Praise & Worship: January 20th, 2017

1. Good Good Father-  Housefires

2.  Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)-  Christ Tomlin

3.  Because He Lives-  Gaither Vocal Band

4.  I’ll Take You There-  The Staple Singers

5.  I Believe In You-  Bob Dylan

6.  From The Inside Out-  Hillsong United

7.  Deeper-  Meredith Andrews

8.  This Is The Stuff-  Francesca Battistelli

9.  The Mississippi Squirrel Revival-  Ray Stevens

10.  Be Thou My Vision-  Audrey Assad

11.  Come Thou Fount-  All Sons & Daughters

Two Words That Scared Me To Death

What do we say to a suffering person?  What wisdom might we impart or what gesture could we make to take away the pain that person is experiencing?  What verse of scripture might we share to bring hope to someone that has lost hope?

Sermons have been preached and books have been written throughout the ages that help us as we wrestle with these questions. These questions become a bit more complicated when the person who is suffering is living with a mental illness.

Last night as I completed the book of 1 John I came across a verse I knew was in the Bible but didn’t have the address for!  It is in chapter 5 verse 14 and is listed below from the Amplified Bible, Classic Edition.

I John 5:14 And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have in Him: [we are sure] that if we ask anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us.

In verse 13 we are given assurance that we have eternal life and in verse 15 we are given assurance for answered prayer.

Ah, but in verse 14 we are given assurance that God listens to and hears our prayers and this is where I missed the boat for so long.  I’m talking decades and it’s not easy to admit that being I’ve been a believer for 40 years.

Looking at the more familiar KJV we read

1 John:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, he heareth us:

This idea of praying for God’s will is included in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6: 9-13. As it is a portion of a longer prayer I was not struck so much as I was in reading 1 John last night as it drove home an inconvenient truth. I was afraid to pray for God’s will to be done in my life.

For me those two words could have meant disaster. I had this idea that God’s will for me was to include suffering that would totally undo me and take me to depths of pain and fear I thought I might not survive.

I needed God to get with my plan. My plan didn’t include any pain but immediate freedom from something I didn’t deserve based on some sort of entitlement I thought was due to me.

Since I had my situation totally figured out I would wait for God to honor it.  As time went on I created a god that didn’t exist which led to further suffering for me which then impacted those closest to me.

Sadly during those years my Bible often gathered dust as I began reading books that would show me how to find my healing. It was important these books included a recipe that I could follow and find healing. I then isolated myself for the most part seeking to trust in my reason to figure the whole mess out. As you can see I had it all backwards.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct[a] your paths.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.

Furthermore my faith was in the wrong place. I needed to see and understand things which only made things worse. My faith demanded guarantees as I was terrified of the unknown. As my faith in myself grew it could only mean my faith in God would diminish.

 Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Maybe you’re like me in needing evidence of things that are seen. It would make things so much easier or so we might think.

As believers sometimes we miss the fact of how much God loves us and how much we mean to Him. This can be true especially when we are in the midst of suffering, heartache, and pain.

If any of the above applies to you what do you do?

The first thing you do is seek help for whatever it is that has you in such pain. There is no shame in admitting we need help any more than it is for someone with cancer to seek help. Mental illness is just as real so never feel condemned for seeking help.

Depending on your personal circumstances the help you need could come in various forms. Having the freedom to share your heart with a close and trusted friend who will listen to you without judgment. Maybe it might be seeing your Pastor ( seeking to make sure he has a correct view of mental illness.)  If your Pastor finds himself in over his head with you hopefully he knows professionals who are trained to help you.

Possibly a trained therapist might be able to help you navigate and unpack that which you need to verbalize.

Depending on your circumstances you may need to see a psychiatrist who could help you via medication.

Unfortunately there are those in the professional field who will place you on meds before the door closes behind you. Be aware of that.

Does the counselor or psychiatrist have to be a Christian?  That would be my preference but there are times where the best help you will receive is from someone else. Not everyone has insurance or the money to pay for professionals. At this point you can research what is available for you in your area.

It’s crucial we  know and believe that God’s will is the best for us. The fear for me was the unknown and this idea I had deep in my spirit God would hurt me in some terrible way.

The truth is we will need to take steps of faith where we need to place our hope in God alone. Baby steps are acceptable as that means we are moving forward!

These last five to six months I’ve been taking those baby steps and God has been good to me. I’ll soon be 62 and I’m finding it’s never too late for any of us.  And yes I’ve had my moments along the way but here I am.

