Monday Kfirst Kickstart: Beyond “Just” #TrailLeader

Hitting the trail with a group of people is a fantastic way to strengthen friendships or get to know new people. While you’re putting in the miles, the person at the FRONT has a vital role in keeping the group together, focused, and safe. That person is known as the Trail Leader. A good Trail Leader will: 1. Keep an eye out for trail markers to navigate the journey. 2. Manage the group’s pace 3. Pause at crossings and junctions to regroup. 4. Recognize and maneuver through challenges. That brings us to the Old Testament figure Moses. For his story can be summed up as the story of a Trail Leader. His life is an epic tale of one who faces personal challenges while leading an entire nation along a journey of twists and turns, freedom and challenges, failures and victories. Our series will follow this Trail Leader from the beginning of his path to the end. And I hope this series will not only help us come to know Moses, but see how the trail he follows speaks into our lives today.

Check out the service from the website or from the Facebook livestream. 

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

  • God loves to take what seems “ordinary” and use it for something extraordinary.
  • What you see as ”ordinary,” God sees as “opportunity.”
  • God doesn’t call you because you are holy. He calls you so that you can be holy.
  • God often leads us to engage in something we feel we are incapable of.
  • When God wants to use you, He takes your humanity into the equation.
  • God looks for a willing heart more than he looks for the “best equipped.”

Love you all. Have a great week.

BTW: Here’s a great song for the week…

In the Shadow of a Giant #WorldSuicidePreventionDay

For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army…As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright… 1 Samuel 17:16;24

It’s such a simple Sunday School story. Even most people who don’t go to church know of the story of David and Goliath.  In the book of 1 Samuel, we have one warrior that causes an entire army to hide in inaction. He shows himself twice a day and no one will confront the issue.

Enter a boy named David.

He shows up to battle. He sees an issue. And speaks up to address it. The response of those closest to him say, “Why can’t you be silent like the rest of us?  Go away” (paraphrased from 1 Samuel 17:28-29).

A few weeks ago, I was standing in line at a grocery store and saw this magazine cover highlighting the life and career of Robin Williams.

5 Years later...

Everything we thought we knew about him came crashing down August 11, 2014 as the news came out of his suicide due to the internal hopelessness he lived with.

The blog I wrote 5 years ago came out later that day as I admitting, publicly, my personal battle with depression. Personally, I felt that I can no longer be like those in the armies of Israel (1 Samuel 17) quietly standing in the shadow of a menacing giant hoping the issue will take care of itself or that someone else will deal with it.

But I was done being quiet. Often, I felt alone in my struggle and couldn’t bear that there was another person like “Robin Williams” out there experiencing the same thing that both he and I live(d) with. And that passion for people was pushing through every fear that whispered to my heart:

  • If people know about your depression, they will not want you as their pastor.
  • Your board is going to ask for your resignation.”
  • You’re going to be ostracized by other ministers.”
  • What are your parents going to think about this? Good sons don’t do this to their parents.”
  • Do you actually think your wife wants to be known as the spouse of a depressed husband?
  • This will embarrass your kids. Don’t put them through this.”

Those were just some of the internal voices screaming at me to stay in silence. Then a few hours later, an external voice came my way that made me want to delete the whole blog and go back into emotional hiding.

For a few years, I had been trying to get a hold of a very well-known minister to come to our church. He’s a legendary speaker. In terms of his reputation, any pastor would want him to preach to their congregation. The previous week, I left another message and that specific evening, he finally called me back.

And after I said, “Hello,” his response was:

“Is this the ‘depressed pastor’? If I say the wrong thing, you’re not going to go hang yourself are you. HA HA HA.”

I didn’t have a reply other than to be speechless. To me this was 1 Samuel 17 and Goliath was mocking me and making me want to hide with everyone else. After a few moments of silence (that felt like an eternity), thankfully he began to backtrack his comments after realizing the issue was not to be taken lightly.

Please know, I hold no ill-will toward this gentleman. I know it was ignorance speaking. But nevertheless, it triggered a moment that has encouraged me all the more to keep beating the drum of awareness to those who do not understand emotional and mental darkness. And my challenge is to do follow the example  we have of this young would-be king in 1 Samuel 17.

