Where was God? Again? We’re asking that question again? If we don’t need God, then why do we keep asking where He is? Why do we keep expecting God to show up and protect us when we don’t believe in Him any more? Why not expect Zeus or Athena or some other god to show up? If we no longer believe there is anything supernatural out there then why do we keep appealing to the supernatural? Why do we keep seeking God?
Here is why:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. Romans 1:19-24 (ESV)
God has put eternity in the hearts of all men. We are more than just animals. We are made in the image of God. We are filled with God’s attributes: love, creativity, empathy, mercy, compassion, self awareness.
So, how does this all figure in to the events of the last week? Oh, I’m sorry. You thought I was talking about the events in Boston! No, I’m talking about the events that took place in Austin. We went down to Austin to celebrate my daughter-on-law’s completion of her Ph.D. Here is a picture of us at her party (A Doctor Who themed party! You can see more pictures here.)
My daughter, Casey, had her first seizure when she was 8 years old. The subsequent two years were hell on earth trying to figure out the kind of seizures she had and how to treat them. We ended up at the Epilepsy Center in Los Angeles, one of only two such centers at the time. My little 9 year old daughter was attached to EEG leads for 24 hours a day on continuous video monitoring in a small hospital room. She couldn’t go more than ten feet from her bed and my wife stayed with her for 10 days before they made the diagnosis.
We treated Casey through four different neurologists over the years of her childhood. Just when we would find a good pediatric neurologist, that person would leave our local medical school and we would have to find another one. At Casey’s school, we had to go through the tedious process of getting the teachers to help Casey with her lessons and her instructions as the seizures affected the part of her brain that controlled reading comprehension.
Middle school years were a nightmare. Young girls are, no doubt, the cruelest creatures on the face of the planet. In the sixth grade, Casey endured 9 weeks of torture and extortion at the hands of a gang of girls before we found out the reason she was covered in bruises. We thought she was having a reaction to her meds!
Then, we had to find her a private school where she wouldn’t get beaten up every day for being “different”. She finally made it through middle school. But, the high school in our district would have the same girls as that middle school. Casey’s grades would not allow her to be in a “magnet” school. And, now at the private school, the high school age girls were even more cruel to her because she did not attend the church that ran the school.
We had to sell our dream home, build a new house, and move to another school district so Casey could get into a high school where she would not be tortured. She found peace and acceptance among her peers at this school, but now we had to weather the storm of standardized testing. Casey had to pass certain benchmark standardized tests to move up in high school and all of these tests relied on reading comprehension. There were NO exceptions for her seizures. Her senior year in high school, we had to change her medication and we knew she would have some breakthrough seizures so we planned that transition during the time she would take these tests so we could get a personal tutor hired by the school district to come and administer the test at home in anyway possible for Casey. She passed and walked across the stage in 2006 to receive her diploma. It was the proudest day of her life!
Since 2006, Casey has continued to struggle with her seizures. We had to transition her to a neurologist specializing in adults and to our dismay, there were NO neurologists in our town who specialized in seizures. Frustration after frustration ensued as Casey’s symptoms began to change and involve her face and her mouth even on maximum medication. She tried college and had to drop out because her professors did not understand her disease! Her last semester in college, the professor locked her out of the room and told her she had been faking her illness!
Our neurologist in January 2012, “fired” us. This from one of my fellow physicians! I was furious! I was so frustrated! Casey was approaching the age of 25 and she literally had no life! Now, at this point I should have been shaking my fist at God. But, I didn’t. My wife didn’t. And, to Casey’s credit, she had long ago accepted that this was her lot in life.
In June, 2012 God worked a miracle and we found a new neurologist in New Orleans. He saw Casey and instantly drew a totally different conclusion. Casey suffered from an extremely rare form of migraines, not seizures! She also has a rare metabolic disorder that produces this problem easily corrected by vitamins. Since June, we have been in the process of trying to wean her off of 17 years of seizure medication and onto migraine medication.
Christmas was horrendous. Her “auras” as they are now called were debilitating and our neurologist finally added a new migraine medication that caused the symptoms to stop. But, the side effect for Casey has been depression and weight loss.
