Apples, Buttons, Band-aids, Oh My

8 01 2016

You are about to learn some troubling news. It’s news about me and it may turn the tide about how you treat me or even feel about me.

I have a gag reflex. I know, I know… this is uncomfortable. You had no idea. It’s something I have struggled with my entire life. My children, and often my own wife, pick on me about it. It’s an uncommon reflex to say the least. It’s not the same as when the doctor uses the little rubber mallet to tap on your knee during a routine exam. It’s not even like having a wooden popsicle stick holding your tongue down. No. This is worse. Besides not being able to swallow even the smallest of pills, I gag at the sight of a large Adam’s Apple. Even as I type the word, I’m needing to turn my head. If I see a man with a protruding laryngeal prominence, I have to look away. If I see someone touch it, I’m gone. Seriously. It’s one of the main reasons I grew a beard as soon as I left home for college. As a 17 year old, 6′ 1″, 140 pound college freshman, my Adam’s Apple inhibited my ability to shave without the near dry heave. It just stuck out too far.

Likewise my belly button is troubling. Some might consider the natural divet of the abdomen a target for tickling. Not so in my case. It’s a bullseye for the eject button of my last meal. It was all I could do to clean and care for both of my infant son’s umbilical residue during their first weeks of life here on earth without throwing up. Changing the most toxic diaper had little to no effect in comparison to having to put ointment on that little piece of flesh. I prayed more earnestly than anything in my life that it would fall off sooner than later.

My own belly button is something that has always made me uncomfortable. Yes, I’ll laugh it off when around friends and family. But deep inside I wish I didn’t have it. I won’t wear some button down shirts because the placement of that third-from the-bottom button rubs against it. I’m too old to wear medium to low rise jeans, but I will continue to do so and carry the just cause of ridicule. Because at least then there is little to no chance my belt buckle will come anywhere near it. Needless to say I could never be a rodeo star or be a wrestler. Those buckles. No thank you.

The last 5 days have forced me to pay attention to my belly button like a lonely old gorilla in the rain forest. It’s never had so much attention. You see, eighteen months ago I developed an umbilical hernia. Yes, what had been an inny, had become an outee. And it hurt. I mean beyond the normal uncomfortable state around my belly button, it really was easily irritated. Yet I wouldn’t talk to a doctor about it because I knew he would want to touch it, and well… that was just not going to happen.

Then came that hapless day during my annual physical, which always now includes the full deal Prostate Cancer screening. (Thanks Dad!) My doctor asked, “So, is there anything going on that we need to talk about?”. Okay, it was a weak moment. I mean he had just taken off the glove and tossed it into the can with the red lining. Without thinking I said, “Well Doc, I’ve been having increased pain in my belly button area.” And there it was. The beginning of the path to the most unsettling circumstance of my life. Not only was someone about to stick their finger inside my belly button, they were going to cut it open, dig around in there and then sew it back up. I have no words.

Well, okay. That’s not true. I’ve got words. To be completely honest I also have the same gag reflex with my eyes. I wear contacts now though. I’ve gotten over that hurdle. Granted, I wear extended wear contacts and I extend them much further than recommended. To create an even better system, I’ve even reduced the situation to where I now only wear one contact instead of two! So I only have to deal with one eyeball every other month (or so).

Since I’ve done so well with my eyeballs, I figured I could do the same with my belly button. Mind over matter they say. They are wrong. There has been much anxiety this week. Way too much anxiety. I communicated my issues to the surgeon immediately upon my first consultation back before Christmas. And what did he do? He stuck his finger right in there. I yelled. The nurse came running in to see if the doctor needed help. Yes! He needed help! He needed to be helped right out of that exam room! And I needed one of those banana shaped bowls to catch what was about to come flying out of my mouth. He removed his hand very quickly and I didn’t press charges or file a complaint. I would be asleep the next time he tried that move. Or at least that is what I thought.

