Personal musing: What is going on? Way too much silence!

Yes, I have been quiet. I even neglected to write what would have been important blogs during important times such as my birthday, independence day, father’s day and other moments where I certainly have had thoughts pondering and percolating.  Yet, I have failed and not lived up to this commitment. It is something God has called me to do but I have let self get in the way. For there is always a reason not to write something. It is too late, I am too tired.  Things have kinda spiralled a little down for me since April. Now a lot of the focus was on prayer for Freedom house and there battles. Yet, as that battle went on and things started moving forward in some directions the energy and ability to push through from me was lacking.   Certainly at some point inertia sets in and trouble with motivation. So it may be that slipped into doing just a enough.  It also may be that writing opens me up to others in terms of my thoughts and ideas. There may be factors that were not directly at top of my mind that end up impacting mood and energy. I know something is not quite lined up as it should. I may be learning and discovering what that may be on the surface and the other issues God is working with me on.  So to all those who read and follow and have any care of what I have to say and share I apologize.  I do know I have pains and wounds of some sort that will need healing as when I examine self the pain is there.  So know this I am hurting for reasons not entirely know. The hurts have led to silence. The hurt leads to growth. And strangely it is my giving speech at church which I have yet to publish on the blog that really was a beginning. I promise to get that posted this week. I hope have not lost all who have followed. I know it is hard when you read others thoughts, they go silent and sometimes never return to writing. Well I have been silent but not gone. Do pray for me and for healing as I in turn work to help others in their process.

Labor Day Musing: True rest for those labored and burdened

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend with Monday being Labor Day in the United States. This is a time set aside to rest from our toiling at being productive members of the workforce and taking a day of ease and rest. For me today the verse Matthew 11:28 (ESV) has come to mind:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

This simple statement is profound.  Jesus is giving and invitation to a difficulty many experience.  The statement contains three elements; the invitation, the invitee, and the result of accepting the invitation.  Those elements are worth more specific examination.

First, there is the invitation: Come to me. It is a simple request and formed in an imperative tone that is very direct and certain.  Jesus directs the invitee to come to him.  The word come is not a passive word. It sets a firm direction.  It takes an act of moving from one location to another. Here that direction is toward Jesus. Wherever one is, they need to change and move toward Jesus. Now it is interesting that the word in the Greek translated as me is μέ that encompasses all elements of self, I, me, and my. So in essence, Jesus is requesting and directing others to set their direction toward all of Him.  It is a request of a directed action, not a passive response. It is a movement away from whatever direction one is on, which in most cases would be that of a self-chosen direction, and a move toward Jesus.

Now the second element is the invitees. Here Jesus addresses a particular group.  The group he is addressing are those that are tired from the work they have engaged in and are weighed down with burdens they cannot bear on their own.  He is directing any that have come to the limits of their own effort and feel unable to go further to set their direction to him.  It is a call to cease the striving of self that drains energy and adds weight and to look and move toward one that can provide aid.  If one is at a place in life where there daily refrain is “I’m tired” or “I cannot take much more” Jesus invites to turn your direction to him and cease the striving. Jesus answer is quite different from that of the world.  The world points to need for constant effort and striving followed by momentary periods of relief in the varied offerings of momentary relief and pleasure.  Jesus rather, calls to actively head in a different direction. He does not direct toward the numbing actions of pleasure and distraction but an active turn in direction.

Jesus invitation comes with an exact and defined benefit.  Jesus states that the benefit of coming to him is rest.  He offers the opposite of the state of the invitees.  Those that are “tired” and “cannot take any more” can find rest by moving toward Jesus. The act of turning toward Jesus that brings the rest, rather it is what Jesus gives.  He gives the rest if you come to Him. Now, it is worth noting that the concept of rest here is far beyond what we consider rest.  It is not just a recharging of energy, but complete refreshment at deep levels.  The rest Jesus offers is more than a good nap or a good night sleep. It is even more than an extended vacation. It is a rest that brings one alive.  What Jesus has to give is beyond anything we can do for self. It is beyond our comprehension and what we experience in the short term is only but a taste of the rest that is to come, where there is no strife and no need to be tired or heavy laden.  And everyone does reach a point of being tired and burdened. Everyone needs rest. Even God himself rested. And by coming to Jesus, we are given God’s rest.