Which brings me to last week. We went to Austin to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s completion of her Ph.D. from UT Austin. From the minute we arrived Thursday before last, I was apprehensive. All I could think about was something bad happening to Casey. I don’t know why, but there it was. The first night, Casey had a pretty bad “aura” at the restaurant. Every day, she had these “attacks” where her mouth would stop working and she would grow weak on the left side of her face. Monday morning, April 15th, I was so anxious, so nervous, so panicky I was pacing our hotel room. Casey was staying at our son’s house. I had to talk to her. I had to know she was okay. I tried calling and got no answer. I texted and got no answer.
My wife couldn’t understand my apprehension and I was afraid we would have to go the ER. Something was happening. It was bad! Major bad! I could hardly breathe. We hurried over to my son’s house and Casey was fine. No problem. It took me about four hours to calm down and then, BAM, the explosions at the Boston Marathon.
I won’t go into this, but this reaction had occurred before in my life, most memorably the week before 9/11. I will share that sometime. Did I have some kind of “evil barometer” in my heart and mind? If I did, I didn’t want it!
Tuesday, Casey had some more “auras” and I insisted she return to the hotel with us that night. It was a good thing. Our suite had two bedrooms and Casey went into her bedroom to change into her pajamas. Suddenly, she was screaming for help. The door was locked! I tried to break it down. No good. Finally, I grabbed a fork from our kitchenette, bent a tine out and stuck it in the little hole on the door handle to open the door. What we found I cannot describe. Casey was totally paralyzed on her bed, unable to move for almost 7 minutes and totally awake the entire time. It was horrendous! It was horrible to stand there and not be able to do a thing!
Finally, it passed and she sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. So did we. She was aware the entire time, remembering everything.
That was when something broke within me. Why was God allowing my daughter to go through this? Wasn’t 18 years of suffering enough? Why didn’t He heal her? Where was He? For the first time, I was feeling anger toward God. For the first time I wanted to ball up my fist and shake it at the heavens and demand that God fix this! I couldn’t even sleep that night. I lay awake in the bed (my wife slept with my daughter) and replayed that scene over and over and over.
There was a debate this past Thursday at Broadmoor Baptist Church between Frank Turek and David Silverman, the head of the American Atheist Society. My apologetic group was involved in setting it up and we had all planned to attend. I told my best friend, Mark Riser that I couldn’t go. I might agree with the atheist!
You see, I know there is a God. My life is a testimony to God’s plan, God’s work, God’s redemption in spite of my failings. I have talked about this in many past posts and in my book, “Conquering Depression”. But, there are times when even the deepest of faiths threatens to crumble under the pain of suffering. Look what Job endured.
So, last night Sherry and I went to the “Hymns” concert at Cypress Baptist Church. My good friend, Philip Wade arranged and orchestrated a concert of his favorite hymns. The Shreveport Symphony played along with three church choirs. It was up lifting. It was exhilarating. It was powerful. The last song was “It is Well With my Soul”. The author of this song had lost his family on a sea voyage and while traveling across the Atlantic to London to meet his grieving wife, he wrote the lines to this powerful song. I still had my daughter!
I came home and watched the replay of the Boston Marathon bombing events from the week. I watched runners turn around and run TOWARD the bomb site to help out. I heard about doctors and nurses who went in to the hospital after running 26 miles to help out. I learned about runners who ran to the hospital to donate blood. I saw men tearing off tee shirts to make tourniquets. I watched first responders rush in to help in spite of the threat of more bombs. In the pursuit of the bombers, I saw men and women law enforcement personnel do everything possible without sleep, against exhaustion to bring the perpetrators to justice so that Boston could breathe a sigh of relief. And, I saw and heard millions raising their voices in prayers to God.
Why is it that we wait until bad things happen to reach out to God? Why is it that we place God somewhere in a closet or on a shelf until we need Him? It seems that this is the kind of God we want. A genie in a bottle who stays out of sight until we need Him.
