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.



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.


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.”



The LORD be with you.


Letters from Jail # 7 part 1 of 2

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 them you may find hope and help from my experience.

Dear ________                                                                                                  Began June 19, 2013

I trust you are doing well, your family is well, and all is well.

Perhaps I misled you about my sleep. In jail you can sleep, watch TV, play cards, visit, read, and write. Several of the guys try to sleep 12 hours daily. I can’t lay on these racks that long. My bones are too old. I generally sleep from 9:00 PM to 3:00 AM and take a nap from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Yes, I have fallen asleep praying many times. I woke up one time praying for the gas station attendant at the station at the bottom of the hill. Lol! I guess we’re in good company with Peter, James, and John.

Yes, I watched the Spurs’ games with you. I used to watch boxing on Tuesday nights. My kids asked me why. I told them it was because my dad, their grandpa, was watching at that hour, too. It was my way of being with him, although many miles separated us. He loved basketball and boxing. (He used to play semi-pro basketball and was a track star in school. He played against “Jumpin” Johnny Wilson who was on the 1946 state champ Anderson Indians and was Indiana’s Mr. Basketball that year. He played both pro ball and for the Harlem Globe Trotters for a while. He was the coach at Anderson College for years.)

Forgiveness: I find myself replaying past wrongs committed by me or against me. Then I have to pray for forgiveness or to forgive. Forgiveness is, I think, both an act and a process. We forgive and keep forgiving. As often as I think of being wronged I choose to forgive.

In my replays of being wronged I always have a powerful retort and persuasive argument. The person always melts before my superior logic. Then, when I wake up, I have to forgive a new and pray for forgiveness for being so full of myself. Lol!

Bible study was okay last night. Our group went off on several rabbit trails, which, as a leader would have frustrated me to no end, but, as a student I thoroughly enjoyed the detours. What does that say about me? I need to conquer that sense of self-importance. Lol!

I started my anger management class today. It’s going to be a good class. The teacher said he would connect depression and anger, so I hope to learn some things. It’s eight weeks and fulfills my court ordered requirement.

Oh, the chaplain told me that they will review my case in six months as to whether I work or not. What that tells me is they want me to serve a minimum of nine months. If I don’t get probation before, February will be my earliest out date.

Hey, that’s neat that your granddaughter and her “pops” shared a TV show. It was special when my granddaughter and I would sit down and watch Pawn Stars and Law and Order together. I miss her and her brothers.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I must let my children and grandchildren return to me. I may lose any opportunity to have a place in their lives if I call them before they are ready. My arms are open wide; I will never turn them away.

The Smoky Mountains have been our go-to place for most of our vacations, but then they were closer than the ocean from Indiana than from where you live. Dad tried to take us on one long and one short vacation a year. I traveled for two years in college and five years as a representative at the college where I taught. I tried to take a special vacation every five years with my family. Money was in short supply for more than that. We camped often. I went to Mexico in 1976.

Grieving is messy. Sometimes you go through all five stages in a single day. What is the source of your sadness? Cause? Sometimes you may need to embrace the sadness and resolve the cause, if possible. Finding the source of your pain often defines what causes the sadness. Is it loss? Fear? Loneliness? Anxiety?

Friends are special. Get into trouble and you soon find out who is an acquaintance and who is a friend.

My anger management homework was revealing. It is interesting to see yourself and your beliefs exposed in such a way. According to the author my views of anger are wrong. Me wrong? Go figure.

(To be continued . . .)


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.



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.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline   1-800-273-8255

For information about depression see:

NIMH » Depression

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness


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.



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


Dear __________,                                                                                          Began June 17, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you continue to find my letters uplifting.





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The LORD be with you.



RESTORATION: Fundamental Truths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LORD be with you.