Don’t be slow to tell God anything. He already knows. I’ll close with a word from Romans. May God bless and keep you.  Allan

Romans 8: 35-39  

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”[a]

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


The Loneliness Of Pastoring: A Pastor’s Suicide Points To How Deeply Lonely The Pastoring Experience Can Be

I posted this back in 2011. Pray for your Pastors. Encourage them. They’re one of us. Allan

Taken from  patheos which is located   HERE.

By Mark D. Roberts

I write this column with a heavy heart. It’s been so for the last several weeks. A fine pastor who lived near me took his own life, leaving behind a grieving church and a devastated family.

I didn’t know Pastor John well. He attended a pastors’ retreat at Laity Lodge (where I work) a year ago. I shared meals with him and enjoyed his company. John was thoughtful, kind, and insightful. He spoke frankly of the challenges in the church he pastored. They were typical of most churches I know, and John didn’t seem overly distressed. We commiserated and brainstormed. John appreciated the retreat and spoke of returning to Laity Lodge before long.

I didn’t hear from John again, though I sometimes wondered about him. Then I heard the gut-wrenching news of his self-inflicted death. It was shocking and deeply disturbing. Once I learned of his suicide, I was not surprised, however, to hear that he suffered from severe depression. Nothing else would explain his otherwise inexplicable behavior. Sometimes depression so debilitates a person and so corrupts his rationality that he does the unthinkable, even believing that his death will improve the lives of others. (I know this not as a trained therapist, but from providing pastoral counseling to people who had attempted suicide.)

Part of what saddens me is that John took his own life while other pastors had gathered for this year’s retreat at Laity Lodge. How I wish he had been with us rather than alone in his deep depression. I wish that I had done more to encourage him to attend the retreat—more than a letter and a couple of emails. I don’t know that this would have helped John, because the demons with which he wrestled were powerful. But it might have.

John’s situation, of course, is extreme. But it speaks to the loneliness of pastoring. Having served as a parish pastor for over twenty years, and having listened at Laity Lodge to so many pastors describing the challenges of pastoring, I know the aloneness that haunts so many who have been ordained to ministry. No matter how close a pastor might be to folk in the church, no matter how much the pastor loves the congregation and how much they love the pastor, the requirements of the pastorate can be isolating.

I think, for example, of times when I was raked over the coals of complaining and criticism. I could share this with my lay leaders, but they couldn’t really understand how it felt to open your heart to a congregation only to have it trampled upon by the very people you are seeking to love. Or I think of how hard it was for me when I sought to discern whether God was calling me away from Irvine Presbyterian to Laity Lodge. It just didn’t seem wise to share my thought process, even with my dearest friends in the congregation.

Sometimes that feeling of aloneness as a pastor came in the middle of the night, when I awoke with worries about the church. Most of the time, these had to do with personnel or financial issues or a combination of both. I remember sitting in my dark living room, crying out to God and feeling as if even he had abandoned me. I knew better, but I felt so terribly alone.

Some who read this column may conclude that a) John made a deeply selfish decision, and b) the author of the column is neither a good pastor nor a good Christian. Surely, one might think, I did not have to be so alone in my ministry. Surely, I could have made deeper friendships in the church. And surely I should have known that God was with me in the lonely nights.

This is both right and wrong. I am not a very good pastor or a very good Christian. But my experience is much more common among pastors than is often admitted. If you simply cannot relate to what I’m writing here, then give thanks to God for his grace in your life. But I am sure that some who read this column will relate.

I do want to offer some words of advice and encouragement for pastors who struggle with loneliness. I believe God desires for pastors to know the comfort that comes from genuine Christian community. I will say more about this in my next column. For now, I simply want to say that serving the Lord in a pastoral role can be an intensely lonely journey.

Consider the Bible. I can think of no more powerful image of pastoral loneliness than the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. You know how it goes. Before his betrayal and death, Jesus went to the Garden to pray. He wanted the company of his closest friends and followers, Peter, James, and John, so he asked them to join him. He said, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake” (Mk. 14:34). Then Jesus threw himself on the ground, begging his Father to spare him from the cup of suffering and wrath he was about to drink. When Jesus rejoined his friends, he found them asleep. He asked them to stay awake with him and went again to pray. Returning from his agonized supplication, once again Jesus found that his best friends were sleeping. This happened three times.

I can only imagine how alone Jesus must have felt. Notice that the scriptures never indicate that Jesus was wrong to desire the company of friends. I’ve never heard anyone say of Jesus what some might say of a parish pastor: “He was too dependent on others. He should have been able to rely more on God.” No, as the Good Shepherd, Jesus entered into a loneliness that culminated in the isolation of the cross. That was a part of the ministry to which he was called. And so it is for those of us who seek to feed his sheep even today.

