service. The program continues.  He also supported me fully in my efforts to get started accountability discipleship groups for spiritual growth. This continues, too.

During the summers we tag-teamed traveling with singing groups to raise funds, friends, and recruit. I was in charge of the music for the annual campmeeting. He was there to help me with the load alternating services. John loved music. Taught himself to play the guitar. Wrote songs (some of them quite unusual) and sang wholeheartedly. Even though my name was on the flyer as the song leader, he was much better than me. He would extend his arms as high and as broad as they could reach and use his body as exclamation as he led. He didn’t do things half-way. He was all in or all out. We both became campmeeting speakers and singers. But he took it to a whole other level. He became widely known and sought after within the broader Wesleyan Methodist churches.

We shared deep thoughts with one another and weren’t afraid to call each other out when necessary. I remember him telling me about some pain a family member had caused his dear wife. The emotion flowing from his mouth was raw as if it had happened yesterday rather than several years prior. Raising my head to look him in the eye, I said, “You have to forgive him.” “Oh, Jay,” he cried, “I thought I had.” He thanked me many times for helping him through that struggle. Another time we cried and prayed together over the pain and unnecessary grief caused by someone against his father. It hurt him deeply.

John loved his Kentucky Wildcats basketball. He was forever bragging on them. Being a Hoosier, I was an Indiana fan. He always wanted me to come up to his house and watch the annual UK/IU game. Kentucky almost always won, but one year I got bragging rights. He told me, “I wouldn’t have invited you up here to watch the game with me if I thought we were going to lose.” The year Christian Laettner tipped in a last-minute basket to make Duke NCAA Champions over Kentucky, I called him. He answered the phone crying. He was passionate about his Wildcats.

After my melancholia gave way to full-blown severe depression, I could count on John. In the middle of the night he would come and help me. He intervened when I scared my children. He was there when I had a gun in my hand ready to take my life.

Regrettably, we drifted apart. Five episodes of depression, four hospitalizations, two lost careers, and chronic instability will try the wherewithal of the most dedicated soul. I think he just didn’t know what to do anymore.

In recent years, I reached out to John again. When his sister was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, I wrote him several times. He always responded with a gracious note thanking me for my prayers and concern. When she lost her battle with cancer less than four months ago, I kept in touch. In one of his last notes to me he said, “Love and appreciate you.”

I love and appreciate you too, John. Until we meet again.

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THAT’S NOT FAIR

A Thought for the Beginning of Lent

Image result for that's not fair“No fair,” I can hear my grandson say while objecting to one thing or another. Most of the time I tell him, “Well, life’s not fair.” Sometimes I will ask him, “What’s not fair about it?” Either way, to him, he is getting robbed or taken advantage of.

I doubt the feeling of “fairness” goes away with maturity and adulthood. We long and work for a just world. We demand justice for the poor and the stranger among us. We insist that our rights be respected and we are quick to shout it out to the mountain tops if we perceive we’ve been shortchanged.

But when it comes to our relationship with God, we don’t want justice. We don’t want a fair deal. We don’t insist on what’s coming to us. We want mercy, grace, understanding, and forgiveness.

Psalm 103:10-13: “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”
God does not treat us as we deserve. Rebellion must be put down. Transgression negates reward. The ungodly nature must die. Sin requires crucifixion. This is fair. This is just. This is deserving.

Aren’t you thankful that God has not treated you fairly? Rather, God loved this world of humanity so much that He sent Jesus to be made sin for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” The sinless One became sin. God became flesh. He who had all things emptied Himself. The King became a servant. The exalted One came down. The One who we praise humbled Himself to die on a cross. (See Philippians 2:6-8)
We deserve punishment. God in Christ Jesus says, “Give them a reward.” We should die, God gives us life. We have sinned enough to earn our way to hell, God says, “Give them heaven.”

If we repent, we are transformed. When we believe, we become the children of God. If we confess our sins, we are forgiven and cleansed. When we reach out to receive, the door of our life is opened for Jesus to come in.

Wow! What a deal! The love of God is the moving cause for our rescue. The songwriters put it this way.

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell . . .

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade

To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song

 As Lent begins, thank God that He was not fair with you.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

BURN BARREL THERAPY

She answered her phone to the voice of her cousin telling her that her biological mother52412017_10156185112938100_4635508342297460736_o had been murdered . . . at the hands of her brother. Heart broken and shattered, floods of happy memories of better days, and sad and tragic recollections of a broken childhood began to vie for space in her mind taking her on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Years of hurt that had been safely tucked away crashed from out of the closets in which they hid.

Martha was six years old when her mother abandoned her and her sister to a couple of lady missionaries. She professed to relinquish her parental rights on a scrap piece of paper that read, “find them a good home.” Although challenged later, it stood up in court.

The result of a one-night stand, Martha lived for six years with a drug addicted, alcohol dependent mother. Heartache, disappointment, dysfunction, and abuse – physical, mental, emotional, and sexual – was her lot. Both her birth mother and the revolving door of boyfriends that came through her home took their turns stamping pain into her psyche.

52397785_10156185112858100_7969593133790920704_oWhen Martha was summarily given away, she felt rejected and gutted. Labels of “not good enough,” “discarded trash,” “worthless Eskimo,” “disposable,” and “a mistake” imprinted on her soul. The missionary ladies, one of whom she called Mom and the other Aunt, reared her with ample amounts of love. Although it helped and set her on a healthier path, it could not erase the indelible scars of inflicted injuries.

 

Martha’s mom and aunt were her legal guardians, but they allowed her biological mom to still have contact. Martha loved her birth mother despite all the instability. And she felt that her mother loved her in whatever twisted and broken way she was capable of doing so. With permission her mother visited from time to time.

Her guardians were careful to never talk evil of her mother. Rather, they ministered to her, facilitated healing, assisted her with necessities, and gave her a place to wash her clothes, take a shower, and eat a hot meal when she had none of these things readily available. Whenever she came to their home, she was treated with dignity, respect, kindness, patience, and love. Martha’s mom and aunt patterned forgiveness and grace in very tangible and demonstrable ways.

Martha never hated her birth mother for the abuse that came from her own hands or what she allowed to happen to her at the hands of her boyfriends. After she became an adult, Martha, like her guardians, helped her mother with groceries, rides, cleaning, and companionship. Whenever she had the means she took her out to nice restaurants, shopping for clothes, and sent her care packages. She was her biological mother regardless of the dysfunction, alcohol, drugs, and hurt.

Publicly, Martha would put on a mask. Most people would have never guessed the pain she bore, the sorrow she felt, and the sadness she experienced. Like a vinyl record stuck in a repeating loop, Martha would hear the voices of abandonment, unimportance, emotional starvation, unprotected, deprivation, derision, and angry beatings.

Outwardly, she was successful. College graduate. Happily married. Good mother. Beautiful children. Hard worker. Caring friend. Inside was darkness, shame, and depression.

Although years had passed, Martha was only now beginning to believe that she was enough. Then the phone call came. Memories. Nightmares. Day of reckoning. She hurt so bad. She loved this woman who gave her life far more than she realized. And the pain of her past threatened to drown her.

With one brother in jail, the other brother living on the streets, Martha and her sister took responsibility for their mother’s funeral and burial. With all the mistakes, shortcomings, dysfunction, addiction and more that her mother had, Martha wanted to lay her to rest with dignity, respect, kindness, love, grace, and forgiveness. She was a person made in the image and likeness of God with value and worth regardless of her failures. Martha decided that every detail of her funeral would honor her decision to give her and her sister an opportunity at life.

Even with all the painful feelings that dogged her daily existence, Martha had come to50699255_10156137605728100_7429061964761923584_o the point of reconciliation with her mother’s love – however flawed it may have been. Her mother gave her up out of love. She gave her, Martha realized, both the gift of life at birth and the gift of a chance by letting her go.

