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.

Marriage Tip: Don’t Be A Spouse Pleaser

Yes, I know that this is strange advice and most likely contradicts the latest marriage book you read but it doesn’t work in the long run.  Sure you can get great results in your marriage by always trying to please your spouse short-term but sooner or later you run out of steam especially when the gesture is not reciprocated to your satisfaction level.  Pleasing your spouse ranks right up there with pleasing others which should not be the focus of your life.

What is wrong with pleasing your spouse or others?  The standard for pleasing others is constantly changing and therefore is not a foundation upon which you can stand firm.  However, going to the opposite point of view which is pleasing yourself is selfish and an equally troubling foundation for a marriage.  Pleasing others elevates their feelings, beliefs, and standards as more important as your own.  Pleasing yourself elevates your feelings, beliefs, and standards as more important than others.  Neither is good.

There is only one to please, one to praise, one to worship, one to follow, one to hope, and one to love.  God.  His standard is unchanging, unwavering, and full of grace all at once.  By setting your sights on pleasing God, you will naturally please others and yourself but not because one is elevated above the other.  Rather, you will be  more focused on His ways of grace, mercy, love, patience, kindness, order, and structure.  This is the best foundation for your marriage.

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.

Marriage Tip: Pray for Your Spouse Daily

During times of tragedy, it is easier to remember to pray for and be grateful for your spouse’s safety, job, health, relationships, and good will.  As tragedy has a unique way of highlighting not only the sufferings but also the blessings as there seems to be no shortage of extremes.  Yet it is much harder to be consistent with prayer for your spouse during the good times; after all, your spouse may not seem as much in need as others.  But these moments are precisely the times when prayer is most needed, when it is least expected because you never know when tragedy will strike.  Pray for wisdom in decision making, discernment in associations, solid friendships, strength to endure trials, patience in work, keen focus, and understanding heart.  Praying for your spouse is not about praying that your spouse agrees with you on a decision rather it is about praying for character traits and asking for protection realizing that in the end God is in control even during a tragedy.

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.

Marriage Tip: Value Your Spouse’s Advice above Others

The usual response is “You won’t say that if you knew the kind of advice my spouse gives”.  Ok, so maybe you are right but consider this possibility.  You still can place value or importance on a piece of advice without following through on the advice.  The way you show value to your spouse’s advice is to listen to it without complaining or assuming that you already know what he or she is going to say.  If you chose not to take the advice, that is your decision but you can still listen and give your spouse’s opinion the weight it deserves for your level of commitment.  The point is simple, by valuing your spouse’s advice you are demonstrating that your spouse is the most significant person in your life and their input is important to you.  This is a show of intentional commitment to one another.

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.

Don’t Lose Your Christianity in Your Divorce Part 2

So what does it meant to love someone who you are divorcing?  Let’s review the second part of this passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Not Demanding.  Wanting things the way you want them is demanding, selfish, immature, and often unrealistic.  It is so hard to see things from your ex’s point of view during a divorce but your Christianity asks this very thing of you.  It takes a great deal of self-control to put your wants aside and see things from your ex’s perspective however if you can do this, your divorce will go far smoother.

Not Irritable.  Being irritable at you ex will come very naturally for you as just a text or picture of them is likely to spark intense feelings.  This is one of those times when either your emotions will control you or you will control your emotions.  It is normal for you to feel irritable towards your ex but that does not give you permission to act irritable towards your ex.

No Record Keeping.  Forgive, forgive and when you don’t know what else to do, forgive again.  Your ex may entice you to anger every day during the divorce proceedings, forgive them.  Your ex may make rude comments or remarks on texts, emails, in person, or by phone, don’t return the remark but forgive them.  Your ex may relive the past over and over, don’t return the record keeping but forgive them again.  You will have to forgive your ex a thousand times during your divorce and when the thousand is up, forgive them yet again.  This is not about being a door mat or letting your ex take advantage of you, rather it is about not letting your ex control you through your unforgiveness.

Truth Wins.  You may not see the truth win out during your divorce, you may not see it win out after the divorce, and in fact you may never see the truth win during your lifetime.  But the end of the story is that truth does win when Jesus comes to reign as King and you may not even know the full truth.  So don’t rejoice when things go badly for your ex for you never know when things may go just as badly for you.