Coming to Jesus is not a onetime action.   Yes, we all need to come to Jesus to receive salvation, which is the starting point and initial gift of rest.  A ceasing of the striving of self.  We  need to continue coming to Jesus.  In this world, much is difficult and hard.  We can become labored and burdened without physical exertion.  Some of being labored and heavy laden comes in the looking out for self, in our own affairs. We get hurt, we have desires that go unmet, we struggle.  In fact, we all experience daily the impact of sin as the whole of creation has been impacted by sin.  The very act of coming to Jesus is at heart a turn from self-focus.  When you focus on being tired or burdened, it actually adds to the drain.  The more you focus on the state of self, the harder it becomes.  The very act of coming to Jesus changes focus.  Then when we actually surrender to Jesus and accept what He offers each of us, we are uplifted and refreshed.  Now the reader may state  “well tried that and there was no immediate relief.”  This can be true, for as Jesus will give us rest when we come, perceiving the rest is not always immediate but know that Jesus always keeps His word.  When you come to Jesus you will receive rest, in His time. He will give the rest if you come. This is fact. When you do not see or perceive it, trust this truth, for He who promised is faithful. When you come, He will give rest. Place you faith in this for it is assured!

Self affirmations are positively pointless!

Self affirmations are positively pointless!

Self affirmations are positively pointless!

Just ran across an article  at www.psychcentral.com that references a recent American Psychological Association press release which indicates a recent study found that positive self-statements can result in a lower mood for people with low self-esteem.  The study just really confirms what is intuitively known by most of us.  In fact the absurdity of positivevalidations without any basis in truth was  soundly  lampooned in Al Franken’s pre-Senatorial career) Stuart Smalley skits.   The fact is we need to be able to tell our self the truth.  Saying positive things that have no basis in truth or reality is actually dangerous.  Lying to self does not improve mood. 

So then what are depressed people to do to feel better one might ask?  Well moving away from depressed mood and negative attitudes about self and the world involves first identifying the lies we hold about self.  We all need to ground ourselves in what is true.    You cannot counter one form of self-deception for another.  We always need to identify, test, and discover the truth. 

So what if there are truly awful things going on in a person life, what are they to do?  Well, it is not helpful to lock into an attitude of negative thinking related to hurts, pain and stress.  Besides being grounded in truth we also need to foster an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude.  When things are tough, find the positives to be thankful for.  The greater the pain the harder this is to do, yet it is effective in uplifting the mood, as long as the thankfulness is founded in truth. 

Now, as a Christian it is worthwhile to point out that truth telling and thankfulness have their limits.  If you identify truth and look to the positives in life, yet have not turned to Jesus, there is still something missing.  Now, turning to Jesus doesn’t automatically eliminate depression or any other mental health issue, but turning to Jesus is turning to strength beyond self.  In terms of thanksgiving the Bible directs to rejoice in the Lord, which is to say to look outside of self and depend on God as source and focus on thanksgiving and rejoicing.  It is taking this attitude in spite of what is going on.  The Bible also directs that true peace is found in Jesus.  This true peace is not making everything comfortable but rather changing  of focus that is different then relying on own strength.

If you are depressed and reading this, please do not mistake what I am saying.  The healing process and moving into truth and joy and peace is a process that God can work in you. Many Christians suffer depression and other mental health issues.  The essential point is that it is in Jesus that we find the strength to take on whatever barrier.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that includes mental health struggles.

Exposing Internet dark places: Pro-suicide support

    Recently the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported an article regarding the suicide of Nadia Kajouji that involved assistance and encouragement from a 46 year-old Minnesotan nurse. The nurse went online, gained her trust, and encouraged suicide.  The nurse’s license has been suspended and he is being investigated by Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Unit and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.  Sadly, this is just one story in a long list of stories of people who have turned to dark places on the internet and encouraged to take their own life. 

 

     In 2003, the internet Magazine, WIRED, ran a three part series examining suicide chat rooms. (http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2003/02/57444?currentPage=2, http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2003/02/57480, http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2003/02/57548?currentPage=2)  It is a sad but true statement, that you can find whatever you are looking for on the internet.  It is filled with lots of dark corners, and for people who are depressed and hopeless with thoughts of suicide, there are places that will provide a helping hand to push the over the edge to destruction. 