Loss, sudden loss wrenches the heart, racks the brain, and lays bare the soul. In all of this Martha chose the path of forgiveness. She had forgiven her mother many times before, but now as the memories were fresh and raw, she chose to forgive again.

Martha gathered up all the wounds and injuries, all the hurt and pain, all the emotional, mental, and physical scars and burned them in her burn barrel. It was an act of faith. Letting go of what she cannot and could not change. Choosing to take authority over her life and not let the power of the past bind her. Recognizing that she has intrinsic value and worth apart from what others may say or do, or how she may feel on a given day. Martha struck anew out on the high path of love with more determination and commitment.

She may have to do it again next month, but until then she is basking in the purging that a good fire brings.

 

The Lord be with you.

 

Jay

 

*Thank you, Martha, for allowing me to tell your story.

S/HE BROKE HIS/HER VOWS

When you read this title what is the first thing that pops into your head? . . . Adultery! But what about the other vows? Are they not as important?Image result for marriage vows

A vow is a pledge or promise to do something. We make them or follow through with them every day. Loans. Mortgages. Contracts. Laws. Marriage. Breaking any of these come with consequences. Repossession. Foreclosure. Sued. Ticket. Charge. Divorce.

Failure to rightly discharge a vow can be very stressful. According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory a ticket or other minor violation rates 11 stress points out of 100. Repossession or foreclosure rates 30 stress points. Major business adjustment, 39. Fired, 47. Detention in jail, prison, or other facility, 63. Marital separation, 65. Divorce, 73.

In the Christian Old Testament and lesser in the New Testament, the making of vows was common. They were to be made freely, voluntarily, deliberately, with forethought to God. Solemnly, never lightly.

Vows among religious orders are still practiced today. Roman Catholic nuns vow poverty, chastity, and obedience. Buddhist monastics pledge to follow the rules of the Pratimoksa. Some Islamic Sufis take vows of poverty and worship, renouncing relations and possessions.

Still, the most common vow is the wedding vow most often taken “before God and these witnesses.” They express a couple’s intent and meaning about their marriage. Love. Commitment. Fidelity. As I alluded above, too often our vows become single focused on sexual faithfulness to the neglect of the others. But there is more to it.

For any relationship to succeed there must be commitment.

  • “For better, for worse.” “In joy and in sorrow.” In laughter and in tears. “Through the difficult and the easy.” “Whatever may come, I will always be there.” Dedicated completely to each other in body, soul, and mind. As Lynn Anderson sang, “I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine there’s going to be a little rain sometime.”
  • “For richer, for poorer.” “In plenty and in want.” To increase in wealth beyond the monetary rewards and material possessions. Financial pressure is one of the leading causes of failed marriages. In the January 31, 2018 edition of Forbes, Liz Ryan notes that some lessons can only be learned through failure. The ability to survive. Resilience. “You learn who your true friends are.” Strength comes by overcoming obstacles. You learn what not to do. Life is more than “winning and losing.” And you learn what kind of ethics and governing principles you possess. Adversity is the greatest teacher.
  • “In sickness and in health.” Like failure, illness is a growth opportunity. Compassion is learned through suffering. Chronic physical and/or mental illness requires the healthy partner to “step it up.” Unfortunately, some are not capable of doing so. Studies have discovered a direct correlation between sickness and divorce. According to a 2011 study of the effects of 18 different mental illnesses, it found that 20 to 80 percent of relationships ended, with addiction and depression being at the highest risk.

 

For any relationship to succeed one must love, honor, and cherish.

  • “To love …” “Acquire knowledge, happiness, and harmony by mutual love.” “I will cherish our friendship and love you today, tomorrow, and forever.” “Forsaking all others.” “Remain true companions and lifelong partners.” One of my students asked me, “Were you in love when you got married?” My reply was not what he expected. Love grows. Preserves. Enriches. Radiates. Sees the inner beauty and potential of the other. Love is faithful.
  • “… honor …” “I will trust you and honor you.” Respect. It is said that a woman wants love from her husband and a man wants respect from his wife. The Christian Bible reflects this dichotomy. “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33 NIV) Honor involves trust. Security in the relationship. Understanding.
  • “… and cherish.” Lovingly protect and care for one another. Hold dear. I told one young man that healthy relationships are the result of one whole person being with another whole person. He said, “You know how to hit below the belt, don’t you?” Too often relationships are like a tick on a dog. Or worse, a tick on a tick. Serve your spouse. Edify. Build up. Promote. Encourage. Forgive. Help him/her awaken to his/her potential.

My marriage of 34 years ended not as a result of infidelity. It ended because neither of us were faithful to or nourished the other vows. My suspicion is that many marriages end for the same reason.

Today, February 3, 2019, is my third anniversary being married to my high school12920307_830156840446840_654221435112743040_n sweetheart. I approached this marriage completely different than I did my first. The vows I wrote and said to her are framed and in a prominent place in our room for me to read regularly. Often in my daily devotions, I pray that I will treat her with value, dignity, and respect. Love her as Christ loved the Church. Edify, encourage, and build her up. Serve her without expecting anything in return. And count her always as a gift from God.

Relationships are about more than fidelity. Make sure you keep the other vows, too.

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay

LETTER FROM JAIL #14

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.

Started July 15, 2013

Dear _____

letters from jail 6It’s Monday, the AC is out and the cell is alive. Normally people sleep until about 4:00 PM, but today was haircut and nail trim day. With the AC out, it’s been alive in here since 7:00 AM.

The guys talk about all the prisons and jails they’ve been in. For some this is a way of life. They compare attributes of jails and prisons like a realtor would list a house. Freedom of movement and commissary are keys for honorable mention.

With the AC out, it gets hot in a closed, windowless room pretty quick. Guys are going about the cell in various stages of undress. Normally we have to have stripes – black and white uniforms – on, but the guards are letting it go under the circumstances. I bought a pair of shorts. (Maybe I could wear my stripes prison-issue shorts the first time I meet some of your friends and family.) My rack is the coolest in the cell, but even it was stuffy today.

Kevin – I spoke about him in an earlier letter – is a new Christian. He still carries the baggage of the world with him. He wants a pen-pal and suggested I find him one. I was very non-committal. He’s a nice guy who appears to care about people, but he can be quite a flirt – smooth operator.

The state guys need a level to work (I’m county). Some have been here over seven months without a level. They get time off and earn money for working. The state has a 20% plan. A detainee only has to serve 20% of their time before they are eligible for parole. With the county, work is the only means of earning time off. Because my case is personal to the police department and political with the prosecutor’s office, they won’t let me work.

Oh, funny story. As I’ve mentioned, I talk in my sleep. On Sunday they announced church at 9:00 AM. I said, “Thank you.” A few seconds later I got up, checked the clock, and asked if they had announced church yet. Steward told me I had just replied to the announcement. I was asleep, talking back to the announcer. Well, at least I didn’t miss church.

It’s loud today. A little tense. The guys are talking about deals. I don’t make deals – that way no one has any reason to be mad at me. No deals. No sales. No trades.

How do you pray about a divorce? The Bible upholds marriage. It says, “God hates divorce.” Divorce is allowed for only very narrow reasons. How do I pray? I don’t know how to pray. I’ve been praying for fairness.

I was in bed, but I can’t sleep. I’ll try again soon. It’s been noisy in the cell. I’ve been troubled tonight and could use some comfort. Thank you for being there.

July 16, 2013

My routine has been disrupted. I didn’t get to sleep last night until midnight. It’s hard to stay awake for devotions when you’re functioning on four hours sleep. But I will adjust. My time alone with God is too important for my spiritual and mental health.

The guys were talking about me again last night. All are starting to call me “preacher man” now. One said, “And he doesn’t even cuss in his sleep.” Thank God for a civil tongue.

Here’s a note from my devotional. “Sudden loss . . . is a startling reminder of our total dependence on God. When we experience the fiery furnace of suffering . . . God’s loving purpose is to make us pure and strong.”

