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).

Meditative Moments Day 5 – Psalms 23 #TheGoodBook

I thought I’d meditate through Psalms 23 with all of you this week.

This week at Kfirst, we are focusing on a meditative approach to the scriptures. “Meditation” is, perhaps, the most underused and misunderstood approach to the bible. Often, “meditation” is associated with eastern religions or New Age “disconnecting.” Scriptural meditation is not about disconnecting but engaging with the text in order to digest it.

Check out Day 1 HERE 
Check out Day 2 HERE
Check out Day 3 HERE
Check out Day 4 HERE

As we are taking a meditative approach to Psalm 23, we’re going to do it bit by bit. One of my favorite “meditation” tactics is using the 5 senses in the context of the scripture. Other tactics can include memorizing scripture, focusing on specific phrases, speaking aloud, journaling, and praying it.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell[ in the house of the Lord forever.ESV
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.NLT
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.MSG
So why would I fear the future? For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you! TPT

My meditative thoughts today:

So often I’ve been told that if I pursue God harder, I’ll “get” more of Him in my life. So much of my theology/belief was very driven by what I can accomplish so that I can say, “look what I was able to discover based upon my abilities to chase down God.”

First, I don’t chase God. He passionately pursues me. His goodness and mercy/unfailing love are after me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. His Spirit draws me to Him. His Spirit reveals who He is.

Second, the things I do to “deepen me” (scriptures, prayer, worship, community, etc.) are not there to “get more of God” but to become more aware of Him. God doesn’t show up more than He is in this moment. He is omnipresent. BUT I can have a greater awareness of His presence and how He is at work in and around me.

Lastly, hope is now and forever. Because I am pursued by hope I can have it now. But I don’t have to worry about “using it up” here on this earth. A hope awaits me. I will rest in His hope now. I will rest in His Hope forever.

Amen

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

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

 

Love you all.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

 

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “The Missing Piece to Peace” #TrueNorth

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

I’m not sure if you knew this, but a magnetic compass doesn’t always show “true north.” It has been historically known that “magnetic north” waders in diverse directions. At some periods in the earth’s history, it reversed so that magnetic north pole has been near the geographic south pole. What we know as “true north” is north according to the earth’s axis. Most of us only know magnetic north. We follow what a needle driven by a magnetic PULL and have learned to follow that.

There are many things “pulling” at our attention attempting to get the focus of our lives. Jesus is our “True North.” And in this series, we’ll dive into the Old Testament prophets who spoke out to draw the people of God back to “True North.”

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

Other thoughts from the Youversion notes from Sunday:

  • Peace is marked by the presence of Christ, not by the condition of our circumstances.
  • Lasting peace can be found when we realize Jesus is our source for peace and He is always with us.
  • “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because…there is no such thing.” – C.S. Lewis
  • We are not called to be peace keepers but peace makers.

Love you all. Have an amazing week.

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

 

Character in Real-Time

“Then their good character will shine through their actions, adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God” Titus 2 (MSG)

One of my favorite shows of all time was the show “24.” Outside of a great lead character and the crazy storylines was the one aspect each episode offered that no other show was offering:

Real time.

What “real-time” mean in “24 was, essentially, if a person in that had a 15 minute drive, they didn’t arrive till 15 minutes later in the show. It’s quite different from seeing a character get on a plan, go to commercial, then see them get off the plane having traveled across the ocean during the commercial break.

Real time is where we live. And I wonder if we’ve forgotten that we are to navigate life in “real-time.” We read stories like Joseph, we preach about them in a series, and in a matter of a few Sundays, we’ve seen the start, beginning, and the end. Like watching the average television show, in a half-hour, we’ve seen so much transpire and accomplished.

And that’s what brings me to my point. We forget the stories in scripture are not in “real-time.” For example, in Genesis 41:46 Joseph is 30 years old but EIGHT verses later, he is 37. If they were written in “real-time” we’d have so much superfluous information given about the 7 years of plentiful harvest. I’m curious yet very thankful the Genesis author listened to the Holy Spirit on what should be and shouldn’t be included. 7 years would have been a lot of material to cover.

Why do I bring all of this up? Because as much as we know we are not reading in “real-time,” I think we have an unrealistic expectation on how God works in our lives. We want the “sitcom” version of God where we confront an issue and everything is solved in a half hour.

I believe God is not constrained by what we know as time. He is God. Yet the more I read scripture, I see that He works in us in real-time. And the things that He desires to produce in us takes place over time.

