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Reason

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Daniel Hamlin and his family are five of the neatest people you will ever meet. They came to OVCF just a tad over a year ago in a search for something different than what he/they had grown up in. They were also concerned for their three children (one a teen and another real close and an adorable young girl). So he actually first heard of OVCF from living in the community about all his life, but when Daniel started searching with earnest his father told him about us. Daniel checked out the church website and then a few podcasts. Something resonated in him and a “chance” encounter with him at a local restaurant (we were supposed to eat somewhere else) led to him coming to OVCF. They have not left (that’s a good thing…a very good thing). He is a fine young man who wants to seek God with all his heart and wants to lead his family that way also. The following is what he posted on FB after helping with the Thanksgiving Dinner the church puts on annually.

Today, our church provided Thanksgiving meals to the community.  At one point my family was tasked with delivering 5 meals to a local low-income motel.  As we stepped out of the car I realized that we were probably not relatable to those who were receiving the food.  I had grabbed my LL Bean jacket, the boys were wearing Nike shoes and shorts (yes, shorts in November), we were a clean cut family.  One lady asked us to come in to her apartment.  After passing through the blanket that draped the door we enter her cluttered, dark apartment.  She had no kitchen table and had an aged container of Ramen noodles sitting on the stove.  We delivered her the prepared meal and she became emotional, expressing thanks for the food.  Amy asked her if she had any Christmas needs and she responded that she would like prayer for her son who suffers from scoliosis.

As I reflect back on this, it brings new appreciation for the Incarnation.  Just as I felt that our appearance would make us not relatable to those we were serving, if Jesus had come to earth in all of his power and glory we would not be able to relate to him.  Instead, he came to earth as a baby, grew up as a man, was tested, tempted, beaten, suffered loss and eventually killed.  I’m thankful that because of God’s grace and his love for us, Christ made himself relatable by becoming human.

And that, my friends, is the reason for the season.

I would say Daniel has it right. Not only that…do you see any doubt he will be able to lead his family well? I don’t.

Agree!!!!

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

I seldom give up my platform for anyone. There will be those who say, “True.”

For example, I love preaching. With all my heart. It is one of my deepest loves and passions. Giving up the pulpit is a struggle for me most of the time. Except for Ryan. I feel comfortable with his rapport with the people and his heart for them. I know he will not purposely inflame anyone. 🙂

I have from time to time asked people to write a guest post. It is not because I think I am better than them. (God knows I’m not). I find it hard to give up my “voice.” Right or wrong the admission is there.

However, when I read something which stirs me to the core, I want people to know it and read it. Such is the case with my friend David’s post. I’ll not say anything more except to ask you to please read it. Click here for the post.

David, my friend, you hit the nail on the head.

What do you think?

 birthday_cake_with_a_lot_candles_royalty_free_clipart_picture_081116-007532-635042
Yeah. that cake is for me. They couldn’t put enough candles on it though because it would burn the place down. Thursday, October 9th, is my 62nd birthday. The way I see it: the adventure has just started. I “ain’t” ready to hang up my boots and find a hammock. Maybe a bicycle seat but not a hammock. 🙂 As they say…”don’t applaud. Just throw money.” My address is……

Depression5

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Over the last few weeks I have had the honor of hosting a guest series on Depression by Kari Scare. If you are new to this spot of the blog world, you can read her story here. Then you can read the other installments here, here, here, and here. I want to thank Kari for sharing her story and answering questions. I know by the response she has struck a chord. This is her last installment of the series, but I think the “reach” will go beyond my blog. She answers the most probing question for me today.

What can I do or say as a pastor (or anyone do) who has never suffered from depression to help those who do suffer?

While I was at my most depressed, I received little to nothing of what others said or did to try and help me. I just couldn’t see anything positive. Looking back, I realize that even though I didn’t think so at the time, having people just not give up on me even when I had given up made all the difference. No matter what I said or did, they always took me back and forgave me.

The best counselors and friends I had were the ones that simply listened but maintained boundaries in that they refused to climb into the pit with me. They were able to maintain mental and physical health in their own lives and

not let me pull them in the pit. So, I saw them as stable people that accepted me for where I was as well as for examples of where I wanted to be.

While some did suggest I simple “change,” for the most part the people in my life allowed me to be however I was going to be, not really accepting the behavior, but loving me regardless. And when they saw any positive, whether momentary or a step toward change, they latched on to that for as long as the wave existed even when they knew it would fade. This went a long way helping me make small, gradual changes that over time added up to make a huge difference in discovering victory.

