This morning I posted a heartfelt and serious impromptu video directed at my youngest daughter.
However, it’s for everybody.
This morning I posted a heartfelt and serious impromptu video directed at my youngest daughter.
However, it’s for everybody.
I’m going to be totally honest with you, OK? There was a post I published for just a few minutes this morning, but then I took it down and added it to the “draft” bin. Even as I was writing it, it seemed forced. So, no matter how I tried to edit it, it never seemed “right.”
So, what did I do? I decided I’d try to do a video blog ( a Vlog) post. I mean, hey, I’m a preacher, so why not just TELL my story? Yet, what happened? After multiple recordings, multiple edits, and multiple times trying to upload, only to see “Upload Failed,” I almost gave up.
Nothing was working!
YET, I still felt I needed to post something, almost like it was imperative that I do so. Why the pressure? Why the stress?
So, I decided to try one more thing – record straight to YouTube. No editing, not fancy camera work, no script…just raw, unedited video of me sharing what’s on my heart.
As I’m writing this, I’m waiting for the video to upload to YouTube (it’s taking awhile). If it uploads with no problem, you will see it below.
It’s taking a looooooonnnnng time.
Ah, finally 🙂
As I was sitting here in my study and reading a book that a church member gave me, I came across something I had to share…because I totally agree.
In his book Take the Dimness of My Soul Away, William A Ritter shares several sermons he delivered over the years following the suicide of his son. At the beginning of the third chapter entitled “Making It,” Ritter wrote something that mirrors my own philosophy of pastoral ministry.
When I read it just a couple of minutes ago, I knew I had to share it with you.
“We who follow Jesus need not hide our hurts. Not all wounds need covering. Even in the pulpit. Especially in the pulpit. People need to know that even preachers have been through some wars and accumulated some scars. But they also need to know where and how healing is taking place.” p. 38
I hope you’ve realized I’m not perfect.
I hope you’ve realized I have scars.
But please know that Jesus is the Hope through which healing and thriving is possible.
You don’t know how much I’ve been wanting to get back to regularly writing on this blog! Just last night, as we were getting in bed, I told my wife, “Do you want to know how busy I’ve been and how little energy I’ve had? I have hardly written anything on my blog in weeks!”
It’s not a “diary” thing, you know. I could get on here and do what I am doing right now, just spill my guts in some random outpouring of emotion. Yet, good blog posts – the kind that attract readers and have a life of their own – must be crafted.
This is just a pitiful attempt to let those who are interested know that I am still alive.
So, how have things been going? Let me hit some highlights.
First, becoming pastor of Bethlehem Baptist has been a thrill, even though leaving all I knew and the family and friends I love was excruciatingly painful. However, as time is passing by, I’m beginning to adjust and grow to love the people who were nothing more than strangers less than a month ago.
Second, I’ve been amazed at how God has put me in a place where I fit so well. One preacher who spoke on the Sunday before I came reminded the congregation that they were calling “the man” for this place. It’s both encouraging and humbling, along with terrifying, at the same time. And, again, as I was talking with my wife about things going on around here, I am continually amazed that people are literally quoting me! They are regularly saying things like, “Like the pastor said,…” That just blows my mind.
Last (there could be a lot more), there is a funeral in town, today. Shortly after my first day on the job, I decided to go meet the local sheriff. Since I had been a chaplain with our Sheriff’s department back in Chattanooga (Hamilton County), I wanted to introduce myself, especially since I was the new pastor in town. So, I got to meet Sheriff Thomas Smith and talked with him for about 1o minutes. What I regret was that I didn’t ask to take the time to pray with/for him before I left – he committed suicide the very next week.
Because Sheriff Smith was so beloved around these parts, even around the whole State of Georgia, thousands of people are going to be flooding the tiny town of Tennille, GA, and the even tinier Methodist Church where the services will be held. Sheriffs from over 100 counties are going to be here, along with dignitaries of all shapes and sizes, including past and present governors. Literally, there is no street into the town that is not blocked, and overflow locations range from larger churches to local school cafeterias. After over 20 years of honest, dedicated service, he will be greatly missed.
But did you catch what I said earlier? He committed suicide. There were a lot of things at play that led to Sheriff Smith taking his own life, even though there is now so much evidence he was greatly loved and appreciated. However, never underestimate the stresses leadership, physical pains, and leadership can bring upon a person, especially those who face evil every day.
Just remember the following verses:
Proverbs 22:1 – A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
Ecclesiastes 7:1 – A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.
God bless you guys, and I hope to have more time to write very soon.