This past Monday Tana and Candy got me all good and ready for surgery. Candy called me Jimi Hendrix and we all had a nice conversation about names and how Tana had complained to her Dad about her name more than once and how frustrating ordering pizza was. Candy’s last name is Cash, or maybe Crush, or maybe even Corn. I’m not entirely sure because very soon after the nice talk I had to be laid flat on my back and have cold wash rags placed on my forehead and, you guessed it, right across my Adam’s Apple. The nausea soon passed (once the cold rag was removed from my neck) and the doctor stopped by to say hello. And then he did it again! Right there in front of my sweet wife, who had just prayed over me. He pulled up my gown, took one look and with the speed of a champion fast draw gun fighter, he poked my protruded umbilicus with his right index finger. I think I passed out at that point.

The first batch of medicine they give you to prep for surgery has somewhat of an amnesia effect. And that’s a good thing. I had no idea what they did to fix my hernia. The good doctor had wanted to explain the procedure to me. I just stuck my fingers in my ears, closed my eyes and sang La, La, La, La, La as loud as I could. All I know is that it’s hard to stand up straight and coughing is not pleasant. Even after 5 days. Today I attempted to look up the treatment and procedure online. I thought I had worked up enough curiosity to overcome the reflex. I got 3 sentences in and I had to stop. It’s still too soon. I did almost have a break through in the middle of the night though. I came as close as possible to ripping off the band-aid and using a fork to scratch the itch that is now happening deep down in the healing. I scratched the kneecap of my right leg. That was as close as I can get. It didn’t really help, but I was able to go back to sleep.

There are hard days ahead people. At some point I’m going to have to remove the band-aid for good and do a deep cleaning of the wound. I have changed the dressing a couple of times already and I think it went well. I’ve figured out a way to watch YouTube videos of puppies doing funny things to distract me.

Now that you know of my Kryptonite I hope you won’t use it against me. For those of you with similar issues, let’s imagine briefly talking about it in a small group and then let’s never think of it again. I’m here for you… but only to watch videos of puppies together.





Masookies

16 12 2015

Merry Christmas everyone!  Chances are good that if you are reading this you have received one of these wonderful creations.  My sister introduced me to what my family now calls “Masookies” over the Thanksgiving holiday.  It’s the simplicity of a chocolate chip cookie, using my own super secret recipe by the way, baked in a small Mason Jar.  It is a single serving of happiness.

IMG_0952

There is really only one thing better than a Masookie… And that’s a Masookie warmed up in the microwave for 20 seconds with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.  I hope you enjoy it!  And MERRY CHRISTMAS from Suzanne, Brewer, Rivers and me!





50 Days of Gray (My Social Media Silence)

20 02 2015

I don’t think it started out as an intentional effort. A new year deserves change and although I’m not a huge fan, I’m not a hater either. But the new year often causes me to look around and run a scorecard on the many little boxes I have in my life. I’m an introvert. I mean a real honest to goodness introvert. My coping mechanism is I married an extrovert. Now she’s not a 100% extrovert, meaning she can handle being alone pretty well (especially if a good book is handy). But my sweetheart can provide the best cover for me when I enter the field of land mines in social settings. She can handle dinner conversations and grocery store aisle happenstances better than most MLB batters can handle an inside pitch. So I’ve got the “in-person” limitations of introversion covered until death do us part.

I still want to be able to connect with people though. I’m not a total hermit. I have a life. A dang good one in fact. I know I’m sometimes seen as fairly unapproachable. A friend once told me that he was actually scared of me before they got to know me. Okay… More than one friend has told me the same story. It’s a curse.

But then came Social Media. I could share all the little things that make my life so good with as many people as I wanted to include. Heck, I even let people I’m not friends with look in on my rock’n cool world by turning off the privacy settings! All of the sudden I’d pass people in the hallway at work and instead of darting for the first open door or staring at the floor, they would say, “Hey tell your kid congrats on pitching that great game the other night” or ask “so did you like that recipe you made last night?” Now I’m not saying I enjoy those moments all the time, but as long as we can at least have something to say to each other as we pass in the hallway other than “what’s up?” along with the obligatory chin thrust, I’m happy.