Related to this, those who did not try to force me to change were the ones I wanted to be around. I know most of them were praying for me, but they did not try and insist I change. They accepted me for who I was at the time. When I did reject them, which I did as intimacy of any sort was thin at best and impossible at worse most of the time, they did not take it personally. They knew, somehow, it wasn’t meant personally. They gave me the space I needed, even letting me be miserable, and were always available when I came out of the darkest corners of the pit for a while.

Generally speaking then, the people in my life who had never suffered depression, helped me by staying consistent with who they were, by accepting me for who I was and where I was, by seeing beyond where I was and to who I could become, and by praying for me.

My husband said he felt helpless when I was depressed, and I guess he kind of was. I assume that’s how many people who have not had depression feel. The odd part is that this is how people with depression feel too. So, realize that the helplessness you feel in not being able to help the person get out depression is similar to the helplessness the depressed person feels in being trapped in it. Interesting, don’t you think?

Thanks so much Kari for taking time out of your busy schedule to help out. Your posts have been a real blessing. How can this post help you help others?

Depression4

Monday, July 7th, 2014

Kari Scare wrote a post for my Second Chance series. That led me to asking her to write a Depression series. If you are late to the game or just want to “hone in” on what she has said go Here, Here, and Here. We decided to present it like an interview. Here is #4:

What are you doing now to keep yourself from falling back into the pit? Looking back, what do you wish you would have done differently when you were in the pit of depression?

What you read on my blog covers my approach to keep from falling back into the pit of depression. I get into the details of topics I am struggling with, find out what Scripture says about them, and process them by writing about them. Doing this helps tremendously in capturing thoughts and not letting them hold me captive, which is what happened when I didn’t know how process feelings. At some point, I just determined not to let my thinking exist without boundaries and structure anymore, and writing gives me a way to establish the boundaries and structure I need to keep well away from the pit.

But writing isn’t all I do. I’ve discovered that one thing rarely does exactly what you need in any area, at least not for very long. Writing simply provides an outlet for my very busy inner life. Being an introvert, my inner life is as busy

as the outer life of most extroverts. Writing gives me a way to order that world and to deal with it in a healthy way.

In addition to, or rather alongside and within writing, there are various ways I keep from going in the direction of pit dwelling. First and most importantly, I maintain a daily, consistent relationship with God through Bible study and prayer. I’m not saying this as a high and mighty “look how spiritual I am” statement; instead, it’s meant to simply say that I know I am completely and utterly unable to stay out of the pit of depression without Him. Without the Holy Spirit working in my life, and without God’s mighty power active in and through me, I would not be alive today.

I also make staying physically healthy a priority by eating healthy, exercising and getting plenty of adequate rest. I’m willing to try different approaches to health and wellness because I’ve learned that limiting yourself to the approach of traditional, Western medicine only will limit and even inhibit your ability to overcome depression and become healthy. My approach is along the lines of integrative medicine.

Staying aware of personal triggers is important too. I know the signs of my getting overwhelmed (digestion issues, sleep problems, anxiety & general grumpiness, for example), and I make adjustments as soon as I realize what’s happening to prevent any more veering off into bumpy territory.

While I need routine and structure to some extent, I must balance them with flexibility and variety. Otherwise, I get into a rut of boredom that also leads to depression. Fortunately, my husband and sons help tremendously with this area not just with their busy schedules but also with their zest for discovery and adventure.

Knowing what to avoid is also key (examples for me include sugar, romance novels, and television shows in general). One area of thought that I need to be extra careful with is thinking and speaking in absolutes. Saying “I

never…” or “I can’t…” or “I always…” usually takes me down a very narrow and precarious path. I’ve learned to leave the absolutes up to God who has the capacity to follow through with them simply because He doesn’t change and I do.

As you can see, I have a variety of ways I keep from falling back into the pit. All of them are negotiable except my reliance on God.

As for what I would have done differently now that I am able to look back on depression with some objectivity, let me simply say that I just would have done all of this sooner. I would have taken the small steps needed to get out of the pit sooner. I would have asked God to help me sooner. I would have let others help sooner. I would have let my pride go sooner. Nothing really done differently since all were necessary parts of the journey. They just all could have happened sooner.

So much (most really) of what caused my depression was outside of my control, so I don’t think I personally could have prevented it. I could have just taken the steps to get out of it sooner. That’s all on me.

So…what are you thinking? Kari will answer your questions/comments.

Depression3

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Welcome back! I have asked Kari Scare to write a series of posts on depression due to her response during the Second Chance series. Her first two installments are here and here. We decided to run this series like an interview. I asked her a series of questions and she answered them. Here is #3:

What is the difference between depression and anxiety? How are they related? Or, are they even related?