Have you ever been to a major league baseball game? Well, ’tis the season, and I’d love to go to another, especially like the one where this picture was taken. It was on a night when the Braves (my favorite team) beat the San Diego Padres 6-5. Oh yeah!
It was a great game, too! The Braves were behind five runs for the longest, but then they got their act together and pulled out a win in two innings. All the while my family and I were cheering, doing the “tomahawk chop,” and enjoying the weather (it didn’t rain on us).
That was my daughter Haley’s first-ever baseball game, too, so it was extra-special for me to be proven correct when I offered her some encouraging words. When the Braves were still down by 5 runs, she was a little discouraged and thought it was sad that her first game would be a loss.
However, I reminded it her that the game was not over – and I had my game face on.
Whatever you are going through right now, remember that victory only comes to those who stay in the game. Just because it may seem like you’re behind in the score, don’t give up!
Many years ago I competed in a martial arts tournament. In the championship match of my belt and weight division, I had to fight against a guy that was, quite honestly, better than me. I wasn’t too nervous or scared, but I knew I had my work cut out for me.
Long story short, my opponent hit me in the right side of my head with a spinning heel kick. Needless to say, I went down – and almost out. Because this was tournament point fighting (like the kind Chuck Norris did), and that kind of kick was considered excessive contact, I was given two minutes to recover, or else I would lose the match.
With the tune of “Eye of the Tiger” and the theme from Rocky playing in my head, and my dad giving me a look that said, “You da man, bro!”, I managed to stand, gather my senses and get back in the fight. The only difference was that this time I was mad – I had my game face on!
I’m happy to say that I came back and won that fight and got a big 1st-place trophy to show for it. But more than a trophy, I got the satisfaction of knowing that I could come back from nearly being knocked out (everything went blue) and win.
If you don’t get it by now, maybe you never will… Life is all about struggle, but no race, no game, and no fight is ever won by quitting before it’s over. Set your eyes on the prize; press forward toward the goal; dust yourself off and get back in the fight.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:10-13
If you are on the side of Christ, you’re already on the winning side. Put your game face on!
In 1946 one of the best films ever made, was released by RKO Studios. The film was called “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
I try to watch it before Christmas every year, as many other people do. It’s just too much of a classic not to.
But not long ago, as I was talking with someone about this movie, my emotions bubbled to the surface and started leaking out of my eyes. As I thought of the movie’s message and what it means to me, I couldn’t help but wonder how many suicides this movie has prevented since it’s release 72 years ago.
How many people have gone through life seeing dream after dream crushed by circumstances and between-a-rock-and-a-hard place decisions? How many people have been able to sympathize with the character of George Bailey as he tried and tried to get ahead, but was always forced to make a moral choice resulting in him having to sacrifice while others accomplished their dreams?
How many people have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” at a time when they were contemplating jumping off their own snow-covered bridge?
I’d say the number is far more than anyone can imagine.
So, if you get a chance to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” again this year (or for the first time), remember that there are a lot of people who are struggling with life, whether or not it’s better to die than to keep living with disappointment and shattered dreams.
Pray that God will continue to use this classic to spread the message that every life is precious, no matter the circumstances, no matter how much a failure we think we are.
And even when all seems hopeless, as it does at one point for the character of George Bailey, be reminded that angels are real, God knows what we are going through, and an unexpected resolution might be just around the corner.
Just don’t lose hope and keep others from jumping.
What is so valuable that you would risk or even sacrifice your own life? Have you ever stopped to think about that? You should.
The typical things in life that are considered so valuable, when put in perspective, aren’t really worth that much. Even the most “priceless” treasures are not worth your life – or are they? Would you fight a thief for your purse or car? If so, you are saying those things are more valuable than your life, for you are willing to risk your life to keep them. It is how people die every day in the pursuit of, and the keeping of earthly possessions. Pretty foolish.
What about non-concrete items, such as pride? Some people are willing to fight to the death, or kill others, when insulted or “dissed.” Perception is NOT reality, just as integrity is not determined by opinion; yet, some would rather risk death than be wrongly perceived.
Really, there is no argument against this one. But on the other hand, society has a difficult time determining the value of life; one life is not as valuable as another if convenience or personal pleasure is at stake.
I would risk my life to protect my family, and if you doubt it, try to hurt them – I carry more than a big stick.
Many, however, kill their own children before birth. It seems to me that society values gold more consistently than life itself.