Don’t Give Up.  Too many times this verse is quoted trying to convince the other person that they should not give up on their marriage.  It is often wrongly used in the context of trying to control and manipulate behavior by saying that you should never give up on your marriage.  But when this verse is put in the context of love, it is love doesn’t give up.  Not giving up on your ex is not about the marriage, it is about your attitude towards them.  Because you love them, you will not give up on loving them regardless of their behavior.

Don’t Lose Faith.  Having faith in your ex is having faith that their intentions, however horrible they may have been at one time, are honorable now.  Again, if evidence proves to the contrary and your ex’s intentions are not good, you don’t have to keep expecting a different more hopeful result.  But you can remain faithful in love and with good distance that one day the tide will turn and there will be closure and restoration of a limited relationship.

Hopeful.  Love is hopeful that in the end all things, issues, differences, struggles, frustrations, troubles, and relationships will be resolved.  Our hope is not in this world or in this lifetime, rather it is a hope and promise in meeting your Creator and spending all Eternity with Him.  Keep your perspective big picture instead of little picture and your ability to remain hopeful will return.  By the way, the hope for the future includes spending all of Eternity with your ex and if you have not prayed likewise for that, now is a good time to start.

Enduring.  Last by not least, love endures through every circumstance.  Not some circumstances, not most circumstances, not the circumstances you want to endure but every single circumstance that you could or don’t even want to imagine.  This translates into loving your ex even when they are speaking lies about you, even when they are yelling at you, even when they are unfair to you, even when they are unforgiving towards you, and even when they use the children against you.  You can still choose to love.

And that is the finally conclusion, that you can still choose to love despite all of the rejection, stress, anxiety, struggles, lies, manipulation, abuse, destructive behavior, broken promises, and betrayal.  Yes, you can still choose to love and in that you will experience what Jesus experienced on this earth and have an even greater appreciation for what He did by dying for your sins.  You can lose your Christianity in your divorce or you can allow your divorce to draw you even closer to God.

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.

Don’t Lose Your Christianity in Your Divorce

Sadly being a Christian is no guarantee that your marriage will survive.  The statistics for Christians getting divorced are exactly the same as non-Christians with the same reasons for getting a divorce: adultery, addiction, abuse, pornography, financial problems, sexual problems, parenting problems, and many more.  Just because a person is a Christian does not mean that they are free from the same struggles that plague everyone else.  The Christian too is born with a sinful nature that must be actively worked against on a daily basis.  So while a Christian can obtain freedom in Christ Jesus, the road to repentance and restoration is the road less traveled because it requires humility, honesty, and a heart change.

There is no doubt at this point that your marriage will end in divorce usually for more than one reason.  But just because your marriage is ending, this does not give you permission to become un-Christ-like in your behavior.  If as a Christian you are taught to “Love your enemies”, than treating your soon to be ex-spouse in a loving manner should go without saying.  However, it does need to be said and reminded over and over as emotions are intense, anger is easily provoked, neither of you trusts the other, and forgiveness is in short supply.

So what does it meant to love someone who you are divorcing?  Let’s review the first part of this passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

Patience.  Being patient with your ex is extremely difficult during a divorce as most want the divorce to be over with as soon as possible.  However, depending on your State’s laws and how complicated your divorce is with stuff, kids, and money these issues can take months if not years to resolve.  Having the expectation that things will go smoothly and quickly in a divorce is unrealistic especially since things did not go smoothly in your marriage.  Change your expectations to more realistic ones and recognize that you will need to be even more patient with your ex than before.

Kind.  Showing kindness to your ex is very difficult especially when it is not reciprocated but we are not called to love just those who love us but those who don’t love us as well.  Your ex knows how to push all of your buttons at one time, being kind is not pushing their buttons even when you could or even when you are right.

Not Jealous.  Jealousy is an ugly beast as it is usually not about one person moving on to another relationship rather it is about the other person “getting a better deal”.  Even the best negotiators cannot divide everything equally and someone is likely to feel jaded by the divorce.  Don’t let your feelings of frustration blossom into jealousy because you did not get your fair share.  Instead recognize that in the end you are not the final Judge, God is.