Instagram had become my go to app for breaking down the wall of the introvert.

But then came the insidiousness of the over share. I have to give thanks to my Sister’s kids for shaking me back into reality here. They coined the phase “Uncle Allen Post Worthy”. It had reached a point where I simply posted too often about too many things. My intent in participating on the three primary Social Media platforms has always been to show the world there is no reason for you to be scared of me or to see me as unapproachable. I share about my good life. How I’m proud of my wife and boys. The fact I love Jesus and the methods of telling His story. Read my posts and you’ll see I’m into baseball and I have a dream to open a baseball lifestyle clothing store someday. I also enjoy reading about my friends worlds. My old friends and my new friends. I’ve even got friends I’ve never met in person! I’m often encouraged and challenged by the posts I see. I’m also inspired by so many of them. But I also used to shake my head at some of them… that was until I just decided to unfriend, block or hide the repeat offenders.

So the fact my niece and nephew, affirmed by my oldest son, put my over sharing practice on my radar, it occurred to me to look a little deeper into that box of my life as the new year started. Was there some other less “good life” reason I was sharing?

It turns out there was.

One hard lesson I’ve learned living the life of an introvert is that affirmation doesn’t come easy. It’s not easily given nor easily received. That little “like” button… that blue thumps up button was a game changer. The double tap to a red heart and the yellow star of favorite fame. Those are gauges to measure the extent of agreement for the ways of my world.

And honestly… that’s not a good thing. Upon reflecting on my Social Media rituals I found that I had stopped being encouraged, challenged and inspired by others. I had become a gauge watcher of my own posts. How many likes did that one get? How many reposts, how many on this, how many on that? What a selfish way to be. What a one way street I was on.

My oldest son has 67 more followers on Instagram than I do. I have 1227 posts to date. He has 23. The last post I made (7 weeks ago) has 9 likes. His last post had 68. Granted the people that follow him are much more active on Instagram than my followers are. The thought occurred to me though that maybe my posts were not as impactful (i.e. Likeable) because they happened too often. You know… kind of like how ads become less impactful the more you see them. We all kind of tune them out. Again, a self centered thought process. I was trying to convince myself that maybe if I didn’t post as often, I could get more likes and have a greater impact.

I found myself in a quandary. I know, what a stupid thing to be perplexed about. There are so many more important things in life than wasting time thinking about Social Media. But stay with me. This is a box in my life, and out of all the boxes in my life, it had become dark. Selfishness is darkness. It’s not pleasing to God or man. So when I take the time to inspect all of my boxes and I find one that doesn’t have Light spilling out of the gaps around the lid, that’s an indication that something is wrong.

So I took a break. I thought 40 days (a good Bible based chunk of time) of no posting original content on any of my personal accounts ought to do it. That would reset my purpose and provide a nice and much needed cleanse. Oh I’d still repost and share other people’s content on a limited basis; just not create any of my own. I mean there had to be rules for the 40 day self imposed fast of course!

The 40 days have come and gone. I’ve been incredibly busy at work the last couple of weeks so no time to post anything original lately. It’s been 50 days now. 50 days of taking pictures that no one other than me will ever see. 50 days of learning it’s okay that I’m paying more at the pump than last week and I don’t have to post about it so that the world will know what a travesty that is. Everyone has to buy gas. Everyone knows the price is going back up a little bit. No one needs to be told about that on Social Media. I get it.

I’ve learned a lot about myself as I’ve gone through the mental exercise of fighting the urge to post about every little thing. I know I really do have a lot of wonderful aspects of my life that are in fact worth posting about. I just need to stop looking at the gauges and start focusing directly on the wonderful aspects themselves. Those are the things that make life worth living. I don’t need likes, shares and favorites to tell me that.

So now the only trouble is figuring out what I want my first post to be (after this blog entry). One side of me thinks it needs to be epic… the other side just wants it to be simple. Either way I won’t care if it gets 5 likes or 500. If only one person is encouraged, challenged or inspired, or more importantly sees the Light shining, I’ll be happy. Oh and of course if it helps with those awkward hallway interactions… All the better! #happyposting

PS. About the title of this post: Just an attention grabber. Made you look didn’t it?