The Apostle Paul decided he would rather be weak with God’s presence than be strong without it. Regardless the trial. The suffering. The loss. The pain. The humiliation we may go through, to emerge nearer to God and stronger in Him is worth the experience. Oh, that we could learn without tribulation, but great heat and intense pressure is required to make diamonds. Growth without effort would make us very weak Christians.

July 17, 2013

We had a guy announce last night for everyone to be quiet because he was going to sleep. He may as well spit in the wind. Oh, he was mad. Forgive me, but I thought it was funny. I wanted to make noise just because he was trying to be some cell boss or something, but I didn’t.

My oldest brother and his wife came by to see me today. He took his grandson to New York city, Niagara Falls, and Gettysburg. Gettysburg is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the battle this year. There were over 50,000 reenactors present. Awesome! The next big event will be the reenactment of the Gettysburg Address. Oo! Aw!

His wife took the other grandsons to the Smoky Mountains. There were lots of water and rides, I imagine. The saw three bears at Cade’s Cove. That place is always good for viewing wildlife. There’s a lot of history there, too. Yea!

My brother hasn’t heard anything from my divorce attorney. I sure wish I could get that millstone out from around my neck.

The pastor that comes to visit me said he can’t get a hold of my lawyer either. He did tell me the judge in my case recommended me for the work program. Now I know it was either the jailer, prosecutor, or chief of police that is preventing me from working. I hope they change their minds.

Church was interesting tonight. I don’t know what sources they use, but it is definitely not mainstream.

There will be a baptism Sunday.

Thank you for listening to me and being there for me. I hope you know how much I appreciate it. Hope you and your family are well.

Sincerely,

Jay

The LORD be with you.

A CULTURE WITHOUT MEANINGFUL WORDS

Allow me to rant about one of my pet peeves – overused or meaningless words. As an aspiring writer words are my craft. They are the conveyances of ideas, instruction, narratives, information, debate and persuasion, and entertainment. The Bible says, “For if the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?” (I Corinthians 14:8 KJV) If the words we use do not carry the message we intend, then understanding is lost. The response we desire is unrealized. The action we wish to invoke is left undone.

Words get overused.Image result for meaningless words

Admittedly, this is my opinion, but I think the word “hero” is used far too often. In my high school freshman English class, we were assigned to write a poem. The only part I remember is the last line, “heroes don’t come home.” Now that is a very narrow definition. Yet Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 KJV)

If a parent takes care of his/her child, is s/he a hero? Haven’t they simply met their obligation and performed their duty? If a person gives a homeless person a meal, is that being heroic? Isn’t that the humane and kind thing to do? If an organization supplies Christmas gifts for families in need, do we call them heroes? Compassionate. Giving. Sacrificial. Yes! But heroes?

When I was a young teenager, I heard the story of a man who attended a sister church. If I remember the story correctly, he was driving along a street when a screaming woman and a house on fire caught his attention. Immediately he stopped to help. Upon learning that there were children still in the house he rushed into the burning structure without regard for his own life. He brought one child out safely and went in to get another. A second child was rescued. As the flames grew greater and the smoke thickened, he braved a third entrance into the house. This time, though, he did not return. Firemen found him with the third child wrapped in his arms sitting in a closet. Neither survived.

They were not his friends or relatives. He was not a first responder. They were strangers in need. He risked his life to help. He imperiled it all to save another. He’s the definition of a genuine hero.

Words can be made meaningless by making them too inclusive.

In one of my master’s classes I mentioned something about dysfunctional families. The professor replied, “All families are dysfunctional.” Really? If all families are dysfunctional, wouldn’t that be the norm. The word “dysfunction” would have no meaning. The designation becomes useless. All families have elements of dysfunction, but not all families are dysfunctional.

When I was working in a FEMA funded program to assess the mental health needs of natural disaster survivors, we were told to label everyone as “hypervigilant.” (Hypervigilance is increased sensory perceptions and exaggerated intensity most often accompanied by high anxiety.) Everyone? If all survivors are hypervigilant, don’t we have to invent another term to describe those who are extra-hypervigilant? I instructed my team to stick with the clinical definition of the word.

Words change meaning or lose widespread usage.

There are thousands of words that are no longer a part of our everyday language.  “Ambuscade” – an ambush. “Baseborn” – someone of low social standing. “Darbies” – handcuffs.

“Awful” in the common use of the term means bad, objectionable, disagreeable. But if you use it in reference to deity it means great, awe inspiring, respectful and reverential. Confusing isn’t it?

A language historian, Anne Curzan, notes that the word “myriad” used to mean exactly 10,000, but now means simply “a lot.” “Egregious” had both a good and bad meaning. But eventually, the negative meaning won out.

Word usage can become lazy or routine.

I hear this phrase far too often – “the first time since . . .” If a team wins unexpectedly, we hear, “it’s the first time since 2001 that . . .” Or if the Democrats take over the House of Representatives, “it’s the first time since 2006 . . .” I scream every time I hear it. It is lazy writing. Unimaginative reporting.

There are so many other ways it could be said. “Not since 2006 . . .” “The last time this happened was in . . .” There is an old saying, “Don’t do the same thing always.” When I was a worship leader, I tried not to repeat a song for a year. I wasn’t always successful, but the congregation I led had a healthy taste of variety.

The program, Verbal Advantage, has popularized the slogan, “People judge you by the words you use.” That may or may not be true. But words have energy. Words convey meaning. Words transport message. Words matter. Use them to say what you mean and mean what you say. Employ them to be understood.

Here’s a toast to words!

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay

WHAT NOT TO SAY

Image result for what not to sayI should have known better. I was the supervisor of a residential substance abuse treatment program, a residential mental health crisis unit, a mental health crisis line, and the on-call crisis evaluation team. Furthermore, I had experience with my own major depressive disorder. I really should have known better.

A young nurse was working in our programs dispensing meds, seeing to the wellness of our residents, consulting with our psychiatry team, and leading small groups in both our residential programs, among other things. It was her first job out of nursing school. She was intelligent, gifted, dedicated, and a hard worker.

One day as I walked into our central office, she was sitting there with my assistant. As I walked through the door it was very obvious that there was some serious talking going on. The nurse’s face was wet with tears and her general appearance reflected deep sadness. “What’s going on,” I said. My assistant replied, “She’s depressed.” And then I said it, “You’re too young to be depressed.” It was the stupidest, uncaring, and un-factual thing I could have said at the moment.

We all say dumb things from time to time. We are incapable of being perfect. Most of the time, our thoughtless statements merely cause annoyance with others or embarrassment to ourselves. But there are a few times in life when our response to a situation is of critical importance. On the day above, I was not up to the task. I failed miserably.

A couple of years later I had a crisis of my own. My wife of 29 years had told me to leave. When I asked how long, she replied, “weeks.” (Those “weeks” turned into four years.) Several weeks had passed and I was miserable. I was in the midst of my third major depressive episode. Lonely. Missing my children and grandchildren. Desperately wanting to reconcile with my wife. I loaded my car and started for home.

Traveling toward home on Western Kentucky Parkway, my wife let me know that I was not welcome. Despondency gripped my soul. I turned around and started crying heavily. Unwanted suicidal thoughts rushed through my mind. In desperation I called 911.

The operator patched me through to a state trooper. We talked. I sobbed. Soon into the conversation, he asked me where I was and where I was going. I told him. He immediately asked, “Why are you going that way?” And proceeded to tell me which way I should have gone.

Really! That’s what you’re troubled about in this situation? I interrupted him, “I’m in crisis here and you’re concerned about which direction I chose (to get to my destination).” Thankfully, a counselor soon came on and after talking a while I was able to get an appointment for the next morning.

Here are a few things you should NOT say to a person in crisis.

