Sermon on Depression and Suicide

National Presbyterian ChurchIf you are struggling with depression or know of someone who is, please read this tender yet honest sermon from Chris Erdman about the death of his friend and Pastor Jamie Evans.  I knew Jamie as a child as his parents were and still are dear friends of my parents.  His father, Louis Evans Jr., now deceased, was also my pastor at National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C., the one who taught me to have a love for God that is still strong within me.

I have nothing but fond memories of Jamie as he would often pick my brother and I up to attend youth functions at our church.  He was always so full of energy and life, so much fun to be around.  In fact, my first motorcycle ride, much to the dismay of my parents, was on the back of his bike.

This wonderfully written sermon is a testimony to Jamie’s life and struggles with ADHD, dyslexia and depression.  It reminds us of the importance of treating mental illness and not pretending everything is OK when it is not.  It is well worth your time to read.

http://chriserdman.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/God-and-Suicide-Luke-13.31-35.pdf

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

The Most Stressful Songs of Christmas

English: A rendition of the musical notation f...

English: A rendition of the musical notation for the chorus of “Jingle Bells”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you remember the old nursery lyric “Rock-a-bye Baby” that tells a story about a baby in a cradle in a tree that falls crashing down to the ground when the wind blows?  It’s not the most calming of lyrics nor is it a concept that is “baby appropriate”.  Yet the tune is sweet so we blindly sing the song.  But this is Christmas time and it is likewise full of similar songs that are more stress producing than peaceful.  Here are just a few samples:

  1. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”  Perhaps your Christmas memories are different but I have yet to experience a Christmas when any “children listen” to bells or even adults for that matter.  Having an expectation that a child will be patiently listening for a bell in the snow is frankly silly and unrealistic.
  2. “Deck the halls with bounds of holly…tis the season to be jolly…strike the harp and join the chorus…follow me in merry measure.”  The demand of a decorated house, being happy all the time, playing cheerful music, singing, and dancing is a lot to accomplish when life usually hands the toughest of blows this time of year.  Statistically, this is the most depressed and lonely time of the year as many families are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one, without a job or in worse financial condition than ever.
  3. “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…on the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me.”  This song portrays 78 gifts that a “true love” gives to another which is an unusual amount of gift giving and excessive by most standards.  It sounds more like the “true love” is trying to buy love instead of showing love.
  4. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”  Have you ever tried to roast chestnuts in your oven?  If you don’t score them precisely, they will explode in such a mess that it will take weeks just to get all of the gummy like nut off the sides of your walls.  Forget about an open fire, where a chestnut exploding can knock an eye out!  That shiner will definitely be a Christmas to remember.
  5. Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go, Let It Snow!”   Just one look at your calendar will probably reveal that you already don’t have a free weekend and most of the weekdays are quickly filling up as well.  “No place to go”?  You must be kidding this season is packed with too many places to go and too many decisions to make resulting in too many people to disappoint.
  6. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.”  Any repetitive noise such as a bell for long periods of time is not likely to cause fun but rather a piercing migraine.  Add to that an open sleigh which is cold and horses that poop along the way which is smelly and there is definitely no fun to be had.  Just because one person believes an activity to be fun does not mean that another person is going to agree.
  7. “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”  What is this song saying, that we should forget our acquaintances and not bring them up any more?  Granted there are usually some acquaintances that you want to forget and never bring up anymore but unfortunately these are usually the ones that seem to hang around into the New Year.

Sometimes reducing our stress during Christmas is more about thinking through the programmed songs that are sung and resetting your expectations to more realistic levels.  It might not be the “most wonderful time of year” for you but that is ok; it does not have to be.  You can however make it more wonderful by not expecting children to be patiently listening, decorating every inch of the house, insisting that others have fun your way or getting frustrated that you can’t forget something that you would rather not remember.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Out of Troubles Comes Wisdom in the Briefness of Life

She was beautiful, intelligent, successful, witty, and cunning but at 29 years old, she committed suicide.  How could someone who had so much going for herself, who seemed to love and live life to the fullest, who had such a strong faith in God, and who gave so completely to her friends and work commit the ultimate act in selfishness?  No one would ever describe her as selfish; even those who did not like her respected her ability to give selfishly to others.  Yet she chose the defining moment in her life to be a selfish act and knowingly wrote about it in her last letter.  Worse yet, her death also meant an immediate death for her unborn child turning her suicide into a homicide.  For those whom she left behind it imprinted a scar so deep that despite all efforts to conceal it, it remains a permanent reminder of the fragility of life.