Open Letter to Moms of Boys

17 12 2014

Last summer I came across a Facebook post where a Mom was asking her friends for help in finding books and other materials to give to her young sons. She wanted resources to help them gain a better understanding of what it means to live a Christ centered life in a world that is increasingly not Christ centered.  There were lots of comments attached to the post.  Lots of other Moms listed some blogs and a few of books. But by-in-large there weren’t very many that I would have been excited about giving my boys.

For those who don’t know, I’m the Dad of two boys.  Each is very different than the other.  I’m also a full time Minister.  Because I have a fair amount of insight into the area my Facebook friends were talking about, I added my thoughts to the stream of comments. Over the years I have spent a ton of time looking for and researching the best tools to raise Christian boys. I’ve learned a lot along the way.  Now I’ll never say my boys are without error.  And I pray everyday that if they ever do anything that is not worthy of God’s character that I will find out about it before it’s too late. (Thankfully that prayer works most of the time!)  I’m not an expert, but I believe I do have a good word on the topic. So… I have decided to repost my comments here so that maybe others might see it and apply it.  Maybe it might even spark a conversation for like minded folks to develop better options for helping boys understand the ways of Christ.  Lord knows we all need it!

From a recent Facebook comment I wrote on a friend’s post: 

These comments break my heart. As the son of a Minister and as a Minister myself, (as well as the Dad of 2 boys ages 10 and 15) [my boys are now 16 and 11] I know for a fact that there are very few resources written for specifically for boys. Now there are hundreds for Moms (and a few for Dads) that will provide great examples of how to raise Godly boys, with plenty of exercises to try. There are personality and gifts assessments that you can use to try and figure out how they might receive the lessons you are teaching in a more absorbent way. However… there is hardly anything (bible study, devotional, etc) available that you can put in a boys hand that he will devour on his own. And here’s why… Boys don’t work that way. They don’t think that way. Unlike a girl’s natural desire for relationships to be deep and their willingness to be quiet and take the time to get close to their Heavenly Father, boys naturally don’t have it on their radar and see it as an unpleasant chore when they are told they need to dig in.

Now I know… these are generalizations. So where does that lead us? Should we write our own Bible Studies and devotionals? Here’s the inside track on the publishing world of Christian content… Products are developed based on market research. No publisher will produce a product they know won’t sell. Because the Market Research shows that boys don’t latch on to the kind of products we are wanting for our boys, they are much less likely to fund the product into production. Believe me, there have been some valiant attempts over the last 30 years.

This may all sound disheartening, but hear this… there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way we are looking for resources to specifically put in the hands of our boys. It’s not going to be in a book or even an iPhone app! (okay maybe it is an app…). It’s going to be in the form of two critical paths. The first is in stories. Truly engaging stories that provide humor, danger, ritual, compassion, good and even evil. But these stories can’t just be in a book (remember that boys rarely read just because they can). The stories have to be told out loud… so that boys will HEAR them and SEE them. They have to be done in a way that makes the boy want to tell his friends the story. It has to be the kind of story that they fall asleep at night dreaming about.

The second path is through life experiences. Many of you are already paving the way for that. You are putting your boys into situations where they are SEEING and HEARING the ways of Christ put into practice. Plan for that. Fund that. Do that. Involve them in what you are doing to follow Christ. Be careful in this point though. Remember that most of you are women. The steps YOU are taking to follow Christ may not engage your sons in the same way it’s engaging you. When you plan, consider what will speak to their hearts. When you fund that plan be generous in the line item called “surprise and delight”. When you do the plan do with energy and excitement (and maybe add in some silliness, but in a macho kind of way).

Bottom line is this:
– Shift your sights on the kind of resources you are looking for by beginning to look for Godly stories that can be told out loud. Granted there are very few out there. Pray about creating more.
– Stop thinking that your boy will “get it” if only there were resources out there like there are for girls.
– Put your family into situations where your boys will SEE and HEAR God at work. Plan it, fund it, do it.

