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).

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: “Threshing Floor Miracles” #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:

  • Some of us think we are the main actor in our story. Jesus is the main character; I am an “extra.”
  • God has a plan to redeem every painful thing you’ve gone through.
  • If we can remember what we were like before Christ, we’d have compassion for where people are without Jesus.
  • Jesus came to redeem culture, not to reject it.

Purchase the Scripture Journal of Ruth HERE

Love you all. Have a great week.

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

 

 

 

Healing Begins with Forgiveness

Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

Last Sunday at Kfirst was pretty awesome. If you missed it, click here for the Livestream from it.

There’s something about seeing people, in humility, stand and admit, “I’m dealing with bitterness and/or unforgiveness.” There’s something about that step of faith that confronts your own issues in order to see growth and change.

And that’s where healing begins. Forgiveness is where healing begins.

There’s something about an heart that is broken by offense that heals different than a bone that has been broken by an impact. While a bone can heal and you may think nothing of it a year later, an offended heart can think of the offense a year later and want to return to the broken state.

And we in the church world can simply say, “forgive” and it will be all better. While the principle is correct, we misunderstand that forgiving someone is making the daily decision to choose mercy and grace over bitterness and resentment. It is that every day decision to follow Christ and not where our desires want to lead us. 

We forgive as quickly and thoroughly as we’ve been forgiven.

Forgiveness doesn’t validate the one(s) who hurt you. Forgiveness doesn’t justify their hurtful actions toward you or the ones you love. Forgiveness is that choice that says, “Despite what has happened, I refuse to be held captive to the offense. I will show the depth of grace that I have been shown in Christ Jesus.” 

Showing grace and forgiveness releases me.
It saves me.
It sets me free

As I’ve heard it said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness doesn’t mean a trust is rebuilt. It doesn’t mean you don’t have boundaries in the friendship. Grace doesn’t mean the friendship will be (or should be) reconciled. It just means you are no longer living in the prison of bitterness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean you get what you want. But forgiveness ushers in the peace, love, strength, wisdom, and honor into a moment that could have left you defensive, bitter, broken, and hurt. 

Today, would you step out and forgive? Would you trust God to get you through this forgiveness journey so that you can finally heal?  I love the words of Isaiah who said, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you” (Isaiah 26:3). He promises to grants us peace when we stop fixing our minds on other “things” and put our trust in Him. 

Be honest with yourself and the Lord. Trust God with your offense. Give your hurt to the Lord through prayer. Say it out loud or journal them out. Lay them at His feet, release the forgiveness, and let the healing begin. 

And tomorrow, if your heart wants to go back to them because it hasn’t fully healed, rinse and repeat.

I love you all. I’m praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble.

Mind the Gap – Depression Doesn’t Need Distance

I’ll start this off as I have my previous blogs on the subject: My name is David. And I’m a pastor who deals with bouts of depression.

I don’t specialized in the medical or psychological field, but as one who fights a personal battle while refusing to let others stand alone in theirs. My depression is 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:

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

Back in 2005, my wife and I found ourselves in England with 25 students working in a local church Peterborough. Of all of the experiences of the trip, one phrase we heard there always comes to mind when I think of England: please mind the gap. If you take the London metro, you’ll hear it over and over. It’s the warning to pay attention to the space between the platform and the train. The announcement isn’t about falling into a hole (gap) as much as it’s trying to keep you from tripping into (or out of) the metro because of a few inches of a “gap.”

Luke 4 has, perhaps, one of my favorite stories about Jesus. He is in a crowd of people (which wasn’t out of the norm). Unless he purposefully pulled away from the crowds, they were always around him pressing against him.

And it was here that a woman who’d been isolated in her physical, mental, and emotional struggles pushed through the crowd to reach him and perhaps be healed. What is out of the “norm” was Jesus response. Why? It seems so odd based off his surroundings.

Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me. Luke 8:45-46

Most people who approach me to ask questions about my depression are those who don’t battle with it. Honestly, it’s encouraging. And the most asked question is this, “What does it feel like?” Before you think I’m going to talk specifically about the woman the story, you may need to step back and see something else in this very familiar biblical story.

Luke 8:45-46 gives you that glimpse into that world of deep despair. And it’s not necessarily what the woman was going through but what Jesus experienced.

I’m not advocating that Jesus was or battled with depression. But it’s the situation that paints a graphic picture of what those of us experience when the “funk” comes our way. Luke 8, tells us that his question of “who touched me” confused his disciples. In the midst of a crowd that was “pressing up against” him, how could he NOT notice them? How did he miss all the people around him?

Depression is the experience of complete loneliness while being surrounded by a mass of people. We can be in a stadium of people and yet, not detect any connection for which anything of relational or emotional substance is “transferred.” I’ve heard it said to me, “how can you feel that way, you are surrounded by people all the time.” But again, there’s a difference between proximity and intimacy. Being around someone (proximity) doesn’t equal meaningful contact (intimacy) with them.

So then the next question comes up, “How can I help someone in depression?” The answer comes from the same portion of scripture. “Someone deliberately touched me.

I recognize the word “touch” in our culture is a very sensitive word. Unfortunately, “touch” has been abused and taken to massive extremes. Research tells us we need 8-10 meaningful touches a day to be healthy.  It proves that the presence of a crowd doesn’t equate to meaningful connection.

We need to “deliberately” reach out. A hand on the shoulder. A hug. A handshake. Don’t even write off the awkward “hi-five.” Intentional touches are intimate interactions.

Yet don’t assume “touch” is limited to the physical (which is critically necessary). There are simple and effective “touches” that should be done that may not touch the skin but touch the soul.

A timely phone call.
Sitting down for a cup of good coffee.
A note sent via snail mail.
A thoughtful gift.

