Responding to Suicide

This post was originally published August 11, 2014.    Robin Williams is dead, apparently of suicide after a lengthy battle with depression. My heart is heavy. What a terrible tragedy. How could a man who seemed so full of exuberant life somehow lack the will to live? I respect the family’s desire to keep details of his death private. There will likely be a feeding frenzy in the press — speculation over his mental state, drug use, relationships with others, every jot and tittle to try to explain the unexplainable — some people (and it can be anyone) simply lose the desire to see another day. Whenever I encounter suicide in the news or in the lives of people I know, my mind flashes back to one Saturday night in March of 2008. I was feeling flu-like symptoms and had called to get someone to preach for me. I went [...]

Responding to Suicide 2017-08-04T10:27:34+00:00

Is Depression ‘of God’?

In 2013, I partnered with Leanne Sype to begin the process that led to the publication of Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. I was thrilled with her work as editor, a crowdfunding consultant,a spiritual adviser, and friend. Here is some of her story. *** I have depression. It’s called “situational depression” because it was induced by the situation of both my kids being diagnosed with mental illnesses. My son has ADHD. My daughter has depression and anxiety, which, for her, include symptoms like self-harm and thoughts of wanting to die. Over the course of navigating treatments, advocating for academic accommodations, and engaging in the bulk of the emotional support for each kiddo, I felt depression slowly weigh down on my chest. *** I once had a Christian friend tell me that anything with the prefix de- isn’t “of God.” Depression fell into that category in our conversation. Whether [...]

Is Depression ‘of God’? 2017-07-19T19:53:49+00:00

How Can I Best Respond to Someone Who Is Depressed?

I had coffee and scones with a good friend this morning. One thing I greatly value about our friendship is that we quickly dispense of pleasantries, moving right to prayer and the sharing what is deepest in opur hearts. I told him that after a lengthy period of emotional and spiritual high, I had fallen into a depressive low. At my peak, I was spending as much as three hours a day in intensive prayer and Bible study. Lately, however, my time with God had become desperately pleading for some sustenance in a verse or phrase of Scripture – “Get up and eat,” “Jesus wept,” “God is love,” and the like. My friend, who has some close loved ones battling mental health issues, asked me a very sincere and poignant question, “How can I best respond to someone who is depressed?” I thought back on my own dark seasons and [...]

How Can I Best Respond to Someone Who Is Depressed? 2017-05-30T14:10:23+00:00

Hiding From the Power of God

Over the past six months, I have witnessed God's amazing power in so many ways. My father survived intricate bypass of his carotid artery. Then a stent placement. Then a bypass of the bypass, which had become clogged with scar tissue. I made a commitment to healthy eating and exercise. I lost 30 pounds in 3 months and felt the best I can remember. My step-mom pulled through a delicate spinal implant. I was rear-ended and wound up spending 5 days in the medical-behavioral unit to address both physical and psychological needs. As a result of the injury, I have chronic neck and back pain. But it could have been much, much worse. My 94-year old grandmother, who very much wanted to let go of the burdens of this life, passed into the next in a beautiful way, in her room, within the house she helped build. Surrounded by loved [...]

Hiding From the Power of God 2017-05-30T14:09:18+00:00

I Ain’t Got No Home

Lately, I have felt an all-too familiar sense of exile. As a pastor, I moved around a good bit and was encouraged by my ministry supervisors not to put down roots. Now that I'm retired, divorced, and living on my own, it is easy to given in to the temptation to withdraw, to isolate myself, which leads to a vicious depressive cycle from which it's hard to escape. While it does not replace face-to-face contact, I appreciate the community I  have come to know through social media. Often, I read posts that give voice to my unexpressed feelings and help me feel less alone. The post "My Father's House,"  from Mama's Musings is a reflection on how mortality impacts our desire to "come home." Today has been a long and emotion filled day. I have spent time with two people close to me who are near the end of their [...]

I Ain’t Got No Home 2017-05-30T14:07:12+00:00

Gentle Rejoicing

This morning I met three of my objectives for the day: Get out of bed before noon.       2. Get dressed. And,        3. Go to church. Going to church was the biggest step. When I am in a depressive cycle, I want to be left alone. If I do go out, I want to blend in, not stand out. Some times I am able to pull this off, to mask my symptoms, to grin and bear it. This was not one of those times. Many people came up to me and asked how I was doing. The best response, if I don't want to stand out, is to follow the script: “How are you?” “I'm fine, thanks. And you?” “Okay.” Many times I have been able to recite the anticipated response and the play goes on as directed. This morning, though, I couldn't bring myself [...]

Gentle Rejoicing 2017-05-30T14:04:57+00:00

Far From Alone

As I write this, I am on the heels of a depressive episode that has threatened to kick my legs out from under me. For almost a week, I've been holed up my apartment; sleeping, watching television, staring at the computer screen. Menacing voices scream inside my head even as I hit the letters on my keyboard, yelling that I am an impostor, that I have nothing to say that people would want to hear. At times like these, the fact that God delights in me is far removed from my thoughts and feelings. Instead my thoughts are filled with things I've done wrong, my feelings are dominated by regret and shame. I sleep and sleep and sleep some more, but even my dreams are distorted by fears that I am unlovable, that I am alone in a pit of despair, far from delight. But I'm not alone. I know [...]

Far From Alone 2017-05-30T14:04:47+00:00

Scorn-full

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123:3-4) While modern medicine has come a long way in helping us understand and explain mental illness, people’s perspectives can lag far behind. Many people still think that with more faith, a stronger will, and a better attitude, such things as depression, bipolar disorder, even schizophrenia can just go away. This outlook often leads to pinning the blame for the illness on the person struggling to overcome it. It can also lead to contempt and scorn on the part of the accuser that the accused may internalized. “If you only had more faith.” “If you weren’t so lazy.” “If you just kept a positive attitude.” Like the [...]

Scorn-full 2017-05-30T14:04:21+00:00

Out of the Depths

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:1-4) When I am in the grip of depression, the last thing I want to hear is that I’ve done nothing to deserve it. My mind busily rehashes old regrets. I am convinced of my guilt over many things. I see my depression, no matter how severe, as but a small price to pay for my sin. The good news that saves us from the darkest corners of depression is not that we are “good enough” on our own. It is that in spite of how horribly we mess up, God has a word of grace to speak to us. [...]

Out of the Depths 2017-05-30T14:03:10+00:00