He showed up to the battle.
He saw an issue.
He spoke up to address the it.

First, you don’t have to have all the answers but you do need to show up. Sometimes your presence with someone dealing with depression speaks clearer than the most eloquent statement. Simply being present with someone hurting can more impactful than offering an articulate prayer. Often I equip people with six words to say to those who are hurting internally,

I don’t know. I am here.

Don’t worry about your words as much as offering being present with them.

Second, see the issue. Depression must be seen as a legit “issue” to be taken seriously. Admitting this internal Goliath exists doesn’t give it more power just as much as ignoring a giant doesn’t remove it.  For those of us who battle with depression, we just want to know we’re not weird, crazy, or so broken we have no chance for healing (because we feel that way). Sometimes, encouragement comes from hearing from a trusted friend who shows up and can recognize the struggle.

Just because you don’t personally deal with it or understand it doesn’t make it less of an issue. We cannot afford to ignore it (or those dealing with it); lives are at stake. We cannot chalk depression up to an issue we can just “quote a scripture and offer a token prayer” (and I’m a HUGE proponent of the Bible and the power of prayer). Depression attacks on four levels: emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. Which leads me to my last point.

Speak up. Be a voice of hope. I love David’s words of 1 Samuel 17:26,

Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?

Before David volunteers to deal with their enemy, he deals with their identity. He speaks into who they are. “You are not an average army. You are the Lords; you belong to God.” And it’s this type of voice we need echoing in the shadows. We need life-giving, heart-encouraging, hope-building words breathing life into us who cannot see any opportunity of victory.

Speak up. Address those living in the giant’s shadow the reality of the hope that can be realized in the Lord.

I do not belong to the darkness. And when the shadow begins to, I know who (and who’s) I am and where my victory lies.

And I think others should experience the same thing. Today, on World Suicide Prevention Day would you:

Shows up to someone’s battle.
See the issue; recognize it.
Speaks up to address it by building them up with hope.

Hope has a name. And His name is Jesus.

And in the face of inner darkness, I say, “let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Behind the Scenes” #TrailLeader

Hitting the trail with a group of people is a fantastic way to strengthen friendships or get to know new people. While you’re putting in the miles, the person at the FRONT has a vital role in keeping the group together, focused, and safe. That person is known as the Trail Leader. A good Trail Leader will: 1. Keep an eye out for trail markers to navigate the journey. 2. Manage the group’s pace 3. Pause at crossings and junctions to regroup. 4. Recognize and maneuver through challenges. That brings us to the Old Testament figure Moses. For his story can be summed up as the story of a Trail Leader. His life is an epic tale of one who faces personal challenges while leading an entire nation along a journey of twists and turns, freedom and challenges, failures and victories. Our series will follow this Trail Leader from the beginning of his path to the end. And I hope this series will not only help us come to know Moses, but see how the trail he follows speaks into our lives today.

Check out the service from the website or from the Facebook livestream. 

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

  • God sees. God knows. God is working behind the scenes.
  • God desires to draw us out of bondage and draw us into the plans and purposes He has for our lives.
  • “Faith is not believing in my own unshakable belief. Faith is believing in an unshakable God.” Beth Moore
  • The prayers of our pain do not fall on deaf ears.
  • Just because you may feel forgotten by God doesn’t mean he has forgotten about you.
  • “It doesn’t matter how great the pressure is; what really matters is where the pressure lies. Whether it comes between you and God or presses you nearer to His heart.” —Hudson Taylor
  • When it seems that God’s left the scene, it means He’s working behind the scenes.

Love you all. Have a great week.

BTW: Here’s a great song for the week…

 

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “The Backstory” #TrailLeader

Hitting the trail with a group of people is a fantastic way to strengthen friendships or get to know new people. While you’re putting in the miles, the person at the FRONT has a vital role in keeping the group together, focused, and safe. That person is known as the Trail Leader. A good Trail Leader will: 1. Keep an eye out for trail markers to navigate the journey. 2. Manage the group’s pace 3. Pause at crossings and junctions to regroup. 4. Recognize and maneuver through challenges. That brings us to the Old Testament figure Moses. For his story can be summed up as the story of a Trail Leader. His life is an epic tale of one who faces personal challenges while leading an entire nation along a journey of twists and turns, freedom and challenges, failures and victories. Our series will follow this Trail Leader from the beginning of his path to the end. And I hope this series will not only help us come to know Moses, but see how the trail he follows speaks into our lives today.