If you feel alone as a pastor, you should know that you’re not alone in your loneliness. Thousands of other pastors know what you are feeling. And the Great Pastor understands you in full (Heb. 2:14-18, 13:20).

The World Needs Jesus

As most of you are aware 14 were killed yesterday in San Bernardino, California by two gunmen. Several more were injured. Two suspects were killed by police later on in a shoot out while it’s not totally clear if others were involved. There are indications this may have been a terror attack although authorities are not confirming or denying the possibility.

Meanwhile a city is in shock as a results of the various events connected to the murders continue to unfold. I am grieved that so many children and adults are so scared as the ugliness of this world has hit so close to home.

I grieve for the victims. I grieve for their family and friends knowing their lives will never again be the same. I grieve for the many who were wounded and pray they recover. I grieve for their families and loved ones having someone so close to them in the hospital. Their lives will never be the same.

I grieve because I believe things are not going to get better and better. I grieve for what is still to come.



Low Levels Of Face-To-Face Social Contact ‘Can Double Depression Risk’

Taken from The Telegraph, UK  which is found   HERE.

Replacing face-to-face contact with friends and family with emails, text messages and phone calls could double the risk of depression, a major study suggests.

Research on 11,000 adults found that those who meet friends and family at least three times a week are far less likely to suffer from depression.

Individuals who had such contact just once every few months had an 11.5 per cent chance of later suffering from depressive symptoms two years later.

By contrast, those who met up with family and friends at least three times a week had the lowest level of depressive symptoms, with rates of 6.5 per cent.

The study by the University of Michigan, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, is the first to examine the impact of different types of social contact on depression.

Adults aged 50 and over were tracked for more than two years. While strong links were found between face-to-face contact and depression, regularity of contact with loved-ones by telephone, email or social media was shown to make no difference.

Taking antidepressants

Nearly one third of people who try to stop taking antidepressants experience withdrawal symptoms, according to a 2014 survey by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The survey of more than 800 people found that anxiety, dizziness, “head zaps”, stomach upsets, flu-like symptoms and depression were among the most common effects of withdrawal. One quarter of those in the survey were unaware there can be problems linked to stopping antidepressants. The College advises that anyone who wishes to stop taking antidepressant medication should:

  • Discuss the options with their doctor and be aware of possible withdrawal
  • Choose a good time
  • Seek support from friends and family and investigate whether you will need time off work
  • Reduce the dose very slowly
  • Be prepared to increase the dose again if needed
  • Keep a diary of your symptoms and drug doses
  • Keep an eye on your mood, look after yourself and keep active
  • Practice cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and relaxation techniques
  • Go back to your doctor if you are worried about how you feel

Researchers reported that having more or fewer phone conversations, or written or email contact, had no effect on depression.

Dr Alan Teo, lead author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, said: “We found that all forms of socialisation aren’t equal. Phone calls and digital communication, with friends or family members, do not have the same power as face-to-face social interactions in helping to stave off depression.”

The study found that, at different ages, participants benefited from different relationships. The researchers found that among adults aged 50 to 69, frequent face-to-face contact with friends reduced the risk of subsequent depression.

Among those aged 70 and over, contact with children and other family members had the greatest impact.

Dr Teo said: “Research has long supported the idea that strong social bonds strengthen people’s mental health. But this is the first look at the role that the type of communication with loved ones and friends plays in safeguarding people from depression.”

Researchers examined the frequency of in-person, telephone and written social contact, including email. Then they looked at the risk of depression symptoms two years later. The study did not prove that lack of face-to-face contact caused the increased risk of depression.

Those who were becoming depressed may have been less likely to choose to see friends and family. However, the study adjusted for potential confounding factors including pre-existing depression.

Earlier this year, British research found that upbeat moods among friends can be contagious – but depression did not have a similar impact.

Researchers at the universities of Manchester and Warwick studied 2,000 teenagers to see if their social groups could influence how they felt about life.

They found that having mentally-stable, happy friends helped to improve the mood of those who were depressed. But, crucially, depressed people did not seem to have an impact on the state of mind of those around them.

The research team used statistical methods usually used to monitor the spread of infectious diseases to find out how mood spread through social networks over 12 months.

How Do Mass Shootings Impact People’s Attitudes Toward The Mentally Ill?

Taken from the Pacific Standard  which is found  HERE.

Christopher Harper-Mercer, the Umpqua Community College gunman, was, by all accounts, a loner. A recluse.

Of course, this is no surprise. From Adam Lanza to Elliot Rodger, practically every mass shooter over the past several years has been described using a special set ofIsolated Gunman Adjectives, all of which revolve around his troubled status as a social outcast. Someone who was unsociable, disturbed.