 

     According to www.suicide.org,  in 2001 the number of suicides daily in the United States was about 84 per day.  You start adding in worldwide numbers, and it is even more pronounced.  An examination of headlines related to suicide rates in any search engine will also point out that suicide rates are increasing.  So we have ever increasing information and access to information, as well as increased access to mental health services and medications but yet still more and more people reach the point of hopelessness where suicide becomes the answer. Even more troubling, is that people are out there encouraging suicide as an option. 

 

      In examining these numbers, it really points to a lack of interpersonal peace and an embracing of hopelessness.  It is developing a mindset that the pain and suffering that they experience either real or perceived is unbearable and death looks like an attractive option.  The choice comes to that of facing death or suffering, and many are choosing “death.” 

 

     The sad thing is that the numbers are not devoid of professing Christians.  Far too many people who proclaim Christianity, have not really ever understood or grasped the peace found in Jesus that gives strength in surrender.  Far to many, focus as well on real or perceived suffering and make a choice to embrace destruction.

 

    So what is the answer?  Well, if each person truly understood the love of Jesus and peace that comes with surrender, self-destruction would be greatly reduced.  When one truly grasps the love of Jesus, there is no room for hopelessness. Now, one can still experience all the suffering the world offers, yet the true peace found in Jesus transcends the suffering.  True peace is not about absence of pain or suffering, but is found being able to withstand whatever comes our way. 

 

     Now with that being said, if you encounter a suicidal person, the answer is not just to share the Gospel and point them to Jesus, for the first step should be to maintain safety.  Pointing a person to true peace and walking them through the darkness of suicidal thinking should involve first ensuring safety, and then gently pointing them to the truth of the Gospel, once safety is assured.  Encouraging them to find help for the suffering and woundedness that triggers suicidal thoughts is also important. 

     

    Yet, no one can be truly at peace without surrender to Jesus.  There are many dark and deceptive places that will pave the way for others. There are countless ways we can settle for peace that is not the peace that passes understanding.  There are countless paths that lead only to darkness and death.  Only in Jesus is there truely life and peace.

 

If you are reading this article, find yourself suicidal, seek help and assure your safety first. Suicide is not the answer, it is a permenant solution to what is ultimately but temporary. 

News Commentary: Thomas Petters fraud case.

    In Minnesota, Thomas Petters recently has been one of the financial movers and shakers. He bought Sun Country airlines at a low cost. He had the reputation of someone able to turn around otherwise floundering companies.  He may well have been successful doing so, and the reason for his success may be an extensive fraud conspiracy.  According to news accounts, Mr. Petters and other associates have been involved in a scheme of pretending to sell merchandise in order to obtain money from investors.  The fraud allegations are not really all that surprising. Anyone who visited a Petters Warehouse direct store and noted the junk being sold had to wonder how Mr. Petters made all that money. The answer now seems more clear, by fraud and deception.  It is really amazing that through all the businesses purchased that no one really spotted the potential fraud.  Perhaps, as with most cons and deceptions that the investors got too wrapped up in what they could get back and ignore any potential warning signs.

     The documented evidenceso far paints a pretty clear picture of what appears to be a Ponzischeme.  A lot of money was made and the reach of this alleged fraud does go global.  Many, many people were sucked in.  The hardest thing is to see charities like Minnesota Teen Challenge get hooked into the scheme.  It would be bad enough that Mr. Petters appears to have donated ill-gained money, but in turn he managed to get those charaties to invest with the promise of more.  So not only are businessses like Sun Country Airlines, Polariod and others at risk but many Charaties including Teen Challenge find themselves at risk.

    This whole sad story really paints the picture of when things look too good to be true they usually fit that statement.  And usually most fraudulant schemes do eventually come to the surface. It is times like these that it is good to re-examine prioties.  Everywhere in this world there are people who are looking to build themselves up, some by taking shortcuts to making lots of money.  Others look for power.  Sometimes both come at same time.  Corruption and shortcuts are traps out there that can easily suck others in. 

    The fact is that we may think what we do is in isolation. But, what we do does have impact on other people.  Any short cut taken will hurt many when exposed.  Our selfishness and actions taken as shortcuts to meet our own needs when exposed collapse and usually with many  consequences.  This is seen in the Thomas Petters story, this is seen in many other untold stories that impact many. 