Lastly, by all means keep doing what you are doing! Pray together, read the Bible together, Worship together, go on mission together! Remember that no two boys are exactly alike. Use the resources everyone has listed to learn as much as you can about how you can better lead your boys. Use the personally and gifts assessments to get a better grip on why they are the way the are. Understand that there will be seasons in a boys life when you feel like you are getting hit in the face with a shovel. It will hurt and it will shock you. Also understand that his heart will be broken once he realizes what he has done.

Most of all, hug them and be sure to tell them you love them with all your heart. Especially in front of their friends. Boys love that stuff!

Oh yeah… And pray. Pray like your life depends on it. No… Pray like your son’s life depends on it. Because it does.





Living with Jihadists and Pornographers #chasethedark

29 09 2014

Jim Denison’s commentary this morning was especially interesting to me. He opens with a brief comment about the Supreme Court making the call to decide on same-sex marriage today. However the most intriguing comments (at least to me) were his points about how the world’s powers are moving back to their cultural DNA. Those of you who know me know that I subscribe to the pendulum theory of history… a 40 year cycle of cultural shifts that swings between “Me” and “We”. Where Denison points out Peter Druckers comments or Kissinger’s writings, he revels this is a time where the Gospel can be presented with great results.

The commentary’s closing statement resounded in me…”The same technology that allows jihadists and pornographers to propagate also allows Christians to win and disciple Christians. More people are coming to Christ today than ever before in Christian history.”

Some of us live among the data streams of jihadists and pornographers. Some of us use those tools to chase darkness. The same grace and relationship connections that make our modern day boots-on-the-ground missionaries successful is what is needed with our “tech-ops” missionaries.

The online world is full of spite. There is anger and hostility everywhere. There is also hypocrisy. Whether it’s a gay person calling for tolerance that ultimately is anything but tolerant, or a Christ follower who posts scripture on social media while they clear out their browser history so no one sees the porn sites they looked at that day. We are ALL sinners.

For those us who are called to share the love of God, there is a model. Jesus himself explained it to us. Everyone knows John 3:16, but do you know the next verse? Verse 17 says (Jesus speaking here), “For God did not send his Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

John 12:47 says nearly the same thing, but most translations use the word “judge” instead of condemn. So… He didn’t come to even judge us.

Jesus Christ didn’t come to judge us… or condemn us. He came to save us from a life that only knows darkness. And more importunately give us a path to an eternal life without darkness.

I don’t mean to bait and switch anyone here. It may sound simple, but it’s really not. Being a Christ follower is a hard row to hoe… especially in the culture of today. Why is that? It’s because we are fresh and we were born into sin. We want to right with God, but when we try to go at it on our own (in our flesh) we get tripped up on stuff the “world” has to offer.

There is another place in scripture that talks about the lukewarm believer. It’s in the last book of the Bible in one of the letters to the Seven Churches of the day. He says to the Church in Laodicea… (my paraphrase here)… “I know the things you do. You’re not hot or cold. I wish you were one or the other, but because you are lukewarm I will spit you out of my mouth.”

I see so many people around me that are lukewarm believers. People who do great and wonderful things. People who know and follow the rules and do the right thing. Heck, I’m often one of those people (the lukewarm rule follower part, not so much the great and wonderful part). But for whatever reason we are neither hot or cold when it comes to our walk with Christ.

I believe that this is why so many people are coming to Christ in other parts of the world. They are being forced to be either cold or hot for Christ. That pressure is coming to us. In fact it’s already on us. You might not have experienced it yet, but it’s coming. You and I are going to have to either get in or get out. History shows us what happens when people place a high value on their beliefs. There is persecution and even death. Not for the faint of heart (aka, lukewarm).