Not Boastful.  Bragging about how much better off you are without your ex in your life is boastfulness.  Bragging about how you got this thing or won that battle is also boastfulness.  Neither should be done even with your friends or family who are on your side.  The truth is that neither party really won in the divorce, both of you were hurt in some way and both of you will have scars from the divorce for the rest of your life.

Not Proud.  Pride creeps up in the strangest of places.  For instance, talking about how much better you were able to handle everything, comparing your sins with your ex, or minimizing your responsibility is all prideful behavior.  Take responsibility for what was your contribution to the divorce, recognize that you needed support to even get the divorce and start viewing all sin as being equal.  This is reducing your prideful behavior.

Not Rude.  Not enough can be said about this category as most people would never even talk to a stranger the same way they talk to their ex.  Just try treating a friend or co-worker with the same lack of respect and level of rudeness as you do your ex and see how long your relationship lasts.  But for some reason because you have been hurt, you justify the rude behavior as being well deserved.  This is not Christ-like behavior.

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 Curse of the Overly Responsible Person

It is such a huge burden when you are the only responsible person in the room.  Why can’t everyone around you just see how much work you have to do all day long?  If only this person would do this and that person would do that then everything would be fine.  But no, instead you have to do this and that because no one else will do it and it must be done.  While doing everyone else’s work is tiring and can provoke you to anger, secretly you actually enjoy being the person who gets it all done.  After all, if this person did this and that person did that then how can you be admired for all the extra work you do?

The curse of being overly responsible is that without irresponsible people around, how can you be overly responsible?  This means that at some level you actually get satisfaction from being overly responsible or you would not keep doing it.  So, what does it mean to be overly responsible?  It means that you take on more responsibility for things or people to the point of excluding others from taking on their own responsibility.  This exclusion sometimes comes if the form of criticism for how a task was accomplished.  For instance, say you were at a budget meeting where everyone was to analyze their own areas and then present suggestions at a meeting.  You may not like the manner in which one person chooses to complete the task claiming that it is insufficient.  Instead of teaching them how to do the task, you find it easier to “just to it myself so that it is done right”.  This is overly responsible behavior and you are driving everyone around you crazy.  So what can you do?

Stop taking on other’s tasks.  No matter how hard this is, you must stop doing things for other people just because it is “easier”, they won’t do it “right”, or you are just trying to “help”.  Pretending to “help” someone out by doing something for them when they are responsible for doing it is NOT helping either them or you.  The only thing you accomplish by “helping” is creating an unnecessary and unhealthy dependency which ultimately only serves to feed your ego.  Your ego likes to be “needed” because that is where you get your self-worth from but this is not healthy.  A positive self-worth comes from understanding your value in Christ not comparing your value to that of another person.

Stop comparing yourself to others.  At a much deeper level, when you take on another person’s tasks you are saying that you are better than them.  Being better or being more responsible than others sets you apart from the crowd and allows you to stand out but this is not servant leadership, rather it is self-motivated leadership.  Everyone has their own journey to follow, in their own time.  By insisting that a person be at the same level as you, you are really saying that you know better where they should be rather than allowing them to follow their own journey.   Sometimes, a person has to suffer the consequences of their own decision in order to make better decisions going forward.

Stop saving others.  There is only one Savior, Jesus Christ, and you are not it.  By focusing on other people’s issues, you steal energy away from caring for yourself and then begin to see this process as a sacrifice you make for them.  The problem is that the sacrifice has already been made in Christ and He doesn’t need you to sacrifice yourself for others.  Rather you need to offer your life as a living sacrifice to Him.  Jesus will save them.  You can pray, encourage, guide, teach, and love but you are NOT to save them.  This is why you become angry when someone does not appreciate your “help” because you are really trying to “save” them and it isn’t working.

There is a small verse in Galatians 6:5, “For we are each responsible for our own conduct”.  You are responsible for your conduct and you will receive the rewards or consequences of your behavior.  Others are responsible for their conduct and they will receive the rewards or consequences of their behavior.  Being overly responsible is not being godly; it is trying to take the place of God in the life of others.

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.

Why are you so angry?