Check out the service from the website or from the Facebook livestream. 

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

  • Every story has a backstory; Your backstory matters.
  • It’s a dangerous thing to be jealous or critical of someone else’s “blessings” before you know their backstory.
  • We step into idolatry when we start worshiping what God has provided instead of worshiping the One that provided it.
  • You are writing tomorrow’s backstory today.
  • God‘s character is not contingent upon your circumstances.
  • Every broken backstory is a set up for a beautiful saviorIn the hands of the Enemy, your backstory is a weapon. In the hands of God, your backstory it’s a scalpel.

Love you all. Have a great week.

BTW: Here’s a great song for the week…

Preaching From the Shadows: Bring Depression into the Light, not the Spotlight

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. From face-to-face to messages sent to me.

“Stop giving your depression power by admitting you have it. The more you talk about it, the more power it has over you.”

As a pastor of a larger congregation, I recognize the gravity of my influence. With my title, my church, and my social media following, whether I like it or not, people put “weight” to my opinions. Weekly (or even daily), I am armed with an open mic and a platform to speak from. I do not take what I have been given lightly nor will I take it for granted. It’s within this mindset that I find myself heading the words of Paul who said, “…you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 NLT)

And it’s my platform that people seem the most concerned about. Am I glamorizing depression? Do I seem to be holding the issue at high esteem?

But I find it fascinating that those that combat me on vocalizing my emotional challenges have zero issue me use my “clout” to call out sin (or sinners), side toward a political agenda (as long as its theirs), or champion a cause that is close to their heart. But to be so open with something like emotional and mental challenges? No.

Honestly, it astounds me.

People can be more comfortable having me rail on a person or a group of people than give hope to those who can’t sense it. Politically charged blogs and statements are more welcomed than giving a moment of hope to someone who feels like they are alone and abandoned by everyone (including God). Inflicting painful attacks are more welcomed than uplifting someone’s soul.

Why don’t these comments deter me from speaking to the subject? Because for every 1 ignorant statement, there are 10 (no exaggeration) messages from those thankful someone is willing to talk openly about their dark journey. Every bold and corrective opinion to discourage me is countered by a crowd of sincere, unpretentious people desiring hope.

Why do I talk about it? It’s the simple difference between the spotlight and the Light.

When I share, it’s never for a spotlight but to bring the issue into the Light (and yes, the “L” is capitalized for a reason). To give it a spotlight is to make it center stage and the star of the story. But Jesus is the Light. And to bring something into the Light is to take it out of darkness, expose it, and bring it under His authority.

I share from the shadows to invite His Light in the places of my despair (Psalm 42).
I speak Light into the darkness to call forth order out of my chaos (Genesis 1).
I meditate upon the Light when my thoughts can only ponder upon the gloom Psalm 119).
I call upon the Light went I feel lost in obscurity  (Psalm 138).

You see, there’s a difference between bringing something into the Light (of Christ) and giving it the “spotlight” in my life. I can highlight a struggle without it becoming my identity. I can bring awareness to the battle without relinquishing my victory. I can identify what I face without allowing it to be the star of my show.

Your depression may have a voice, but it doesn’t call the shots. The valley of your despair may be as cyclical as the seasons but you don’t have to sit back as a hopeless casualty. Keep the spotlight of your faith upon Jesus and refuse to surrender its focus. And when your feelings and emotions are in turmoil, allow His heart for you and the hope He gives be a beacon of hope on the shores of your faith faith. When you can’t see because of the shadows, I remember what you learned in the Light.

Hope has a name. And His name is Jesus.

And in the face of inner darkness, I say, “let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).

 

Preaching From the Shadows: The journey begins

Preaching From the Shadows.

Today, I’ve decided to break my blogging silence with the four words that I have been working on. These four words articulate a journey and a battle; a seemingly cyclical season I face, yet a place God continues to meet me. These four words are both the subject and substance from which I write book #3. In fact, these four words are the title of that book:

“Preaching From the Shadows.”