Is there darkness in your world today? Does that darkness make it hard to see clearly what’s going on around you? Is it so dark that you are bumping into to life in ways that are negatively impacting you and those around you? Do you doubt that there is enough of Jesus in your life that you wouldn’t be afraid of the dark that sometimes creeps in?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to know it’s okay. Not only is it okay, it’s pretty normal. What’s not normal though is wanting to stay in that place. If you want to move out of the darkness, I’d like to help. I don’t have all the answers. But I’m willing to help you find as many of them as I can. At the very least I’ll pray with you and ask God to give you the strength and wisdom to move forward and towards the Light. Please feel free to comment below, message, text or call me.

I live in a world among jihadists and pornographers… and if you are reading this, so do you. Let’s be clear and unashamed while walk together in Christ. Let’s not judge or condemn. But with everything we’ve got… let’s chase the dark.

‪#‎chasethedark‬

Here is the link to Jim’s article today. It’s what helped pull me into the Light this morning. I guess this post was my Kingdom assignment for today! http://www.denisonforum.org/cultural-commentary/1181-scotus-decides-today-if-it-will-rule-on-same-sex-marriage





Dead Poets Helped Me Survive Depression

13 08 2014

This is a re-post of an essay I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday.  The original post appears truncated in the timeline for some users and it highlighted the title of the Apple iPad ad that was attached at the bottom. I’m afraid some folks might not have taken the opportunity to read the post because, well… I post a lot of Apple gloryisms and I think most of my friends probably just grin, roll their eyes and move on along.  That little snafu is misfortune. The post is not about Apple products or even the beauty of the ad itself. So… Just to give the words another shot at reaching the intended audience, here is the essay again… in it’s entirety (with a little update at the end).

Yesterday I posted a movie poster image of of the 1989 classic movie Dead Poets Society. In the movie Robin Williams plays John Keating, an English teacher who tries to inspire the students at the all boys school, Welton Academy. The script for the movie was based on the story of a man’s life at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, TN.

Two years prior to release of the movie (almost to the day in fact) I broke my work contract and walked off the job I had with a summer camp in South Mississippi. I had just received my final grades from my freshman year in college and the news was not good. The letter included the words “Academic Suspension” in a font bolder than it probably needed to be. In the months leading up to the day I quit, I had very little sleep. Yes I said months. I’m not sure I had eaten much either. I can still remember the feeling of the massive weight of guilt on my shoulders. I had blown it. In the previous 12 months I had done things I thought I would never do. I was acting in a way that was not normal and I couldn’t explain my actions. I left Mississippi in desperation, but deep inside I knew I was going to do whatever I could to pass the buck… to ignore the pain and act like nothing was wrong. I would blame my youth and the fact I had been negatively influenced by others. I drove home to West Monroe and to my surprise I found help instead of reprimand. Those who knew me best knew something was wrong. There were many long nights and “counseling sessions.” Heck, there were even hypnosis sessions.

Ultimately I was referred to a psychiatrist who ordered blood work and after several hours of meetings with me and my family members they found it. There it was… the tests revealed a chemical imbalance in my brain that was causing clinical depression. A treatment plan was established and so it began… The long, long road to work my way back into reality and out of the funk and pain I had been in for so long.

Fast forward two years to the summer of 1989. I saw Dead Poets Society in a theater in Gulfport, Mississippi. A couple of months before that day I worked up enough gumption to ask my previous boss for another shot at working the entire summer. He was a man I greatly respected and I wanted to prove myself to him. After leaving him in a lurch before, I wasn’t sure he would do me the favor. He did. I hung in there for the summer and I even stayed an extra few weeks afterwards to help button up the place for the fall sessions.

In the middle of that summer, and after nearly two years of be treated for depression, I saw a movie that to this day I can’t get out of my head. I’ve only seen it one other time since that night in Gulfport. But it doesn’t matter. The dialog is fixed within my mind. The images are etched in my consciousness. There in the prime time of my treatment I saw myself in everyone of the characters. I listened to John Keating as though I was one of his students. Granted, it was probably at one of my most impressionable times in life, but it impacted me. It was what I needed to help me push through the side effects of the meds and the highs and lows of depression.