  • It must be God’s will.
  • You made your bed now lie in it.
  • You need to . . . (fill in the blank with your lamest advice).
  • It could be worse.
  • Let me tell you about . . . (fill in the blank with your lamest story).
  • You’ll feel better about it in the morning.

A person in crisis doesn’t need their experience spiritualized in the moment. Maybe later, but not now. S/he doesn’t need castigated. She doesn’t need to hear what she “should,” “ought,” or “could” do. He doesn’t need his situation compared to another’s. She doesn’t need to hear your story or the story of your aunt, sister, mom, or friend. He doesn’t need to be dismissed or have his circumstance trivialized.

When I’m in crisis, here’s what I need:

  • A good listener that lets me talk. One who doesn’t force me to talk, but will sit with me in silence if that’s what I want to do.
  • An understanding, supportive, dependable person.
  • Someone who will say, “What can I do to help you?” Or, “Help me to understand what you need.”

If you don’t know what to say, it’s best that you express your care with an appropriateImage result for what not to say touch or a reassuring smile. Avoid with all diligence the asinine things that I have said and been told.

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay

WORDS MATTER

Sticks and stones

May break my bones

But words will never harm me.

I never taught my children this little ditty, because it’s not true. Words can cut deep.Image result for sticks and stones may break my bones They go far beyond the tearing of flesh and the shedding of blood. Past the fracturing of bones and damaging internal organs and systems. Words lodge in the mind as a memory that rarely fades. Words wound the soul and attack the very essence of our being. There have been times in my life when I’d rather have taken a physical beating than the bitter and malicious tongue-lashing I received.

Words especially matter to we who war with a mental illness. Disturbed. Nuts. Psycho. Crazy. Loony. Mad. Loose screw. Insane. Mental. Demented. These words cut. Stigmatize. Label. Demean. Unfortunately, characterizations like this are not limited to the uneducated and uninformed. From time to time we encounter people who are supposed to be trained and professional who act in a lesser way.

I’ve written about some of my experiences before. My first counselor told me, “Maybe God is done with you.” That struck me so hard that I paced her office and loudly objected for several minutes.

The first time I was hospitalized the treatment team ushered me into this large room. There was a chair in the middle of the room for me. Across the back wall sat a half-dozen chairs in a row occupied by doctors, nurses, and interns. I looked at them and said, “Is this supposed to intimidate me?” They didn’t say anything, but their body language spoke volumes. “We’re the expects so you be quiet.” “Don’t tell us anything, we will tell you.” “We’re better than you.”

Perhaps my most troubling incident was in an ER while trying to check into a mental health hospital for the third time. I was broken after spending a long, lonely night in jail. Suicidal thoughts raced through my troubled mind. The day before I had had a dissociative episode. It was scary to blackout like that and not know what you did during that time. I was extremely paranoid, highly agitated, and severely depressed. To say the least, I was in a bad way.

Apparently, my pacing back and forth in the treatment room disturbed the person doing the intake. Soon after she left, a hospital guard showed up. He positioned himself in the doorway with his hips to one side of the door jam and an arm on the other side. He announced, “You’re going to have to stop that.”

My agitation increased. I said, “You’re not trained in how to deal with mental health patients, are you?” He defended himself by saying that he was. I decided to educate him some more, “Well,” I said, “you need to get retrained. You never approach a mental health patient like you just did. And you don’t say what you just said.” The conversation preceded down that line for quite a while. Me educating him and he continuing to make dumb statements, threatening gestures, and taking an authoritarian stance.

When I got up to the mental health floor, I let them know in clear and plain language that their security guard was a jerk. The nurse taking my vitals did not disagree with me.

It was so different a year later at a different hospital when I presented myself at the ER. I had many of the same symptoms I had before. I was agitated. Pacing. I heard the doctor ask my brother, who had brought me to the hospital, “How long has he been like this?” Instantly, I knew I was in good hands. Here was a man with compassion and understanding.

Words matter. The words your body says are believed more than the words your mouth says. Respect. An easy tone. A comfortable setting. Relaxed and calm demeanor. Empathy. These go a long way to helping a person feel safe.

 

Words matter. “How can I help you today?” “Please help me understand what you’re experiencing today?”

Choose yours carefully.Image result for sticks and stones may break my bones

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay

 

2019 REMINDERS

The rapper India.Arie sings:

                “I am not my hair,
                I am not my skin,
                I am not your expectations.
                I am not my hair,
                I am not my skin,
                I am the soul that lives within.”

There are a few more things that you are not in 2019 . . .

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You are not your failures.

The greatest president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, lost five of his seven electoral efforts. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, went broke five times before he succeeded. Thomas Edison attempted around 1000 different ways to invent the lightbulb before he discovered the right formula.

The well-known Chinese philosopher, Confucius, reportedly said, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” People who get up again and again are remembered for their successes and tenacity. We forget their failures.

You are not your pain.

Recently I became aware of an old friend that suddenly lost his two oldest sons three months apart. Both were 41. It is said that the death of a child is the worst thing a parent can experience.

I can’t imagine that kind of pain. The loss of a pre-born child has had a lasting effect on me, but to lose my daughter and sons is beyond my ability to comprehend.

But as tragic an event as that may be, my friend is not his grief. He is much more than his pain.

You are not your family.

While working as a counselor to foster-care children, one of the greatest challenges they had, especially as they got older, was rising above their family history. It is possible.

My precious parents came from broken homes with alcoholic parents. Neither ever repeated the sins of their parents. They reached 60 years of marriage before Mom died. Both are beloved by hundreds of people they helped.

You are not your mistakes.

Poor, misguided, or wrong acts and judgements have their consequences, but they don’t have to define you. Things we do cannot be undone, but they can be redone. Things we say cannot be unsaid, but they can be corrected. Things we think cannot be unthought, but we can learn a better way. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks.

You are not your past.

Oprah Winfrey was physically and sexually abused as a child and was pregnant at 14. Jay Leno and actor Jim Carrey were homeless. The comedian, Tim Allen, spent over two years in federal prison for drug trafficking. All overcame and have become wildly popular.

You are not your mental illness.

You are not a manic-depressive. Or a schizophrenic. Or anorexic. Or autistic. I have a major depressive disorder. Although it is a part of me, it is no where near the whole of who I am. Depression is what I have. It does not define me.

You are not your physical illness.

You are not a diabetic. You have diabetes. You are not a hemophiliac. You have hemophilia. You are not your cancer or any other disease or illness. You may have an illness, but it is not predetermined to have you.

You are not your addiction.

Alcoholic? Drug addict? My dear step-son went through many rehab programs and spent many days in jail before he got clean. His blessed mother never lost faith in him. Today he is a captain in the Salvation Army.

When depression ended my ministerial career, I lost my purpose for living. My identity was wrapped up in what I could DO. And I couldn’t pastor anymore. It was not until I redefined myself by my being, the “soul that lives within,” that I finally found peace.

I appreciate how the Bible identifies me: I am a person made in the image and likeness of God. Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Known. Chosen. Accepted. A new creation.

“You are not your hair.”

Image result for 2019

Have a blessed 2019.

 

The LORD be with you.

 

Jay

THE PERFECT GIFT

Sometimes Christmas day is simply the most perfect day. You receive the gifts you wanted and you give the gifts that brightened the face of the recipient. Then there are those Christmases that go all wrong. I had one of those let-down holidays several years ago.

My dad loved music boxes. He also loved carrousel horses. What a better gift to get him than a carrousel horse above a music box. Right? Not exactly.Image result for a carousel music box

It was during my seminary years and money was tight. I worked at a high-end department store that offered a generous employee discount. In the household décor section was what I thought would be the perfect gift for dad. It was a very colorful horse attached to a carrousel poll that set above a wind-up music box. It was very nicely done in glass on top and wood as the base encasing the mechanisms. I was excited to give it to him.