First, let me clarify that while I was formally diagnosed with chronic depression, I was never officially diagnosed with anxiety. I self-diagnosed anxiety because I knew it wasn’t depression, which I knew very, very well, and because I had learned the power of educating yourself as a way to help heal yourself.

Depression and anxiety hold many similarities. They both involve uncontrollable feelings of often vague origin, and they both involve some level of hopelessness and helplessness. Both are also deep to the point of affecting every part of a person.

The differences between anxiety and depression, for me, was that depression felt like a dark pit while anxiety felt like a heightened (too aware) state of awareness. In other words, depression was a low energy state while anxiety is a high energy state.

Another connection between the two involves the idea that any lack of control can lead to depression without the right thinking to surround it, and anxiety certainly feels like no control. Yet, all my efforts to gain control as much as I could over whomever I could were fruitless. Only when I finally gave up seeking control did I discover healing and victory over depression.

Note that I said “was” for depression and “is” for anxiety, that I declared healing and victory over depression but not anxiety. This is simply because I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. Two things cause anxiety to flare up for me. One is becoming overwhelmed, a topic you know I’ve addressed at length on my blog.

Another is the physical component, which I cannot ever dismiss or consider too lightly. It has a huge role to play both in depression and anxiety, and I’ll address it a little more in another one of your questions. Suffice it to say, the physical aspect of the self – my health and wellness – played a significant role in my whole depression/anxiety story. Staying physically healthy and making adjustments as I age goes a long way in maintaining mental health. The two – mental and physical – go hand-in-hand, and neither part should be ignored.

Any thoughts/questions you care to share? Kari is very good about responding to any you may have.

HoldOver

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Kari and I had a miscommunication.

Translated: I failed to tell her that her post, Depression2, would be running starting Monday night. So in fairness to her, and because I believe it a vital post to read and learn from, I am going to let it run another day. The response has already been good, but will be better when she has a chance to announce it on her blog. She is touching some buttons with her honesty and transparency. If you have already been here and commented…thanks. If you have stalked 🙂 then by all means stalk some more or feel free to comment.

I will be back Wednesday night at 8:00 with an original post.

However, you have just got to see and read this!  I am a Back to the Future fan so when I saw the headline I had to read. Then I had to chuckle. Then I had to shake my head.

So…you going to buy one? I can already tell you high or low price the answer from this person is NO! NO! NO!

Depression2

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Thanks to Kari’s contribution to the Second Chance series, I asked her to post more on Depression. Last week’s post can be read here. It was posted while I was on vacation so it was great she was able to respond to your comments.  Our approach was to do it as an interview. Here is her second installment.

What role did your husband, church, family, etc. Play in dealing with depression? Did you come to faith during this time, or was your faith instrumental in overcoming it?

Had I not had relationships that mattered to me or that I at least wanted to matter to me, I don’t think I would have had hope. The first was the hope of a relationship with God, but more on that in a minute. First, let’s address the other relationships mentioned in the question.

My husband joined this journey with me when I was only 5 years into it. You do the math, and you’ll discover we got together pretty young. I could never do justice to the junk (the kindest word I can think of to describe it) I put him through over the past 25ish years or to the patience he continually doled out. Simply put, he never gave up on me and refused to leave me. He looked me straight in the eye on more than one occasion and said, “I will never leave you.” I get choked up thinking about it. I realize today that him never giving up on me made me unable to give up either.

I grew up in a very rules-oriented church culture, one where God was this distant being who seemed more like a master chess player than like anyone who wanted me to know Him personally. So, the first 28 years of my faith life included what I “should” do, including believing in God. Around age 28, that changed. I began to discover who I was in Christ, and I learned that Jesus not only wanted a relationship with me but that He gave me His Holy Spirit to comfort and help me. I learned that the Bible was a guide for life and not simply a book of rules. This process of correcting my wrong views about God and seeing life from a full-Gospel perspective truly gave me a new foundation to build upon as I began to live more and more outside of the pit.

Not sure how to characterize my family’s role, so I’ll just dive in to some specific examples. My dad was absent a lot and pretty self-focused, which does not bode well for the self-esteem of a little girl. My mom always loved and accepted me no matter my emotional state, but she had struggles of her own that didn’t allow her to do more. My extended family was a non-factor.

My journey out of the pit really began after I had my oldest son. When he was a toddler, I realized that I did not want his memories of me to be ones of a depressed an unhappy person. So, I began the journey for him. My youngest son entered this journey only about 4 years ago, but it too was a pivotal experience in that he needed me to live fully and completely outside of the pit in order for him to not live in one himself. For him, I took steps to fill in the pit of depression that had been my dwelling place for so many years, making it no longer an option.