Taking the meds was always an issue. Since I’m not a pill swallower I mastered the practice of tearing the caplets apart and making sure every little grain of dust made it into the six ounce jelly jar glass I kept next to my bathroom sink. I learned early on that it was easier to mix if the water was already in the glass. The taste was bitter, but if the water was lukewarm it would go down fast, so I made it though. I was still increasing the dose little by little to enter into a more therapeutic range at that time, with the hope that my brain would catch on and start producing the right balance of chemicals on it’s own and I would someday be able to drop the dose down to nothing.

Fast forward another year and I found myself living in Nashville. Not far from Montgomery Bell in fact. I was alone, without a church family and working lots of hours. There was a small group of friends though. People who had no clue about my history. It was pretty much a clean slate. My doctor appointments had moved to scheduled long distance phone calls and blood draws at clinics that also handled the testing for those who wore tracking beacons on their ankles. My meds were at their highest level and the side effects had normalized (if that’s even possible).

Part of my therapy assignment was to write. I was really bad at it. I dreaded it actually. I worked in the music industry in Nashville and there were writers all around me. Great writers. I often got to hear the poems and stories that moved to become hit records before more than a handful of people got to hear them. Who was I to write anything down? Someone once told me back then that if you want to write well you need to read the well written. So I did. I don’t know if if helped, but at least I did begin to write. I would recall the plot of Dead Poets Society and I would replay the parts that made me want to dig in and feel the emotions of the great writers and then mimic it.

There is one 80 second segment spoken by Robin Williams, as he portrayed John Keating, that I found especially poignant. It was the kind of word string that as soon as you heard it you wanted to jump out of your seat in the theater and yell at the projectionist to rewind the film so you could hear it again. Just so you could make sure you got all of it. “That the play goes on… and you may contribute a verse.” The words that bookend Whitman’s poem may have been pinned by Tom Schulman, but it was the delivery of Robin Williams, heard by an impressionable 20 something living with depression, that caused a visceral eruption of waterworks. My shirt sleeves were soaking wet from wiping the tears of passion that had been pulled out of my heart after hearing those worlds. I needed a good cry at that time in my life. At that very moment. I needed to realize that I had something to contribute.

And so now today… My depression has been beat down. My brain did catch on and begin producing what it needed. My dose was lowered to nothing in 1992. Five years of treatment. Five years of embarrassment. Five years of wondering if I would ever be normal. It was discovered when I was 19, but I had been living with it for years. In fact, I still live with it. I’m always on the look out for it’s return. When I have a run of bad days, I get concerned. I know the signs and I’m hyperaware of them. And fortunately I know how to handle them.

There is great risk in telling the world about this part of my history. The mere fact that someone as gifted and talented as Robin Williams took the steps needed to end his own life yesterday trumps that risk. I’m no Robin Williams. I’m a normal guy riding the same kind of roller coaster as you. If you feel, really feel deep down inside, that something is just not right with how you are looking at yourself or how you are looking at the world around you, talk to someone about it. Tell your spouse or a trusted friend. Then, and this is important… talk to a professional. Don’t be embarrassed or too proud to make that call. I’ll even make it easy… here’s a number: 318-868-6554. It’s private and all you need to say when they answer the phone is “I’m depressed and I would like to talk to someone.” They will take care of the rest. OR you can message me directly. I will be more than happy to help in any way I can.

Just ignore the fact that ad below for the Apple iPad. Play it, but focus on the words. It includes the segment I mention in this post. The first time I saw it on TV you can probably imagine what I did. Of course my family thinks I cry at all the Apple ads… and the Hallmark ads too. Little did they know the back story of these words and how deep they go into my soul. God’s speed Robin Williams. Captain, my captain.