As presents were being presented on Christmas day, somehow my gift for dad kept getting pushed aside. It was not by intent, but, regrettably, it built a certain amount of anticipation. When it came time for Dad to open the gift it was the last one to be opened. All eyes were on him as he carefully unwrapped the fragile treasure. The paper came off, the box was opened, and the packing material was removed for the reveal.

I will never forget the look on his face. What had been glee turned to flat affect. Anticipation gave way to disappointment. Hype failed to live up to reality. It was such an underwhelming moment that it was almost audible.

That carrousel horse music box joined Mom and Dad’s other knickknacks on display. Every time I went into their home and saw it, it brought back memories of the look on his dear face. What I thought was the perfect gift became a haunting mistake. What he thought was something extra special became something extra disappointing.

We have times like that. We get it wrong. Terribly wrong. Our best intentions and most thoughtful plans fall far short.

In ancient times there was a man that had great anticipation for a very special gift. Although advanced in years, he had been promised that he would see this gift before he died.

I wonder, did his faith ever waver during all of those years of waiting? Did he know what he was looking for or would it just suddenly be made known when it appeared? Did he look into the eyes of every new baby that passed his way expecting to catch a glimpse of his promise? Did he chase rumors from city to town to village searching? Or did he stay near home in quiet contemplation? Whatever his personal disposition may have been, we do know that he waited.

And then it happened. All the waiting. All the anticipation. All of it came together and faith became sight. Simeon marched forward and beheld the gift so long desired. He gathered it into his aging arms and held it close to his breast. Before him was the gift that he was promised. The gift that he wanted. The most precious gift ever given. The gift of God to all humankind – Jesus.

This Gift was so satisfying to Simeon that he announced that he was ready to die.

“For my eyes have seen Your salvation . . . A light to the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel.”

Nothing conceived by any other could top both the significance and importance of this Gift – The division of time between “before” and “during.” – The turning of history. – The founding of a new kingdom unlimited by borders. – Wonderful! Mighty! Everlasting! Princely! – Salvation for all. Not one family, one clan, one tribe, or one nation – but the world!

Unlike my gift to my precious father, to receive this Gift is never a disappointment. Never underwhelming. Never a mistake.

Whether you were satisfied or disappointed with the gifts you gave and received yesterday is unimportant in the larger scheme of things. What you feel today will most likely pass in the near future.

What you do about the Gift that has already been given is of eternal importance.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

DEPRESSION AND ADVENT

Holidays come with their own set of expectations. But, for the person battling depression, the demands can be daunting.Image result for advent wreath

A list of favorite holiday music expresses the anticipated emotional response to the season.

  • Silent night . . . all is calm all is bright.
  • Winter Wonderland . . . a beautiful sight we’re happy tonight.
  • Joy to the World . . . and heaven and nature sing.
  • Jingle Bell Rock . . . snowing and blowing up bushels of fun.
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing . . . joyful all ye nations rise, join the triumph in the skies.
  • Jingle Bells . . . laughing all the way.
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen . . . oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.
  • A Holly Jolly Christmas . . . it’s the best time of the year.

A glimpse of the festivities around the world assumes we will feel magical and merrier.

  • The Giant Lantern Festival in the Philippines celebrates light in an elaborate style.
  • The Yule Lads of Iceland leave gifts in children’s shoes for 13 days prior to Christmas.
  • Saint Nicholas’ Day in the Bavarian region of German is on December 6. Children get sweets and gifts from the great ol’ saint.
  • Communities on The Day of the Little Candles in Colombia sometime compete for the best and most brilliant display of paper lanterns.
  • North Americans hang lights from their houses and trees. Some places attract people from quite a distance to see the colored lights and holiday scenes.

Our traditional holiday greetings include:

  • Merry Christmas
  • Happy Holidays
  • Happy Hanukkah
  • Happy New Year

As a Christian I celebrate Advent – beginning four Sundays before Christmas. Each Sunday gets a designation.

  • Hope
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace

For a person with depression all this happiness and merriment is a stretch at best and utterly oppressive on a bad day.

Look at the four Sundays of Advent.

Hope can be hard to come by for a person mired in the darkness of despair.

Love does not go well with isolation and moodiness.

Joy is a past experience that one no longer recalls how to experience.

Peace is burned away by the internal flames of turmoil.

It can be an extremely trying time.

How can you help a loved-one or friend this holiday season? There is one all-important thing you can do . . . BE THERE.

Don’t walk away. Don’t run away. Don’t let yourself be pushed away. BE THERE.

You don’t have to say anything. Nothing you can say will likely make it better anyhow. You just have to . . . BE THERE.

Expect nothing from your depressed friend. Don’t put any pressure on them. Support them. Love them unconditionally. And . . . BE THERE.

It will likely make a big difference in the outcome of your loved-one’s illness.

Thank you, Faith, for being there for me during the dark night of my soul.

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The LORD be with you.

Jay

Advent Expectations

When I arrived to pastor Trinity Wesleyan Church in Kokomo, IN I discovered there was a small group of people who were praying for “a pastor from God’s Bible School & College.” Well, they got what they prayed for, but not what they expected.Trinity Wesleyan (2)

One from this group became somewhat critical. He regularly challenged me during Bible studies and offered suggestions on sermons for me to preach. (Hell, fire, and brimstone was his favorite recommendation.) His “testimonies” were frequently grip sessions about how the people in the church were failing. He had to be rebuked often and I was left trying to rebuild what he had torn down. Finally, it all came to a head one Wednesday night when he was offended by something I said. He made quite a show of walking out. He never came back.

Another of that group was enthusiastic at first. They wanted to be a part of growing the Church of God and were faithful to come. But, they, too, began to wane. The interest that was first present gave way to indifference and then resistance. When asked to fill a role in the church they refused. Slowly, they began to miss services and soon they were gone for good.

God answered their prayers – I was a graduate of God’s Bible School & College – but, I was not what they wanted. They had a definite preconception of what a person from that blessed college should be and I did not fit that mold. At the end, I concluded, God gave them what they asked for and they did not want it.

Two thousand twenty-four years ago, (or there about) Jesus “was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” (St. John 1:10-11) Jesus was not who they expected Him to be.

From the first utterance of Eve after giving birth to Cain, “I have acquired a man from the Lord,” there was an expectation of a Redeemer. One of the early prayers for the Messiah was, “Speedily cause the offspring of Your servant David to flourish, and let Him be exalted by Your saving power, for we wait all day long for Your salvation. Blessed are You, O Lord, who causes salvation to flourish.” Expectantly they waited, but when God answered their prayers for the Messiah they rejected Him.

Jesus did not fit the image of what was expected. He was born in a stable rather than a palace. Humble shepherds from the nearby hills and unknown Magi from the far east attended His birth and early life. An old man and woman recognized who He was when His parents brought Him to the temple, but no one else. He was poor, not rich. He was from Nazareth, not Jerusalem. Although He attracted tens of thousands to hear Him teach, only about 120 truly followed Him. That small number had two swords among them and never marched in columns or practiced war games. Rejected by the religious and political elite, Jesus was proclaimed King of the Jews on one day and crucified a week later.

Like those three or four people I encountered at Kokomo, God answered their prayers, but they did not like His answer. I have often wondered if Jesus came to pastor my church, would I leave because I did not like His call to and definition of discipleship? Would I cast my vote against Him in the next pastoral election or request the superintendent to replace Him, saying, “He is just not working out for our church?” Surely, I would not, but . . . am I all that different from the first century peoples who encountered Jesus in the flesh?

From the beginning of time the world longed for a Redeemer and when He came theyImage result for Advent missed Him. The reason, they were looking for a certain kind of messiah and he did not come. Jesus was the Messiah the world needed (and needs), but He was not the One they desired. Is the same true for you today? Is Jesus the Redeemer you long for and will follow with absolute devotion? There is no question that Jesus is the One you need. The only question left to answer is, is He the Redeemer you desire?