Now for the role of faith. I don’t remember not believing in God. However, I do remember not really knowing who Jesus was and what role the Holy Spirit played. Learning about relationship with Christ changed everything. My growth in faith coincides directly with my progression through depression and out of the pit forever. Depression was the trial of my life that drew me always closer to Him; it was either that or end my life. Realizing my inability to overcome on my own led me to realize my desperate need for Him.

(Note: If we had time and space, I would also discuss the role of Christian counseling as well as of the books I read in this whole journey.)

Kari will be here to respond to your comments again. What are your thoughts?

Depression1

Monday, June 16th, 2014

When I was running a series called Second Chances, Kari Scare wrote about her struggle with depression. Through a series of questions and emails, I asked if she would consider writing more about her struggle and how she (with God’s help) overcame it. I shot her some questions and we decided to “run it” as sort of an interview. Due to length, it has been divided into five conversations. This is the first. The others will follow at one each week.

Do you mind sharing your story of depression with us? How long did you suffer? What do you think was the cause? How did it affect you? Did you ever feel hopeless?

Depression fully entered my life around age 10 (4th grade). The severity waxed and waned through high school with the lowest points coming during my twenties. Actual diagnoses came around age 22, just a year or so after getting married.

As a child and through high school, I was very emotional and cried easily. I even had the nickname “baby” stick with me from 4th through 8th grade. In my twenties, I became pretty volatile and hit a desperate low, considering suicide at various times. Around age 28, light broke through the heavy cloud in my mind, and I began the climb out of the pit. Still unpredictable emotionally and still a regular pit-dweller, I began visiting the edge of the pit. My 30s can be characterized by discovering and dealing with root causes. Lots of ups and downs still during this time, but the lows became not quite as low and got continually higher as I slowly but surely dealt with the various causes.

The causes of depression for me were many and varied. I held unforgiveness toward an absent father and toward an older family member who showed me porn at a very young age. I had some very unhealthy thought patterns that needed reprogrammed along with some pretty poor relational habits. In many ways, I really had no way to even deal with the emotions of life, not even to identify what I was feeling and experiencing.

Added to all of that, I had some significant health issues (food allergy, food sensitivities, thyroid issues, hormonal imbalance & adrenal fatigue) that made climbing out of the pit nearly impossible. Then there was my inability to take personal responsibility for myself or to even recognize the need to do so as well as being pretty confused about who this distant God of the universe was.

I definitely felt hopeless at times, but there was always the slight hope of a hope that God was real and would not leave me to sink in the mud of the pit that was my life and had been for so very long. That hope literally kept me alive. A positive that came out of that hopelessness, which I know sounds very strange to say, is a realization of how powerless I was to change myself. With all my efforts, I could improve but never overcome. I could skirt the edge of the pit at times but never really be free from falling back in pretty regularly. There was always more struggle than anything else with true victory seeming only a fairytale.

Even as I answer these questions, I remember the feelings of that old life. I need to remember them once in a while and to be reminded of where I came from, so I can better appreciate where I am today. Remembering life in the pit provides tremendous motivation for doing whatever I need to do to make sure I never go back no matter what happens in my life.

Kari has really opened her heart and life to all of us. Any thoughts you want to bring or questions to ask?

Floyd’sSecondChance

Monday, May 19th, 2014

If you have been following my blog you know I have been doing a series on Second Chances. Rather than put a whole series of links to direct you to each story, I’ll just ask you to go to this post where all but today’s can be linked from.  Today’s post is from someone who has rapidly become one of my dearest “friends” via the internet. We have never met in person, but we have spent plenty of time burning up the internet in comments and personal emails. There is no doubt in my mind that if we were to meet it would be as if we had known each other all our lives. Floyd blogs at www.theregoi.com. If you haven’t been reading his you need to. (That’ll cost you Floyd for me saying that). Here’s Floyd writing about his Second Chance.

MOUNT PRIDE

You hear things, can memorize them, think you truly get the meaning behind the words, and still be found weighed, measured, and severely wanting. No wonder Solomon told us wisdom is more valuable than gold or silver.

It’s the things we can’t see, like wisdom, that end up being the most expensive item on the menu, the invisible one that is.

“Pride goeth before a fall’, young man!” I heard more than once.

I thought to myself, “Yeah, yeah, ‘tis better to give than to receive’ – I know – I know, I’ve heard em’ all.”