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

Angry Talk (Comic Style) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It happens.  You are driving down the left side of highway slightly faster than normal because you are late and suddenly someone cuts right in front of you causing you to slam on your breaks and almost hit their vehicle.  Instantly, you are angry.  Or how about your spouse promising he or she will be home by a certain time and you have made plans based on that time frame but your spouse doesn’t show up, answer the phone or even call.  By the time your spouse arrives home all plans have to be canceled and you are angry.

There are several bad ways of handling anger but according to Scripture, there are only two good ways of handling it.  One is from Psalms 4:4, “Don’t sin by letting anger control you.  Think about it overnight and remain silent”.  The second is from Ephesians 4:26-27, “And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil”.  Either method works depending on your personality or the situation but first some common misunderstandings about anger need to be cleared up.

Defining Anger.  Most likely, you have experienced a time when everything seems to be going just fine and then all of a sudden something happens and you feel this rush of intense emotion causing your heart to race, your voice to get louder, or your fists to clench.  And then it happens, you say or do something that you normally would not do if the intense emotion had not occurred.  That is anger.  And while anger in and of itself is a God given emotion, it becomes sinful when it controls your behavior.  This emotion is quite useful in life and death situations as it propels you into action motivating you beyond what you would normally do.  But it can be destructive in personal relationships as it leaves a path of disaster much like the path of a tornado.

Blaming Anger.  Just because you are feeling angry and this emotion in some cases may be justified, it does not give you license to harm anyone in your path. How many times have you heard someone say, “You make me so angry”?  The reality is that they are responsible for getting angry just as you are responsible for your own anger.  Anger can control you which is what the two verses point out and that control does lead to sin.  No one can “make” you angry unless you choose to be angry.  Sometimes that choice is not a conscious one but an unconscious choice based on experiences and decisions made in the past.  Nonetheless, it is your choice to allow anger to control you.

Managing Anger.  The two passages above mention two different ways of dealing with your anger.  One is to not speak and think about your anger overnight.  The other is to confront your anger.  However, neither passage even slightly hints that your spouse must be involved in either.  If you are responsible for your own anger and letting anger get out of control is sinful then it is not the responsibility of your spouse to resolve your anger rather it is yours.  “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” is about your behavior and desire to hold onto things that should be let go or dealt with accordingly.

Reconciling Anger.  Once you have defined your anger, accepted responsibility for it and managed properly managed it, then you can begin the process of reconciliation.  Since anger destroys relationships, it is likely that there is a trail of failed relationships in the quake of your anger.  Even if the relationship may seem to be fine, unreconciled anger limits intimacy.  Your present anger may have less to do with present circumstances and more to do with your past.  Take the time to reconcile old relationships and you will find that your anger is less intense the next time.

Anger can be one of the most useful tools in helping you to grow and deal with your past but it can also be one of the most destructive if not addressed properly.  If you know of someone who needs help with their anger, speak up kindly and lovingly in a safe environment but make sure you have already addressed your anger issues first.  This effort while draining just might be one of the best things you do for your relationships.

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.

Why Rest?

Extended Rest

Extended Rest (Photo credit: MikeVC)

For a musician, the symbol for rest on a sheet of music signals them to completely stop playing for an interval of time.  It is a period of silence that is sometimes used as a dramatic pause to draw attention to the next few stanzas, sometimes it is used as relief for the intensity of the previous stanzas, sometimes it is used when changing from one cord or instrument to another, and sometimes it is used to mark the beginning or the end of a piece.

There are several different symbols used in music to signify different periods of rest such as whole note rests, quarter note rests and eighth note rests.  Just as in music, we too have different periods and purposes of rest in our lives.  We need rest both mentally and physically in order to renew our strength, gain proper perspective on our circumstances, or prepare of a period of future intensity such as the birth of a baby, new job, new home or new relationship.

Daily Rest.  Our bodies are naturally designed for daily rest through sleep.  The amount of sleep depends on the individual, age, and circumstances of the day.  For instance, a growing newborn baby requires more sleep time than awake.  In contrast, an adult doing little physical labor may require less sleep then one engaged in daily physical labor.  When we lack sleep or lack good quality sleep, our mental and physical abilities are not at their best performance.