Have a bless Advent season.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

THANKFUL FOR SPECIAL PEOPLE

An early mentor once told me that people are essentially the same from year to year except for the books they read and the people they meet. This year I want to express thanks for the people I have met. This is not an exhaustive list. Rather it is a survey of the multitude of people who have come into my life along the way.Image result for Thanksgiving

I am thankful for my family. My parents, James and Virginia Shuck, were great parents. They were not perfect, but they were well above average. My brothers, James Allen Shuck and John Shuck, have always been there for me and I hope they feel that I have been there for them. Doug Shuck is one of those kinds of cousins that everyone wishes they had.

I am thankful for my children. My eldest, Alissa is beautiful, talented, persistent. Then Adam, who is one of the godliest men I have ever known. And finally, Austin. Talented, dedicated, and following in his grandpa’s and father’s footsteps by accepting a church appointment beginning in December. My grandchildren, step-children, and step-grandchildren bring immense joy to me.

I am thankful for my wife. If you open a Bible to the Old Testament book of Proverbs 31:10-31, you will find a picture of her. She is clothed in wisdom and grace, and one of the most faithful followers of Jesus I have ever met. I often tell her if she was a Roman Catholic she would be known as Saint Faith.

I am thankful for my friends. I have many lifelong friends like N. Keith Hinton, Tim Cole Sr., Donna Romine, Robin Gray, and Faith Shuck (who is now my wife). College friends: Wes Humble and Jim Stroup. Seminary friends: Edgar Bryan and Michelle Tipton. Work friends: Bill Watkins, Dr. Walter David Mathews. And Roger Hicks, a man could not ask for a better friend. Church friends: Nancy Cummings Olson, Dee Hinkle, Melody Pyle, and Marsha Hausman. I enjoy following their careers, reading their posts, and watching their families grow.

I am thankful for the people who had a spiritual influence on me, especially in my early years. Mickey and Barbara Hilton, Paul and Patty Trent, Robert VanCise, Bob and Marcia Pavey, and Keith Drury. Mickey took a special interest in me and was one of the people I put as a reference on my college application. Paul showed the redemptive and restorative love of Jesus to me and payed me the highest compliment my having enough confidence in me to allow me to preach from his pulpit. Barbara and Marcia are like the sisters I never had and they both loved my mother. Keith challenged me to mine the spiritual depths of God’s love and relationship with Him.

I am thankful for influential teachers. Mr. Smith in high school taught me to think. In college I had a very good theology teacher, Bob England, and an exceptional pastoral ministries teacher in R. G. Humble. Garen Wolf befriended and supported me in so many ways. In seminary Dr. Matt Friedeman was and is an outstanding example of a disciple of Jesus Christ, how to be a pastor, and especially how to be a husband and father. Dr. Bill Ury was the toughest professor I ever had. And I am so grateful because I learned so very much.

I am thankful for my former students. Mary King has my back and I love her for it. Brad and Marie Angus, Eric Toby Allen, and Doug Kraft make me proud to have had them in class as they pursue the ministries to which God has called them.

I am thankful for the 825 plus people from 45 plus countries who read my writings, encourage me, and keep me on my toes.

Most of all, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

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The LORD be with you.

Jay

DEPRESSION AND THE HOLIDAYS*

Christmas decorationsIt was the year 2000, the first full year since I had become clinically depressed. I was so severely ill that my job had forced me to take a leave of absence. My brother invited me to come and stay with him for a few days. I accepted. My dad and a family friend took me the 200 miles south, southwest to his house where they planned to go fishing. I was supposed to go home after the fishing trip, but I stayed, and a few days turned into a few weeks.

During the day my brother and his wife were away at work and I had the house to myself. There were no responsibilities to be a husband and parent, no pressure from work to finish reports or perform daily tasks, no meetings to attend, speeches to give, or places to go. I was free to toddle around the house, watch TV, do some light housekeeping, play on the computer, or take a nap. Reformation of spirit and body was easy to claim in this environment. But, . . . Thanksgiving was coming.

I have always loved the Thanksgiving/Advent/Christmas season.      Gatherings of family and friends.      Feasts that included my mother’s special egg noodles.      Music from long known church hymns to carolers on the streets and other holiday songs.           Performances by school children, high school students, the local theatre troupe, and church plays.      Shopping for special and thoughtful gifts to give to my wife, children, parents, brothers, and the rest of our family.      Putting up the Christmas tree and decorations.      Being part of a caravan that went through town looking at the lights and seeking the best holiday display.      Giving and receiving gifts.      It was all great fun and I looked forward to it every year . . . except this year.

My wife and children, parents, niece and nephews gathered in to celebrate. The house suddenly became smaller and the opportunities for alone time fewer. Feasting, conversation, and playing games were expected. I could hear myself protesting silently, “I’ll take my meals in the bedroom, thank you.” And, my only contribution to the conversation was, “I would like to die now, please.” Games and conversation required concentration which was in quite limited supply at the moment. The worst was yet to come. When the festivities were over I was expected to return home and resume my role as a husband and parent, and prepare to go back to work.

Upon my return I tried to go shopping at the local mall with my family. It was unexpected how exhausted I became after walking through the first department store. One store . . . and all my strength for that trip was wasted and I had no reserves. My family deposited me in the courtyard for the remainder of the outing. I sat quietly alone, anxious for their return in order that I may go home and back to bed. It was the only attempt I made to go anywhere that season.

It was a miserable holiday season. I did not want to be around people because I fatigued too rapidly. It was nearly impossible to smile and laugh. There was no enjoyment to be found in the lines my children were learning for their school and church programs or the new songs my wife was using that year as she directed the annual Christmas cantata. I stayed home from church all but one Sunday during the season. If a genie had given me a wish, I would have wished to skip the holidays. It was too hard.

There have been other holiday seasons in which I was experiencing depression, but that first one was the worst.  I did not know how to cope or compensate. Where was a Rip Van Winkle when you needed him?

The subsequent holidays have not been as difficult for the following reasons:

I pick and choose the public things I can do and inform my family about my decisions. When I am in the midst of a depressive episode I find it especially difficult to be around crowds. Therefore, it can be very intimidating to go to a play or program in a small venue. Last year our grandson was in a play at his school. The performance was planned for the school gym, if you can call it that. I have played on backyard courts that were bigger. Well, not exactly, but you get the picture. All six grades, faculty, staff, parents, older and younger siblings, grandparents, godparents, and the rest were all jockeying for position, sitting shoulder to shoulder, and standing about, leaving only a single-person-wide aisle to the exits. The press of people was suffocating and there was no place to go to make it any better. I was stuck for the duration without a means of escape. If I had been in a moderately or severely depressed state at the time I most likely would have ended the musical in the fetal position.

One shopping trip in a crowded mall may be all you can abide. One program. One church event. One community affair.  And, that is alright. You know your limits and it is to your own personal hurt that you press beyond them. Explain yourself to those who need to know, offer your regrets, and do not allow yourself to be guilted by anyone, including yourself. You are your own most competent advocate and you know best your boundaries.

I pick and choose the people I want to be around. Large family, church, work, or club gatherings can be nerve-racking, unpredictable, and ruinous to one’s already fragile health. Expectations to be festive, joyful, and participatory can feel overwhelming. A game face can only last so long. And, after that there are the ones who love and care about us, but always seem to say the wrong thing. “Snap out of it.” “Have you tried . . .?” “I have a friend who is just like you. . .” We have heard all the “help lines” before. We smile because we know they mean well, but on the inside we want to scream.

Then there is that person who belongs to your group, but is toxic to you. You know the one that makes your teeth grind and your stomach churn. The one you love and would do anything for so long as you did not have to be around them. That one! It may be that a more intimate setting and an invitation only gathering is necessary this year.  The key is control. The more you can manage and arrange the less likely you are to find yourself in a detrimental environment.