Now this, I know, could open up a whole can of worms; but that’s OK. Just stop and think about it for a moment. Do you believe in anything so much that it is worth more than your own life? When your life is on the line, knowing the difference between what you believe and what is only opinion is of key importance. A martyr is one who would rather die for what he believes than deny it.
Is your faith worth dying for? If not, then how much do you really believe?
Value is determined by what someone is willing to give for it, right? That’s typically the way it goes. So, if nothing on earth is more valuable than your life, does that make your life valuable? Well, maybe to you.
Think about it, to someone else your life might not be as valuable as their own. Would you value the life of a total stranger so much that you would offer your own in exchange? I mean, really? Someone may even be willing to give all of the world’s riches in order to obtain your life, but are you worth it? Who would even have that kind of wealth? That leaves you with nothing more than your sense of value compared to another’s; your worth against theirs.
Value is relative to the thing for which the buyer will exchange. That’s a disturbing thought, isn’t it?
On the other hand, what if the Creator of the universe offered to die for you?
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom 5:8 NIV
That would make your worth INCALCULABLE! The King of Heaven, the Son of God, gave His own life in exchange for yours, even accepting your guilt and failures as His own, and payed the death penalty for sin on your behalf.
For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. – 2Corinthians 5:21 KJV
That makes you valuable; Jesus unique. How many others have done what He did for you? Most of us would die for our children or spouse. Some of us would die for a friend or maybe a good person. But how many of us would give our own life to purchase the life of a stranger, much less a convict, drug dealer, murderer, etc? Jesus did.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom 5:6-8 NIV
That’s the whole reason for Christmas, you know. Jesus had to come to earth as a baby to grow into the Man that would willingly go to a cruel cross. The gift of Christmas is the gift of life, purchased with the life of the Giver of Life. How ironic is that? How wonderful?
Don’t believe the lies told to you by Satan, the culture, or your depressed emotions. Your life is of immeasurable worth because of the immeasurable price offered for it.
If you are worth that much, and if that kind of price was paid, don’t you think giving your life to Jesus is a fair exchange?
If you would like to know more about Jesus, and how he loves you and died for you, then call this number, 1-800-NEED-HIM. Or, if you would like to talk with me, just send me an email. Your life is worth it.
This article was first posted 6/13/2014 and has since been updated.
I’m not going to try to be fancy with this post, so I’m not going to worry about font size, layout, pictures, links, etc. All I’m going to do is sit here at the keyboard and write.
Read it if you want to, but nobody’s forcing you. What I’m about to write may offend …no, it WILL offend some people… so consider this a warning. Go click on CNN’s coverage of all this if you want to feel all warm and fuzzy.
Just the other day I heard of Kate Spade’s suicide by hanging. Then, a little while ago, the notification popped up on my phone telling me Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. All I could do was shake my head.
I’m still shaking my head.
I just came from the funeral of my father-in-law. It was not the most pleasant of experiences, as most funerals are not. His death was not a result of suicide, however, and yet it was still a source of grief for his family.
But those who commit suicide seem to not care too much about what happens in the hours after the body is found. They rarely seem to care what happens to the family in the next 12 hours, 2 days, or the rest of their lives. I tend to wonder how many family funerals those who commit suicide have ever attended.
I wonder how many have heard a mother, spouse, or especially a child cry out over the casket, “Why did you leave me?” And to think, it WAS a choice.
Like was said in a post I reblogged just a few moments ago, there is nothing brave about suicide. I used to think that the only reason I could not actually find the courage to pull the trigger to blow the top of my own head off was that I was a coward, which only added to the self-pity and lies that I was worthless. But it wasn’t cowardice that kept me alive; it was the innate sense of intrinsic human value that crept up from my sub-conscience and screamed, “I want to live!” It was also a still, small Voice that whispered into my ear, “I still love you, no matter how much you want to hate me.”
I read that suicide rates have gone up 25% in general, and 30% in some states. It’s sorta becoming the “hip” way to die. But why? What are the reasons for wanting to kill one’s self?
I’ll list for you some reasons why at one point I thought I wanted to die: anger, disappointment, revenge, weariness, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, and a general sense of bruised pride. I wonder how many of those Anthony Bourdain felt were legitimate?
A few weeks ago I went to the house of a man who committed suicide and sat with the wife and daughter in the driveway as the police did their job securing the scene. The best I could tell, the gentleman was tired of being a burden on his family, so he shot himself in the head and left his wife to live with the burden of being a widow.
Was Anthony Bourdain tired of being a burden to someone?
I don’t know Anthony Bourdain, and I only watched a few episodes of his television program. I literally know less about him than I know how many slices of cheese are in the refrigerator. I have no idea why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.