Weekly Rest.  However, we need more rest than our daily sleep requirement which is why one of the Ten Commandments is to honor the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is one day from sundown to sundown of complete rest, no working every week, giving praise and thanks to God.  Some celebrate this day on Saturday, some on Sunday, and some on other days of the week depending on their work schedule.  This is an essential period of rest because it rejuvenates our energy levels, aids in proper perspective of our lives, and recognizes our blessings come from God.

Yearly Rest.  But the Bible does not stop there.  There are seven other holidays commanded in the Old Testament that last for a period of seven days or one day.   Each holiday has a different purpose, significance and period of rest:

  • Passover, one day holiday reminds us of God’s deliverance from slavery;
  • Unleavened Bread, seven-day holiday reminds us that we leave the old life behind and enter a new life;
  • First Harvest, one day holiday reminds us of God’s provision for our daily needs;
  • Harvest (Pentecost), one day holiday shows joy and thanksgiving for the harvest;
  • Trumpets, one day holiday expressing joy and thanks for the new year;
  • Day of Atonement, one day holiday reminds us of our sinfulness and restores our fellowship with God;
  • Shelters, seven-day holiday renews our commitment to God, trusting in His guidance and protection.

These periods of rest are designed to be like the rest notes in a piece of music.  Each has a purpose and period of time designed to renew our strength, give thanks, restore our relationships, reflect on the past, and remember the goodness of God.

What are the holidays that you celebrate?  Are you using your vacation days every year and resting?  Are you taking out one day a week for complete rest?  Are you getting enough daily rest through sleep?  Our periods of rest as in a music sheet helps to mark the significant events of our lives, binds us together as a family and strengths our faith in God.

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.

Waiting on God’s Timing

You have believed, you have prayed, you have gotten wise counsel, you have checked that your prayer is consistent with Scripture and you have peace about the final outcome, yet nothing is happening.  There are no small or large changes, everything seems to be still (almost to a stop) and then you wonder is this really the right thing?  Is this thing that you have been praying for really going to happen or is it just another prayer on the long list of prayers that did not get answered or worse got answered in a manner opposite from how you prayed.

So to distract yourself from the agonizing question, you become immersed in a project, in work, in church, or in a relationship.  While the distraction works for a while, the underlying question looms and pops up in weird places like while driving, taking a shower, or sleeping.  So you pray again but still no answer.  You remind yourself of all of the blessings God has given you and give thanks but still no answer.  You pray for others and take care of those He has entrusted into your care but still no answer.   You go to the altar and pour your heart out to God for an answer but still no answer.  You read Scripture and fast but still no answer.  So now what?

He leads you beside still waters.  Sometimes the reason for the wait to a prayer is because whatever is about to happen will require all of your strength, so by not having an answer right away, your strength is being stored up for whatever is to come.  A common mistake is thinking that having an answer right away reduces your stress, but what if it really will not, what if this time of stillness is really God’s way of preparing you for an even greater stress.  Psalms 23:2 says that He directs our paths to stillness; your objective is to recognize the stillness and be thankful for it instead of wishing it away.

Be still and know that He is God.  Psalms 46:10 is a good reminder of the importance of remaining still and recognizing that His is God and He will be honored everywhere.  During your period of stillness, spend time just worshiping His awesomeness, remember this maybe God’s way of restoring your strength.  But if you spend this time worrying instead of worshiping, your strength will not be as great and may in fact be lessened.  Trust that His timing is perfect and enjoy being still.

Be still and wait patiently for Him to act.  Have you ever prayed for patience?  Have you ever wanted to be a more patience person?  Well, patience comes with practice.  How many times have you wanted others to demonstrate patience with you or asked others to have patience?  Here is your big chance to model patience for those around you or more importantly to model patience for yourself.  If you are not willing to model patience, how can you ask others to do the same?  Be still and wait patiently Psalms 37:7 commands.

In the meantime, keep believing, keep praying, keep seeking counsel, and keep studying the Scripture and God’s peace will be with you even during periods of stillness.  Come to love the stillness instead of the hectic, the quiet instead of the noisy and the peace instead of fighting and you will be blessed.

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.