There are some moments in your life that you can recall every last detail as if it were yesterday and for her friends and family, each one can tell you about the moment they discovered she was gone.  They can speak of the immediate shock of disbelief, the intense spike of anger, the deep massive whole of sadness, and the crushing blow of defeat.  Questions like, “Why didn’t I take that last call from her” or “How could someone who believes in God do this” or just plain “Why” spiral around with the strength of a tornado wiping out all ability to make sense out of the tragedy.  And yet those tumultuous moments which destroy everything in their wake also serve to highlight the most important things of life.

Psalm 90 is a prayer of Moses which begins with praise, exalts God’s sovereignty, acknowledges the frailty of man, implores us to confession, and concludes with petitions for living.  The Psalm summarizes the purpose of life by asking for success in reflecting God’s glory to the next generation. Verse 12 pleads, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom”.  There is no greater lesson in the brevity or briefness of life than to see it cut short long before its expected time.  For those surviving after such a tragedy, it is an imprint on their life which is never forgotten.

And it should not be forgotten.  Too often the desire to run from remembering the tragedy because of the massive emotional toll even years later outweighs the importance of remembering the wisdom gained from such an experience.  Moses begged the Israelites to remember how God delivered them from slavery, how He provided for their every need, and how He protected them from harm.  But it was easier for them, like us, to forget His former mercies in light of new pressing difficulties.  Remembering those who have passed before us is not about wallowing in sorrow rather it is about remembering the value of every life no matter how short or tragic the ending.  This wisdom is wasted on the old as they are all too well aware of the briefness of life but it is of great value to the young.  So share your wisdom, it just might extend a life a bit longer.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

What can you do when you are hurting?

There are times in our lives when things happen that hurt us.  Perhaps it is the disappointment of our children, the broken trust of our spouse, the betrayal of a friend, the abandonment of a family member, the failure of a business, or the rejection of a neighbor.  Whatever the incident, we have a choice to either deal with the hurt or bury the hurt.

Often the reason we bury our hurt is because we don’t want to feel the pain.  We instead turn to some sort of medication to stop the pain as if the pain is the problem instead of a symptom of the problem.  Medication does not necessarily come in the form of drugs, some medicate themselves from pain through excessive shopping, eating or drinking or perhaps fantasy thinking through gambling, pornography, television or video games.  Whatever the medication, the goal is the same, to dull or distract us from the pain and hurt we feel.

But we can choose to deal with the hurt instead.  The process is threefold beginning with recognizing the hurt has occurred, than responding constructively to the hurt and finally restoring the damaged relationship.  With each step, the hurt diminishes over time allowing the stress of the incident to fade.  However this process is not easy as many get stuck in one of the stages thereby not fully completing the steps and allowing the hurt to continue far longer than needed.  Let’s examine each of the steps more fully to better understand the process.

Recognize.  Our ability to recognize and be honest with the hurt we feel greatly impacts our ability to heal.  Honest is the most difficult step because it requires us to admit to our pain and reach out for help.  We often think feeling pain will make us weak or venerable for more pain, ironically the reverse is true.    For it is in our honesty first with ourselves and later with those around us that we are able to begin the process of healing and restoration of relationships.  By not being honest, we continue to lie to ourselves and those around us thereby setting ourselves up for even more hurt in the future.

Respond. Once we recognize the hurt, our response to the hurt can either destroy or rebuild our relationships.  Angry outbursts, vengeful thoughts, ignoring others, and manipulation schemes are all examples of unhealthy responses to hurt which will eventually destroy the relationship.  Alternatively, by lovingly confronting the hurt and processing it in a constructive environment, we can work towards the next step in the healing process.

Restore.  Only after the hurt is recognized and then responded to properly can true restoration of a relationship begin.  Broken relationships continue to cause pain even if they are distant; however healthy relationships allow us to prosper.  Healthy relationships allow room for mistakes without judgment, for boundaries without control, for security without anxiety, and for safety without fear.  They provide peace in our lives which ultimately brings harmony and freedom from strife.

One of the lessons learned from giving birth to children is that from the greatest pain comes the greatest joy.  Just as in child-birth, the pain is an indication of the upcoming birth of a child so the hurt in our lives can bring about unexpected joy through restored relationships.  We are not created to feel only joy without pain; instead we feel the greatest joy after the pain.  Use the hurt you feel as an opportunity to grow past the pain and into the joy of a restored fellowship with your child, spouse, friend, family member or neighbor.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.