What I do know with certainty is that it didn’t have to happen. What I do know for certain is that it wasn’t the best option, nor was it brave, nor was it loving – not unless there were terrorists demanding he choose between his life or another.
Honestly, we’ve got to quit being so passive and coddling with the eulogies of those who off themselves. I would bet a dollar to a gold-plated donut that at Anthony Bourdain’s funeral no one will stand up and tell the A-list crowd attending, “Anthony acted like a damn fool when he did this, and now he’s added his name to the long list of cowardly fathers who abandoned their children to deal with a pain they’ll never outlive.”
No, just like so many other funerals I’ve attended, barely anything will be said to shock the crowd into cold, hard reality. All that will be said about suicide is something akin to: “What a tragedy. If you feel like you might want to hurt yourself, find someone to talk to.”
You know what needs to be done at every funeral or memorial service (especially those held on college campuses when a college student kills him/herself)? Show pictures of the crime scene! Show the horror!
Despite what some people think, there’s nothing glamorous about suicide.
Have you ever set foot in a room where someone has put a bullet through his head? I have. It’s nothing like what you see in the movies.
Have you ever heard the sound of real people screaming and crying while looking at blood-splattered walls and ceiling light fixtures broken by skull fragments? I have. Actors can’t make it sound that real. It will wound your soul.
Yet, so many will go on and kill themselves – by whatever means – thinking that it’s the best or only option. Some will do it to make a point by trying to hurt others. Some will do it in a moment of sadness and grief while thinking there’s no use in going on. And most will do it never having been exposed to or having been made to consider the true aftermath.
But before I close this long rant, I’ve got to end it with some hope.
Let me remind you of those reasons I listed earlier: anger, disappointment, revenge, weariness, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, and a general sense of bruised pride. THIS is why I preach the Cross. THIS is why I preach Christ crucified and risen.
One of the songs played at the funeral today has a chorus that goes like this:
“And the old rugged cross made the difference/ in a life bound for heartache and defeat./ I will praise Him forever and ever,/ for the cross made the difference for me.” – Gaither Vocal Band
Angry? Go to the cross. Disappointed? Go to the cross. Weary and hopeless? Run to the cross. Full of shame and reproach? Fall at the foot of the cross! Got a problem with your pride being wounded or offended? Focus your eyes on the cross!
You want answers for how to deal with suicide? Go to the cross of Jesus Christ where the Savior of the world was slain – so you and I could have life, and have it more abundantly.
Satan is the enemy of the soul, and any thought of suicide is a suggestion straight from the pits of hell – and if you sniff you might just smell the smoke.
I don’t know why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide, but I’d have a hard time believing he did it while thinking about how valuable he was to his Creator. I’d venture to guess that traveling the world and seeing so many things did nothing but expand the void in his soul and compound the questions for which he had no answer.
Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” ( Mark 8:36)
I thank God I’m alive. I thank God I have a Hope. I thank God for purpose. I thank God I’m loved. When He wants me to leave this world, He’ll take me. Until then I will live my life for the One who gave His life for me.
I’ve written about depression and suicide in the past, as many of you know. I’ve written based on personal experience with depression and brushes with suicidal thoughts. Hopefully, some of what I’ve written in the past has made an impact and caused you to think about the issue a little more deeply.
But for what it’s worth, my experience is shallow compared to the depth of pain and sorrow an actual suicide can bring. And when you come face-to-face with what suicide can do to those who are left behind, there’s no plumb to measure how deep the wounds will go.
This morning one of my daughters (Katie) called me on the phone, hardly understandable for the convulsive weeping. A young man with whom she went to college, a young man whom she considered to be a best friend, took his own life last night, and Katie had just received the news as she was driving to work.
The question kept repeating from her lips…”Why?”
There were no discernible warning signs. He was loved by all. I even enjoyed talking with him over lunch last week. He was about to graduate college and had already been accepted to the graduate program at George Mason University. He had everything to live for, yet he chose not to.
The wounds will go deep, and the pain will sink deep into the crevices of many hearts. And the many? How will we know? Already there are hundreds weeping. What other ripple effects will there be from a severed relationship and a wasted life?
I want to leave you with the words from my daughter’s Instagram post. She says it better than me.
“…It’s hard to believe I won’t see him walking around campus anymore. No more walks. No more talks. No more random trips off campus. The horizon of possibilities is gone.
I’ll see you later, bud.”
The “horizon of possibilities is gone.” That’s a wide, wide loss.
I’m sorry for your loss, dear Katie. I’m truly sorry.