I do what I can and leave the rest. My mother made a table top ceramic Christmas tree back in the 1970’s that I inherited. For about three years it was the extent of my decorating. Although it is becoming common to shop online, I have done it for about ten years as a means to escape the daunting crowds.  As you become more aware and in tune with your personal needs and constraints, you will better be able to rightly judge what is best for you during the holidays.

This year I am in a pretty healthy state. I can enjoy the events and happenings with more spirit than in previous years. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s will bring added happiness for me. I await joyous times with family and friends. The festivities of the season are anticipated with excitement. It has not always been so and may not be in some future holiday, but for now I will revel in the moment.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

The Lord be with you.

Thank you for reading.

Jay

*This article was first published in Nov. of 2017.

 

THOUGHTS ON THE U.S.A. MIDTERM ELECTIONS

By the time you read this the polls will have closed and most of the results will have been announced. But, as of this writing it remains a mystery.Image result for 2018 elections

As I cast my ballot today for the candidates of my choice, I must confess this was the least excited I have ever been about an election. The first time I had an opportunity to vote in a national election was when President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were on the ballot. I have not failed to vote in a national election since. But, this year, I just wanted to stay home.

The reason? There was no one on the ballot that represents me. If you are a Trump-nation Republican, you had plenty of candidates from which to choose. The same goes for you who are progressive Democrats. But, for we people who rest in the middle, it was slim pickings.

Although my father was active in Democratic politics and registered as a Democrat all his life, I identified with the Republican Party from the age of 12. I am still a registered Republican, but I feel less and less that it truly represents my values and concerns. Ronald Reagan famously said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the party left me.” That is exactly my sentiment about the Republican Party over the past two years.

I have not always been content with whom the Republicans put on the ballot. And sometimes I held my nose and voted for them anyway. Two years ago, I couldn’t hold my nose long enough to vote for a person with whom I had so many differences. Therefore, I voted third party.

I’m a values voter. And neither of the major parties – Republican or Democrat – represent my values. Oh, each one represents a portion of my values. But neither one represents them to the point where I could conscientiously, let alone enthusiastically, support them. Hence, my two-year-long malaise with national politics.

Along with my dissatisfaction has come a profound sense of disappointment, especially in my Christian Evangelical and Wesleyan Methodist friends. Even as a child I was aware that my father was an anomaly among our circle of church friends. Most of them, way back when, identified with the Republican Party. But it was not until 1979 and the advent of the Moral Majority founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell that the more conservative and orthodox branch of Christianity became a reliable voting block for Republican candidates. (The media often identifies this group as Evangelicals and/or Fundamentalist although the terms are neither interchangeable nor all-encompassing.)

For a time I could readily identify with this group. (Even though I didn’t agree with everything.) 2016 changed that. I saw this Christian block make a deal with the devil and it sickened me. It was “all about the Supreme Court,” they said. But at what cost?

The poor. The Christian Bible, both Old Testament and New, speaks strongly to the just and equitable treatment of the poor, the orphan, and the widow. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9) This is my greatest objection to the platform of the Republican Party.  God ensconced in the laws of the nation of Israel consideration for the poor and needy. “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 23:24) No less is expected of us and our government today.

Oneness. We are not to be “Jew nor Greek…slave nor free…for we are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) European nor African. Asian nor South American. Australian nor North American. Islander nor Indigenous. The way our Hispanic/Latino citizens have been represented is especially egregious. According to James 2, “partiality” is a sin. All people on this earth bear the “image” and “likeness” of God and therefore have intrinsic value. (Genesis 1:26)

Truth. Truth appears to be for sale to the highest bidder. The purview of the loudest voice. Subject to interpretation by one’s position. Lost in an endless swamp. When the Church identifies itself with such recklessness with the truth, we compromise our message of Jesus as “the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

The moral high ground. If the Church becomes known for taking the Republican or Democrat line, the American line, the President Trump line or any other line but the Jesus line, it loses its voice of moral certitude.

The dignity of women. Jesus treated women with honor, respect, value, and dignity. The objectification and misogynous treatment of women have no place among Jesus followers.

Kindness and civility. Paul’s call to be “kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32) is ignored for name calling, personal attacks, and vitriol.

From the time when the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 and arbitrated a theological dispute between factions within the Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325, the Church has never truly benefited from a marriage with the State. The union of Republicans and conservative Christians is not one made in heaven. The Church is to be the conscience of the world, the prophets that call us to repentance, the siren call that sounds a clear warning. We cannot do that while entangled with a secular party or State.

I don’t know where I belong politically, but I do know where I belong spiritually. Whenever the two come into conflict, my choice is already made. “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

Thank you for reading.

The LORD be with you.

Jay

LETTERS FROM JAIL #13

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.

Started July 11, 2013letters from jail 6

Dear _____

It’s been an interesting day.

Mr. Hogue is an African-American gentleman. He’s just a few months younger than me. Apparently, he’s been watching me and gave me some words of admonishment. He invited me to share with him a “word from the Lord.”

One of the fellas, Paige, is a bad drug addict. He drinks cough medicine by the bottle for the buzz and crushes and snorts allergy pills for a quick high. He was reared in church but his whole family got caught dealing drugs. He claims to be really mad at God for “taking” his two little sisters in a house fire and not providing for his parents causing them to turn to dealing drugs. We had a really good talk last night. He appears open. He carries a lot of pain.

The two new guys are loud young pups interested only in themselves. Because of drugs their maturity level is that of a 12-year-old. We are under discipline because of one of them. He is snorting allergy pills. Lord, help me to see them as people who need Jesus. My patience is low.

Today’s devotional was on the providence of God. “Life is a winding and troubled road. . . God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good.” Regardless of our perils and problems, if we cooperate with the grace of God He will bring about the highest good and the least evil for us and for His glory.

I got a card from my nephew. It was signed by nine of my family members. Nice!

July 12, 2013

It was quiet last night. I slept till 3:00 am and cat-napped till 10:30 am.

Thank you for asking about my depression. It is related to a childhood illness from 1968. Although I can’t prove it I think it was the Hong Kong flu. My temperature went high enough to cause brain damage. As a result, my mood changed and I had seizures for about seven years. Stress exacerbates my symptoms. I can handle stress from a single source. Add a second source and I start exhibiting more symptoms. I haven’t been totally symptom free in 15 years. But it’s manageable as long as I can manage my stress.

I still had seizures and took medicine into my high school years. Mother was very protective of me, overly so. All I’ve had are stressful jobs, but I’ve managed if no other stressors appeared. I don’t have seizures anymore.

I hope I don’t talk too much about this issue of forgiveness. I just don’t want it haunting me. The other night during Bible study I shared my experience. I felt drained afterwards because the doubts and pains were relived. I know what you mean by feeling the anger and pain all over again.

Although I don’t enjoy the pain, the person I am and I am becoming as a result of my experiences is worth it. I’m a much better person, but I certainly don’t want to see others hurt in order that I may grow.

I think our insecurities about forgiveness come from our legalistic backgrounds. We think we need to do more to earn God’s love. I struggle there, too. My weakness is transferring ideal beliefs into perfect actions. Or, at least, that’s what trips me up sometimes.

I’m losing more weight. I’m not sure what I’m down to, around 240 lbs. My weight is my most besetting sin. Food is my friend when I’m under stress. I like eating healthy, but sugar and chocolate are my downfall. I really want to take it off for good this time. If I can get down to 210, I’d be a happy camper.

Don’t apologize for sharing your burdens with me. Helping others is good therapy. And my circumstances are not worse than yours, just different.

July 13, 2013

Today is my 34th wedding anniversary. I’ve been blue all week – sleeping more, not going to outdoor recreation, and not going to the library. I never expected nor wanted a divorce. Not until she was leaving me for the fifth time and refusing to put our marriage first did I finally give up.