So the question is where do you turn when things collapse? Where do you turn when things in your life get shaken or even exposed.  In Christianity, the answer is Jesus.  In Jesus there is peace.  This peace doesn’t change the difficulties, doesn’t fix all the causes of suffering either by our own or others suffering, but it gives a hope and a foundation.  The hope is that ultimatley there is something better.  Hope that the selfishness of others will result in ultimate justice.  And a foundation of something unshakeable, and that being the love and grace of God, who cared enough to provide an answer to selfishness. The answer is in Jesus Christ and allowing him to pay for our sins.  In surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ and serving the Kingdom of God versus our own Kingdom, there is recognition that everything in this life is but temporary.

The Vince Young Saga: The trouble with men and emotion.

     This past week was an eventful one for Vince Young, Quarterbackof the Tennessee Titans.  He gets booed during their game this past week and refuses to return to the game. When he does return he ends up suffering from a knee injury. He fails to show up for MRI Monday according to the news and  concerned others enough to send the police out looking for him.  He apparently left with access to a gun as well. 

      Certainly there is plenty worth commenting about here regarding this situaion.  First of all, let me point out that depression is serious. It is very common for people suffering depression to enter into denial, and it seems to be the case here with Vince minimizing the events.  First of all, it is important to note that if you ever suspect someone may be a danger to themself, you always need to act on that suspicion.  If you don’t and they were really a danger to themself and did something to harmselfs, such a decision would long be regretted.  So the fact that Vince was not a danger to himself doesn’t mean his family and coach did not act appropriately.  It also doesn’t mean he wasn’t experiencing depression.

    Vince has displayed sensitivity before. He is reported to have asked out of a play off game last year.  Vince didn’t handle being booed at all.  Now I don’t know much about Vince Young’s history and background. It is not uncommon for people to have exeprienced accolades and success all their life, to once encounter difficulties, to become insecure and depressed.  Some people handle pressure well, some do not. 

     Vince Young’s response in fact is probably not unlike most American men when faced with difficulty.  Emotions for men are generally something that gets in the way of getting things done.  Perhaps, Vince Young is less able to shut down his emotional responses and lacks effective emotion regulatiion skills. Most men lack effective emotion regulation skills and will turn readily to compulsive things such as alcohol, drugs, and sex.  These things are rampanant through out society and ways ultimately people seek to establish some form of peace in their life. 

     Vince Young is really not that different other then has made choices that have displayed his internal struggles.  Most men have learned to hide what is going on emotionally. We need the warrior mindset. We emotionally are often like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail and supposed to keep on fighting regardless of seriousness of wounds and even when it is well beyond our capacity.

    Now when you get beyond the normal male emotional repression and add on complicated factors such as depression and denial, you end up with what can be a recurring cycle of emotional responses.  A difficulty will present such as getting booed, a reactive response will happen, followed by later re-evaluating and minimizing the concerns.  The dark mood gets “worked” through temporarily but the deep issues are never resolved.

     Vince Young clearly at a deep level displays concerns about others reactions to him.  He liked being the hero.  Being the one everyone looked up to.  He seems not to handle adversity well.  All sorts of reasons can play into this instability and varying ambivalence regarding playing the game of football.  His mood and reactions, if he doesn’t get help and work on improving self, may cost him his career in the long run, just as much as those that consistently turn to drugs and alcohol (ie. Travis Henry).

    Most men will examine this situation and ultimately look down on Vince Young, but he is not really all that different then the rest of us.  We all have differences in our tolerance levels. Some of us exhibit fear of man in more pronounced ways then others. We all though do struggle.

     In looking at my own life and struggles, I can certainly related. I have no idea what paths I would have taken if I personally didn’t have faith in Jesus as my Messiah.  It is so easy to turn to varied means of repressing emotions.  It is not an easy process to work through, and as a man, certainly worked hard at trying to “fix” myself. But ultimately we need help, we need other relationships, and we need to be able to get beyond ourselfs. We need to get beyond the point where responses  from others impact our daily moods.  

    As a Christian, I see the path for interpersonal peace to be found in Jesus.  Now that doesn’t mean that emotional problems and fears go away. It doesn’t mean I manage emotions perfectly, but rather that the key to may day to day well being is found first in submission to the King of Kings. It is being aware that when I have been my most selfish, the eternal punishment has been covered. It is knowing that I don’t have to fear any human reaction because I am secure in my relationship with God.  I pray that Vince Young gets to a point of peace, of true peace that can only be found in Jesus.