 

[Update 8.13.14] I have 718 friends on Facebook and 650 followers on Twitter.  As I often say in my Social Media Presentations, this is the only area of my life were I can prove I am above average! (considering the average Facebook user has around 150 friends).  That being said and based on health data, 117 of my friends and followers suffer with depression. Chances are very good that your life has been impacted by this illness in one way or another.   I believe that there is one critical ingredient that is required for successful treatment of depression.  Besides the modern miracle of doctor’s knowledge and medications, besides the love and support of family and friends, besides the one-on-one conversations with those who “get it.” Besides the constant balance of work and free time… It takes faith in the Creator…  The Maker of the universe. God made you with special care. He didn’t mess up and neither did you. So why then does He allow depression to have it’s way within us?  I honestly don’t have an answer for you. Having faith means you don’t always get to know the answers.  I can say this though… When I look back at my life, at that time when my world was falling in around me… My belief in God was shaken. I’ll admit it.  It was.  The roof blew off and the walls caved in. But as the healing was taking place… as debris was being removed, the foundation was uncovered. It was marred and corners of it were chipped, but what was left was more than enough to rebuild my life on.  Build your life on the foundation of God.  He’s more than enough!

 





T’was the Week Before Easter

27 03 2013

Yesterday was an interesting day. My family is on Spring Break, but I’m not. Work doesn’t stop the week before Easter in my world. In “Church Work” we like to think that every single Sunday is as important as the next. That we should strive to make each Sunday worthy of His story. But the reality is that Easter Sunday is the Super Bowl of Sundays for us. There will be more people in church this Sunday than any other this year. So I work.

But yesterday… Yesterday was different. My oldest is a 14 year old young man. Before yesterday I might have written “14 year old male”, or “14 year old kid”. But today he’s a young man. Nothing really changed of course. But there were moments yesterday that I saw some things.

As my team in the office was working on their assigned projects I decided that I needed some help getting my tasks done. I called home a little earlier than I thought my oldest would be awake on his day off from school. I told my wife that I was going to stop by the house and pick up the big kid in about 15 minutes, and that I was going to need his help doing some things at work.

I fully expected to find a moaning child exiting the house yesterday morning. But that’s not what I got. Sure, he was not quite fully awake, nor was he hopping like a rabbit on the way to the car. But there was a surprising amount of conversation on the way to the first stop on my list. As we made our way through the day I never heard a complaint. In fact I keep hearing, “What’s next?” and “Can I try to do that?”. “Where are these going?” and the one that got me was, “Do I GET TO do that now?”. Get to? Are you kidding me? Get to? What happened to have to?

After work my son and I took the short drive home in my Jeep. Parked at the far end of the parking lot was another Jeep. A 1982 Jeep Scrambler. It had a major lift kit and big mudders. It was blue and it was for sale. $13k the handwritten sign said. My son, the one that throughout the day became a young man right before my eyes, began to tell me how cool it would be if he had that big blue Jeep as his own. Sarcastically I said, “Maybe they would give us an even trade for this Jeep.” He laughed and then he said this: “Dad, we can’t do that. This Jeep has too much sentimental value. We can’t get rid of it.”

It was what I call a “Flash of Light Moment”. He gets it. He understands what is important to me. Or at least he thinks he does. Little does he know that I would give up my priceless 1974 Jeep CJ5 in a heartbeat if I thought it would make his world better. Richer. More full. In a heartbeat.

During our day together he pulled out his phone a few times but never so many times that I wanted to ask him to stop. At one point he wanted to share with me an Instagram post that he thought was really cool. He read it to me.

A deeply depressed swimmer decided to go for a midnight swim. Although the lights were out at the pool, he climbed to the highest diving board. He stretched out his arms to his side and in the moon lit shadow below he saw Christ on a cross. He knelt to pray and asked Jesus to come into his heart. At that instant the lights at the pool came on. Only to reveal that the pool had been drained for repairs.

Of all the things he sees and reads on his phone, he thought this one was worth sharing out loud. He gets it. He is amazed at how God works. Yet little does he know how much God loves him. Nor do I for that matter.

At the end of the day as I sat watching TV, something caused me to pause the DVR. It was the sound I was hearing from the other room. My oldest was playing his Playstation with his little brother. There was a lot of laughing. The kind of laughing that makes tears appear.

Little do they know…