I knew the lingo, even learned how to act, how to play the part. I really did want to do right, be good, have my talk match my walk. False humility might get you an Oscar, but it can’t begin to crack the code for character.

People with a lot of pride tend to justify their actions, even use some Bible stories to back them up, I know I’m one of them. Folks with all that pride are really just hiding their immense insecurity, wanting others to think much of them.

Around twenty years ago, I was paying a few laborers cash, the street term is “under the table”. It was easy enough to justify, I called it “survival” at the time. A few years later when the IRS came knockin’, they dug up things I thought we’d done by the book. I even had a seasoned bookkeeper swear to it, but that didn’t carry as much weight as a feather with the government.

I thought I was doing pretty well, on my way, my ego was well fed and my pride plump. What I had defined who I was… That’s an ugly trait and contrary to all I knew and had learned, or thought I’d learned. Memorizing isn’t learning – understanding is wisdom.

All that I had was suddenly gone. All that I valued was being taken from me. How I defined myself stripped from me. My pride poured out of me like water into a filthy tan and threadbare carpet that covered the floor in a one bedroom apartment.

I was in the middle of a divorce, lonely, and finally at the end of myself.

“Okay, Father… I surrender… I lay down my pride… Give me strength to move on in humility from my failure,” I mumbled over and over, face down in someone else’s carpet.

The events of the following months after, are nothing short of miraculous in more ways than monetary. The price of the wisdom I’ve gained, I can truly share, is worth more than any amount of money I might ever get my hands on.

And while I struggle with pride as my weakness, I’ll never again be that person who defines myself by what I have. I define myself by Who I serve. I’m reminded of that in many ways, one of which was written for folks like me, “Pride goes before a fall.”

I have this sneaking suspicion Floyd is not alone. Well…at least I would have to stand (or is that be face down) with him.

 Any comments you would like to make?

 

 

Zee’sSecondChance

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Thanks to the inspiration which came from this post, I decided to feature some stories of my readers writing about God giving them a second chance. They will be spread out over the next week or two. One of mine was here.  Daniel’s was here. Today’s writer holds a special place in my heart. Zee lives in Ukraine and we have established a long distance big brother/little sister relationship. My hope is to someday meet her (and her soon-to-be-husband, Sam). Here is Zee’s Second Chance.

I was 27 and I thought my life was on a down course.

I lived alone, my cat was dying from a stroke and cancer, the Church building where I’ve spent my entire childhood and teen years was moving to another place, and I was beginning to hate the job I used to love. While there were many good things in my life, I was depressed.

May 20, 2013 was the day when I thought that I don’t want to do anything else except sit and stare into the window. No one knew about it – I woke up in the morning, went to work, came home, made tea… and yet on the inside I was as good as dead because the day before I put my cat – a friend of 19 years – to sleep. I knew God has something for me because He kept me alive through all those years and yet I had no desire to discover what it was. Completely blank on the inside.

It changed on May 21.

A few years before, I registered at a local Christian dating website, InVictory. I personally knew a few couples who met there, but I did not believe this would work for me. Having nothing better to do, home alone, I logged in to check messages. Nothing. After looking through various profiles, I figured that I would close my account that week. Obviously, something was wrong with me because I haven’t dated in many years.

I logged to Facebook and saw that I have a friend request. “Weird, we don’t have any friends in common. He does look good though.” So I added some random Alexander Gimon to my friends and figured that possibly we have crossed our paths in the past. Only afterwards, I saw a short message from him.

“I saw you on InVictory.”

That fateful message and a friend request have changed my life. We started talking online, then we met in real life, and realized that we actually do have friends in common. Besides friends, we also had a lot of common interests – and mainly, common faith and thoughts about spiritual life.

Four months later, he proposed to me – and on May 2, 2014, we are getting married.

Besides this being the story of how I met my husband-to-be, it was a story of how God pretty much made me take the second chance.

And I am thankful.

I am thankful that God gave me enough wisdom to follow this chance.

I am thankful that God did not give up on me when I was about to give up on myself.

Thankful for the second chance itself to truly live a life.

The moral of the story?

Follow His lead. Enjoy every chance you get. 

Someone said, “We never really run out of second chances, but we do run out of time.” 

Let’s make sure we don’t waste the opportunities we have.

 I chose to highlight Zee’s post today (and this weekend) because she becomes “Mrs. Sam” tomorrow (Friday). I so wanted to get there to witness their wedding, but it wasn’t possible. “Lil sis: you know my heart for you and Sam is to have a life filled with love and all God has for you together.” Thanks Zee for sharing your story.

And while you are at it, why not wish Zee and Sam a Happy Wedding. You can also pray for Ukraine and its people.