And that brings us to Titus 2 and the issue of “character.” Paul writes to Titus about the fact that the teachings of Jesus need to be lived out in real-time. That’s how our character is grown. In the day after day, moment by moment real-time expression. His character on display in our character. I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s choice of using the word “luster.” When we show character, we show not just the beauty of the teachings of Jesus but the value of Christ to life and all.

Character is not optional in the Kingdom of God. Our character is what takes “Christ, the hope of glory” and expresses it in the every day-ness of life so that people can experience the “luster” (beauty and value) of Jesus.

We live in real-time, but God develops character over time. So the way to see the results of what happens “over time” is to engage in “real-time.”

Love you all. Praying for you as you begin to live out the character of Jesus in real-time.

 

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…

 

Marital Traffic: 3 Ways to Face Marital Challenges

Periodically, when I’m performing weddings, I’ll read an excerpt from a piece written by Robert Fulghum called, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. ” It’s a fun take of how we can approach life, especially in marriage. It says”

Most of what I really need to know about how to live
And what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:
Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life –
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.

I love to linger on that last line.

“When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.”

The statement is more powerful than most couples realize. First, traffic is present. There’s nothing inherently bad about “traffic.” Cars are not evil. But the metaphor is deep enough to warn us that every marriage faces things beyond themselves that are challenging. And challenges that are not properly navigated through can/will cause pain. That leads us to my second thought: though you can do nothing about the presence of traffic, you can maneuver through it safely if you walk together, work together, and stay together.

(If you’re a wedding officiate, congrats, you now have a great ending to your wedding ceremony.)

It’s not facing the “traffic” (struggles) that makes you feel hopeless, it’s feeling like you’re going through it alone. And THAT, my friends, should not be.

Tattooed on the outside of my right wrist is a meaningful scripture I want to give you. It’s out of Isaiah 43:2 and says,

When you go through deep waters, I will be with youWhen you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

This powerful word is not the denial of tough times but the promise of the Lord’s presence within them. Our marriages will face “rivers of difficulty” and “the fire of oppression.” But His presence is what helps us “go through” them and not get destroyed by them. Together with the Lord, our marriages can make it through “traffic.”

So if we’re going to face “traffic,” perhaps we can have a simple yet strategic approach to marital challenges that produce something out of our pain.

1. Go through it together.
I grew up in metro Detroit and I know traffic. I’ve also driven though Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York. And the reason why the traffic was worth enduring was the destination that was in my vision. Why “go through it”? Because your marriage is worth it. When you see something challenging in front of your marriage, talk about it; strategize about it. Grab each other’s hands, pray Isaiah 43 over your marriage, and go through it together. I love Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”

2. Grow through it together.
Going through challenges is inevitable; learning from them is optional. Don’t waste the struggle. Look at what you face (or are presently facing) and find purpose in the pain by growing from what you have endured. What could you (or both of you) have done different? What should you do the next time you face a challenge? How can you do a better job encouraging each other through things? What tools/help can you access to guide you both? Find a growth point personally and maritally and share those with one another.

3. Share the wisdom. 
Don’t be selfish with your lessons; share them with someone who needs hope. Sometimes “hope” is in the form of “We understand. We’ve been there. We know what you’re going through.” When you share your progress and your victories, you share hope. And a sliver of hope can be the catalyst for another couple to see a mountain they’re facing moved.

Love you all. Praying over you all as you face the traffic in life together, learn from the journey, and pour that into others.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Hope For The Broken-hearted” with Jarrid Wilson

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, we continued our series “Anastasis” at Kfirst. Anastasis is probably a word a majority of people wouldn’t know, recognize, or use. But to the New Testament Church, it meant everything. Anastasis means “resurrection.” It speaks of “rising up.” And for the new Church, it was where new life began and it was the power to live from each day.

The Spirit of God causes us to rise up out of our sin and brokenness, out of inadequacy and weakness. The Spirit of God Spirit causes us to rise up into a new and empowered life.

Normally, when I preach, I like to give a brief outline of what we receieved on Sunday. During, Anasasis, I want to send out the entire message with some of the points picked up from the speaker.

Enjoy the message from Jarrid Wilson in week 2 of “Anasasis.”

Thoughts from Jarrid:

  • Far too often we depend on the faith of yesterday to get through today.
  • God has not called you to “exist”; He’s called you to live.
  • ‪I expect that God will.‬ ‪I expect that God can.‬ ‪I will follow Him regardless. ‬
  • When we fall at the feet of Jesus we’re able to stand in his strength.

Love you all. Have an amazing week.