So let me introduce myself all over. My name is David. And over the past couple decades I’ve been preaching from the shadows. 

I’m a who gets visited by emotional darkness. I am a pastor who deals with bouts /season of depression.  

I type this through my tears because my heart is not to build up a pedestal, or boast about an achievement I’ve accomplished. I’m sharing my personal story to debunk the idea that depression attacks a select group of people or a type of individual. 

I’m here to break the stigma of what depression is and how it has been misunderstood and, too often, been generalized and treated like the common cold of our emotions. 

I’m here to remove labels that have been unjustly placed upon those of us who would love to simple “just cheer up” and not “feel so sad” the way we’re constantly told.  

I’m here to combat the ignorant spiritual assumptions and accusations that many have made (and continue to make to me personally) that has caused many of us to feel “less than” as a follower of Jesus. 

I’m here to both encourage others to are facing the struggle while enlightening others who desire to understand what their loved one or friend deals with.

Have you visited dark, hopeless seasons of life where you’ve…?
…wondered why the people around you can see the sun but all you feel is darkness?
…been surrounded by a crowd only to feel like the loneliness person on earth?
…sat in a place where you are convinced if your friends knew what you were dealing with, you’re convinced you’d lose them all because they’d think you’re crazy?
…imagined harming your body or destroying your life?
…feel like “less than” because you take meds?
…convinced yourself that you’re so broken that God has give up on you?

Me too.

I’ve been confronted that this is all about a “lack of faith.” I’ve been told to stop “giving the darkness power” by admitting or verbalizing my difficult seasons. I’ve been told by fellow pastors that all depression stems from broken or sinful places.

But let me articulate something: Darkness does not discriminate. It does not concern itself with your skin color or background. It doesn’t care about the level of your education or the depth of your spirituality. The pedigree you possess is the least of its concerns. Your resume doesn’t deter it nor distract it from its goal. 

The darkness wants to claim the soul of who you are. Its hunger for you is insatiable. 

And with breath in my lungs and a voice within my throat, I won’t sit idly by and allow that. 

I don’t write as one who is specialized in the medical or psychological field, but as one who fights a personal battle while refusing to let others stand alone in theirs. Comparatively, my depression may be considerably lower than others, and happens perhaps, less frequent as yours. I will not compare my pain to yours but would implore you from the beginning of this post and the beginning of my book journey:

You are not alone.
You have hope.
You can get help.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 ESV

For every pastor who preaches from the shadows…
For every person who journeys through the shadowy valley…

…we have a light.

…we have a hope.

And his name is Jesus.

Welcome to a new journey with me. Welcome to a place of hope.

I have tasted the darkness, but I have seen a great Light. I preach from the shadows, and hope is proclaimed.

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2

 

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Yadda Yadda Yadda” #OffScript

A screenwriter can spend months, or even years, perfecting a script. However, sometimes, the most iconic lines uttered on the silver screen aren’t the result of a writer at the top of his or her game, but rather an actor offering up some creative ad-libbing. Some of the most iconic moments in movie history were “off script.”

For example:
“Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good.” – Avengers Infinity War
“Here’s Johnny” – The Shining
“Here’s looking at you, kid” – Casablanca
The Joker’s slow clap – The Dark Knight
“I’m king of the world.” – Titanic
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat” Jaws

“Off script” seems to be a very apt way to describe what often happens to all of us. Something transpires in our lives that strays away from our intended plan(s). But that’s most of real life happens. It’s “off script”; completely unexpected and unplanned. This June, join us as we head into a story that is everything but “expected” by the people involved. The book of Ruth is canvas to view a beautiful picture of God’s love engaging in our “off scripted” lives.

Check out the service from the website or from the Facebook livestream. 

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

  • In Christ, my painful path is never a dead end.
  • Be careful of whose criticism you allow into your life.
  • No matter how many “nameless” people have spoken death over your destiny, there is always One voice that will always be faithful to speak hope.
  • God uses our obedience to bring about His redemption purposes.
  • We must understand how to first allow the scriptures to be a scalpel to our own hearts BEFORE we turn them as a sword against others.

Purchase the Scripture Journal of Ruth HERE

Love you all. Have a great week.

BTW: Here’s a great song for the week…