These are the simple things to cross the “gap” that depression creates in the mind. That gap that we think separates us from everyone else and feeling deep loneliness.

The friend or loved one you know who’s battling with this terrible condition doesn’t need you to “mind the gap;” he/she needs you to deliberately reach out and be a bridge over it. I know how those of us act and/or come off when we are in this mode. It would seem we want to push people away or we just “need to be alone.” But there’s a difference between “needing some space” and isolating ourselves. Help us know you’re there. Be available to us. Be patient with us.

What is powerful is amidst all of the people around Jesus in Luke 8, one deliberate touch caused something powerful to be transferred. Like I said, Jesus wasn’t battling with depression, but I’m willing to bet the woman did. To study this passage, you know the condition of isolation she lived in physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Yet a touch transferred healing, hope, mercy, peace, and love.

If you are dealing with depression, if you are in a place of inner turmoil, don’t stop reaching out. I know you’re tired. You are not alone. You have hope. You can get help. And deliberately reaching out puts you in position for healing.

If know you know someone, who is dealing with this, please don’t mind the gap. Depression doesn’t need distance. Reach out and transfer faith, hope, and love into them. Be the community they cannot detect.

If you find yourself in a place where you need someone to talk to, reach out. Don’t do this on your own. Whether it’s to your pastor, a counselor, a trusted friend, or to Anthem of Hope , know that you are not alone in this. If anything, let this blog be the first hand to reach out to you.

I love you. I’m praying for you today. There are those around you that can help.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Don’t Hold it In

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31

This is what I woke up to. This is what I needed.

I rolled out of bed, Opened up my social media messages and saw one message that said,

In my time of prayer this verse keep coming to me for you. Isaiah 40:31. May God fill you with His peace today.

No details or explanation. Just the faithfulness to make the effort and deliver the simple yet impactful message to start my day.

This kind human doesn’t know the craziness my week has been nor what awaits my packed schedule for today. This person doesn’t know the call I had yesterday and now I’m planning an unexpected funeral for someone who’d died far beyond his time. Because this is a church attender, there’s probably the idea that “Pastor Dave has a sermon to prep for.”

But non of that matters when the Holy Spirit prompts you to reach out to someone. When you have a message of encouragement, you don’t check to see condition of someone’s life before delivering it. When God gives you a word of encouragement, don’t hold it in. 

God is faithful; His timing is perfect. But on the flip-side, I’m not always faithful and my timing sometimes is “off.”

There are times God has prompted my heart to reach out and say something in a store, a coffee shop, or to send a simple message to someone over text or social media. And because of those thoughts of awkwardness, fear, or doubt, the message either gets delayed or not even delivered.

Don’t hold it in.

When the Holy Spirit gives us a word of encouragement, it’s just that: encouragement. It’s there to build up the individual. It is there to give reminder of the presence of God. Perhaps it will be the boast within their heart (like it was mine this morning) that, regardless of what I face, I will have “new strength” and “…run and not grow weary…walk and not faint.”

Has God prompted your heart to reach out to someone? Don’t delay. Don’t hold it in. Be the voice of God and the reminder of His presence to someone’s life. Find someone to encourage today.

(BTW: Thank you to the individual who breathed life into me this morning. You’re a rock star to me!!!)

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

1 New Year; 3 Words – What will you be known for

1 new year; 3 words.

Last week, I read an article about someone who visited the grave site of Michelangelo. Being someone who loves not only history but places and people of significant historical values, my eyes couldn’t help but soak in her experience at such a hallowed place. 

Of all of the details of the site, she described 3 specific statues that stand there. These are not random relics used to accessorize a headstone. They are intentional in their creation and their placement. The three stand there to represent and proclaim the 3 words left from his extraordinary life.

The lady of painting.
The lady of sculpture.
The lady of architecture.

The lingering legacy of Michelangelo summed up in three words: Painting. Sculpture. Architecture

Begs the question: What 3 words will I (we) we known for?

This week marks, for most, the start of a new era and time. Even if you don’t have kids going into a school, the beginning of an academic year sets the pace for routines and schedules.

This week is a place to not only launch into a new grade but to begin to write a legacy of what this year will be known for. And this can happen by asking the question: When June hits, what 3 words would my neighbors, classmates, co-workers, and educators say of me this year? What will the 3-word legacy I leave behind?

It’s not just questions for children going to school but questions for us adults to ponder. And the answer lies in having a prophetic vision.

Proverbs 29:18 ESV, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

I love the way the ESV (English Standard Version) says that. By “prophetic,” it means it that which encouraging, edifying, and compelling. It’s looking past what the natural eyes can see and chooses to see that which God desires us to see in order to move us into His vision for our lives.   A “prophetic vision” is a God-given/inspired picture that launches us forward. And the words He speaks and the pictures He gives may seem like they don’t exist in the present but set your feet to a path to follow.

It makes me think of the story of Gideon. A man who thought very little of himself and his clan, was living in fear of others. It was in this mental and emotional state where an angel approached him and said the words, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” These 7 words didn’t necessarily describe who he was in the moment but what God wanted to draw out of him.

What 3 prophetic words can you speak over your kids this school year? What 3 words can you speak over your marriage? What 3 words can you speak over your life?

It may be a sentence of 3 words (“Love one another” “Embrace and forgive” “Engage in love”). It could be 3 separate words (“Grow, deepen, listen” “Watch, encourage, serve”). But quieting yourself before the Lord and listening to His voice this week can not only change the trajectory of the year but the tone of which each day is lived.

3 words.

What 3 words do you hear the Lord speaking to you? What is He speaking over your kids? What 3 words are you speaking over your kids?

Discover them. Write them down. Say them over each other. Live them out.

1 new year; 3 words.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…