It’s hard to act like I do not feel. To love romantically that which I do not love. To be loyal to that which is dead. To be faithful to a hopeless union. Of course, I have remained loyal and faithful to my vows.

I meant my vows. I believed the Bible. But one person cannot a marriage make. Now, I want to heal. The heart to mend. Peace at last.

On disagreements. I like what Keith Drury said about groups, “Where two people always agree one is unnecessary.” I felt emasculated in my marriage. The home and family were run as though I didn’t exist. Decisions were based on feelings and emotions without rational support. It drove me nuts – literally.

It’s Sunday afternoon. We had three speakers this morning for church. One was prepared and did a good job.

Adam’s birthday is Thursday, 18th. I’ve never missed his birthday. I wonder if he thinks I abandoned him. If I wrote I wouldn’t know where to send it.

We’re getting zucchini, squash, and cucumbers from the jail garden.

Well, I must close this letter.

Sincerely,

Jay

THE LANGUAGE OF DESPAIR

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.

This past two weeks I have been identifying with the Christian Old Testament book of Job (pronounced “joe-b”). From circa 3000 years ago this man speaks the language that anyone who has experienced grief, depression, and despair can readily understand. My first article was entitled, The Language of Grief. The second, The Language of Depression. Today, I will attempt to tackle despair.Image result for job in the bible

Nando Pelusi, PhD., defined despair as “depressed about being depressed.” (Psychology Today, September 5, 2003) I can think of no better description.

It is a prolonged “dark night of the soul.” (Steven A. Diamond, Ph.D., Psychology Today, March 4, 2011) It is characterized by “hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness, and pessimism.” Frozen. Inactive. Passive or aggressive. Avoidance. Feeling unloved and rejected. An inability to find “meaning, fulfillment, and happiness.”

Job would well understand Dr. Diamond’s comment, despair is “suffering without meaning.” As I thought about these descriptions I concluded that despair is a spiritual crisis in the intangibles. By that I mean: Love. Happiness. Purpose. Fulfillment. Meaning.

Job despairs of life. “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb.” For him death would bring peace, a cessation of turmoil, rest from a weary world, misery, bitterness. Job is not suicidal. However, he does have recurrent thoughts of death.

Crying heavily, I pulled off the side of the road and called my pastor. I had one request. One thing that I wanted him to intercede to God on my behalf for. One thought that seemed the most reasonable solution to my pain. “I want you to pray that I would die,” I asked him. He refused.

Job speaks the language of one who longs “for death that does not come.” “I wish I had died before any eye saw me.” “If only I had never come into being.” He speaks my language.

For Job God had rejected him. His friends have withdrawn their support. He feels unloved by the community he once loved. “Oh, that…God would be willing to crush me, to let loose His hand and cut off my life.”

Viktor E. Frankl wrote, “Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” For Job the meaning of his suffering was elusive.

When I was going through my first clinical depressive episode I felt that God was so far away. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” was my “favorite” verse. It defined how I felt. Where was God? Why was I suffering so at the pinnacle of my ministry? I was being brought low and for what reason? It was destroying me and I knew not what for.

Job speaks the language of the one feeling rejected, powerless, unloved, and suffering meaninglessly. “Bitterness of my soul,” he cried. He speaks my language.  

Not only did Job feel that his suffering was meaningless, but he also came to believe that his life was meaningless. “I loathe my very life,” he exclaims. Despair stripped life of meaning and purpose. Personal fulfillment was no where to be found. Helplessness settled in and robbed him of any energy – or desire – to struggle forward.

Depression can cause an existential crisis. Why do I exist? What am I supposed to do?

I was speaking to a therapist before I had given up hope of forever being a full-time pastor again. At one point she said, “Maybe God is finished with you.” I became quite animated. As I paced back and forth across her office I said with exasperation that this was all I prepared to do since I was 14 years old. I had a Bible college and seminary education. There was nothing else that I was equipped to do. Pastor/Teacher was my calling. It was what I was supposed to do for all my life. The thought that “God is finished with you,” rocked my soul to its very core.

Job speaks the language of the one who has lost sight of why they are alive and what they’re supposed to do with that life. The meaning of life was slipping away from Job as he painfully cried, “I have no concern for myself; I despise my life.” He speaks my language.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for Job was his sense of hopelessness. Although he rises above his circumstances with expressions of hope, the majority of his words drip with the poison of bleakness.

When one dies, hope dies. There is no longer a need for hope. But for the severely depressed hope dies before life ebbs away. Someone has said, “There is nothing left to do but bury a man when all hope is gone.” Despair is living on after you have died inside.

 Job speaks the language of the hopeless. “Where then is my hope – who can see any hope for me?” He speaks my language.

Out of his pain. Out of his despair. Job resolutely speaks, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”

I don’t agree with Job’s theology, but I admire him for his devotion and resolve.

Job speaks the language of hope. Despair has washed away almost all of his hope. But, there is still an ember burning. He speaks my language.

(Next week will be on The Language of Faith in Crisis.)

The LORD be with you.

Thank you for reading.

Jay

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

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.

THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY

Alexander is not the only one who has terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

EPA_USA_MINNESOTA_POLAR_VORTEXHow was I supposed to know she wasn’t my wife? She was the same height as my wife. The same weight. And had on the same coat my wife wore as she left the house. I should have known something was up when I greeted her with, “Hello, my love,” at our prearranged restaurant and she only grunted in reply. The second clue was when my hug was met with resistance. And I thought she had just slipped on the ice when she resisted my hand helping her through the door. Inside she ripped off her mask and screamed, “I’m not your wife, you idiot.” I wish I was in Florida.

2-480.koWJh1lGDfPaq3nJ9oAHpUltTpL5R9ojzbJWJ74nI think I have foggy, rainy, cold, gloomy day affective disorder. It’s not seasonal affective disorder because it only happens when the sun is hiding behind the clouds. When it’s bright outside I feel light inside. Maybe I’ve discovered a new diagnosis for the DSM, WADD – weather affected depressive disorder. Oh, why couldn’t I live in the sunshine state.

Roger Stone speaks after his appearance at Federal Court in Fort LauderdaleMy good friend was arrested today and the FBI raided his home. I tell everyone who will listen how badly he was treated, but deep down inside I’m hoping he doesn’t say anything about me. If he does, I’ll just convince everyone he’s a loser. Where’s Putin and his old KGB buddies when you need him.

020219-northam-1280x720_70086003_ver1.0_640_360Another one of my friends is in real hot water. Now, in his defense, we Indiana boys knew back in 1984 that black face and KKK robes were offensive to the African American community, but I guess the boys in Virginia missed that lesson. I mean, what can you expect from a 25-year-old medical school senior. Well, I’m not going to get caught up in this. I have plausible deniability. That was 35 years ago and I’ve only known him for 34 years. Oh I wish I lived above the Mason-Dixon line.

500_F_211700683_rYFNOXx9KlcIxN2512dGE0p0OksoCRhtI got one of those phone calls today. You know the ones.

By the time they’re ended you feel like you’ve never done

anything right and you don’t deserve to be alive. I

listened. Tried unconvincingly to defend myself. And

realized it was hopeless until the person had completed

their prepared remarks. I know I’ll be depressed and

moody for the next three days. I wish I lived in a cell-

phone dead zone.

maxresdefaultHow dare they play a defensive game and not score on every other possession. I paid to be entertained. Since when did football become like baseball and squeeze 15 minutes of action into two hours. If they don’t score at least 60 points next year, I’m done with the NFL. I should have watched basketball. At least then I’d know they’d score more than 16 points.

0x600When my adult son asked me what the difference was between Adam Levine going shirtless in Super Bowl LIII and Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” in Super Bowl XXXVIII, I figured it was time for “the talk.” Maybe I’ll join Alexander in Australia.

But then I was reminded that Mamma said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this Mamma said. Even somewhere else.

 

The LORD be with you.

Jay