When news outlets provide this information about mass shooters, does it really help our quest to understand, predict, and ideally prevent these tragedies by identifying risk factors for violence?

Blaming mass violence on mental illness is misleading at best. Mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of violence than they are the perpetrators. Only about four percent of violence can be attributed to those suffering from mental illness. Drug and alcohol abuse is a far greater predictor; people who abuse alcohol or drugs but have no other mental illness diagnoses are almost seven times more likely to be violent. Even if we’re only looking at the “awkward recluse” angle, socially isolated children are also significantly less likely than their more social counterparts to engage in delinquent behavior during middle and high school—mostly because many adolescent crimes are egged on by delinquent friends, or committed while under the influence of drugs or alcohol at parties. Loners don’t really have friends. Or go to parties.

Media coverage that mentions “mental illness” can end up reinforcing stigma directed toward the mentally ill, and, in turn, toward those who may be a little socially awkward or reclusive.

At any rate, being socially awkward or reclusive is not actually a risk factor for violence—and neither is mental illness. In fact, sadly, it’s suicide for which mental illness is the strongest risk factor—not homicide. That certainly isn’t the picture we usually get from the news media, which loves to paint a picture of either “mental illness” or the “reclusive outcast” (or a combination of the two) as catch-all bogeymen for mass violence. Unfortunately, those portrayals don’t occur without consequences.

When the media mentions certain groups (or types) of people in the context of trying to find a logical source to blame for mass violence, it has serious consequences for the general public’s perceptions of those groups. Media coverage of Islam after 9/11 dramatically shifted public opinion toward seeing Muslims as “violent,” and the ongoing disproportionate focus on crimes committed by African Americans results in people thinking (even subconsciously) that they’re more “dangerous” than whites. News coverage doesn’t even need to outright link an identity with violence to create negative associations. A 2013 study conducted by Emma McGinty, Daniel Webster, and Colleen Barry found simply mentioning “mental illness” in a newspaper article about a mass shooting immediately made readers significantly more likely to say they would refuse to work closely with or live next door to someone mentally ill, and also made them more likely to say they see all mentally ill people as “dangerous.” This negative generalization occurs even though, of course, “mental illness” is an incredibly broad umbrella, covering everything from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to autism and ADHD—all drastically different diagnoses with different prevalence rates and different symptoms.

Media coverage that mentions “mental illness” (either broadly or focused on more specific diagnoses) can end up reinforcing stigma (a.k.a. the process of de-valuing members of a group because that group seems to deviate from typical social norms) directed toward the mentally ill, and, in turn, toward those who may be a little socially awkward or reclusive.

Stigma matters. People with stigmatized identities have lower levels of self-esteem, higher levels of stress, poorer health, a lower quality-of-life, fewer close relationships, and experience higher rates of discrimination in the workplace. When it comes to mental illness, stigma is one of the biggest barriers to seeking treatment, can quickly lead to relapse, and can hinder recovery. Experts have even expressed concern that mental health-centered gun control laws might backfire in a very dangerous way because of stigma-related concerns: If potential clients are worried their psychiatrists might turn them in to the government and take away their guns because of something they say, they may be less likely to seek help or disclose important information in therapy. Of course, it doesn’t just end there: Members of stigmatized groups often face ostracism, bullying, and name-calling.

We can’t figure out some magic formula for identifying a Dangerous Shooter, and in the process of trying to do just that, we’re hurting real, innocent people. Apparently, presidential candidate Ben Carson suddenly wants to know why there isn’t a “national push to study [mass shooters],” to figure out what they all have in common with one another. But there have, in fact, been massive studies on those shooters, and the data reveals nothing helpful. As Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, one of the leading experts on the link between violence and mental illness, notes in a 2014 interview with ProPublica, “the risk factors for a mass shooting are shared by a lot of people who aren’t going to do it … if you paint the picture of a young, isolated, delusional young man … that probably describes thousands of other young men.” Most of these massive studies can get slightly more specific; the majority of the research also suggests that mass shooters tend to share issues with substance abuse, easy access to guns, and a history of being victimized or bullied. But these don’t exactly narrow down the suspect list much either—especially in a country where there is roughly one gun for every person, making firearm access exceptionally common.

To be very clear—most stigmatized, bullied, and/or ostracized people do not become mass shooters. But what we can say, for sure, is that there’s nothing about stigmatization that could actually be seen as helpful. As we spend all this time in the wake of mass shootings talking about the Second Amendment, we’d do well to remember that there is also a Fourth—we can’t exactly round up and detain every angry, ostracized young man who knows where to quickly find a gun without probable cause, so pointing fingers at entire swaths of people who we deem “suspicious” is an ultimately futile exercise.