Well, that was where God was on Monday. That was where God was Tuesday night. Right where we had left Him. For many, God was distant on Monday. For me and my wife, God was right there in that hotel room with us when Casey had her episode. In spite of my doubts and my anger and my anxiety, God will NEVER desert us. His faithfulness is absolute in contrast to my fickle, human nature
Look again at those verses above.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
We want to worship the god we see in the mirror. It is the only god we can control. And, we have this illusion that if we can control god, we have complete freedom. We can do anything we want. It was this freedom of will that allowed two young men, deluded by radicalism, to place bombs at the Boston Marathon. But, in that freedom, we also have the choice to love. And, it is in that love that we truly see God. Not in the broken, failing visage of the mirror. But, in the light that shown across time and space from the ultimate suffering God endured on the cross. No amount of suffering any human can endure can ever match or overcome those last few hours of life of the Son of God. God KNOWS what we are going through. God sends peace and comfort because He has BEEN there! But, we must seek it. We must immerse ourselves continuously in that love.
The days ahead for my daughter are still challenging. She will eventually get on the proper medication for her migraines and one day, she will have a normal life. I trust God to take care of her. He owns her.
When I went through my horrible depression years ago, I never imagined that God would use my suffering to help others. In 2001, my pastor, Mark Sutton and I co-authored “Conquering Depression”. Over the past 12 years, this book has literally saved thousands of lives. I cannot take credit for that. It was not my choice to endure depression and write a book about it. It was God’s plan. And, if I choose, I can look at those years of suffering as a waste, a loss, an abandonment. But, clearly, that suffering was part of God’s plan to help others. Recently, Mark and I were offered a new contract to update our book and we hope to release the new book in the fall of 2014.
My point is, how can I shake my fist in anger at God when He is using that very anger; that very doubt to grow and mature me; to help others who feel that anger and doubt? Rather, I must have a paradigm shift. I must realize that everything works toward the good in God’s plan. Even my daughter’s illness.
I do not know what God has planned for my daughter. But, instead of continuing in anger and doubt, I have chosen another path. I will sit down with my daughter and talk about how God used my depression for good. If I can help her use her illness to help others, then perhaps that is the plan for her life. How many people out there are suffering from the incorrect diagnosis of epilepsy when they are, in fact, having migraines? Our neurologist said, “4 out of 6 neurologists misdiagnose migraines as seizures”! Perhaps this is my daughter’s purpose. Perhaps I can help her see this. And, perhaps once we both realize this is part of God’s plan we both can say, “It is well with my soul”.
I am in Orlando, Florida meeting with my co-author, Mark Sutton. We are working on building a platform to promote our book, “Conquering Depression”. While I am supposed to be excited, I am also somewhat sad because my wife could not be with me. She is staying at home to take care of her mother. And so, I sit alone in a hotel room looking out over the grounds of the Disney resort, Port Orleans: Riverside. I have been her for four days now and the loneliness is telling at night. During the day, I have had the opportunity to spend time with Mark and his wife, Donna. But, now, I face another lonely evening with just me and my laptop.
Odd that I should feel this way when working on a book about depression. For depression is the beast that hounds me, that breaths down my neck, that perches on my shoulders with steely claws waiting to dig into my muscles. If you suffer from depression, you know exactly what I mean!
But, just now, I listened to one of my favorite songs by Jason Gray, “Good to Be Alive”.
Hold on, Is this really the life I am living?
Cause I don’t feel like I deserve it
Every day that I wake, every breath that I take you’ve given
So, Right here, right now
While the sun is shining down
I wanna live like there’s no tomorrow
Love, like I’m on borrowed time
It’s good to be alive
Hold on, If the life that we’ve been given
Is made beautiful in the living
And the joy that we get brings joy to the heart of the giver
Then right here, right now
This is the song I’m singing out
I wanna live like there’s no tomorrow
Love, like I’m on borrowed time
It’s good to be alive
I wanna live like there’s no tomorrow
Love, like I’m on borrowed time
It’s good to be alive
I won’t take it for granted
I won’t waste another second
All I want is to give you
A life well lived to say, “thank you”
I wanna live like there’s no tomorrow
Love, like I’m on borrowed time
It’s good to be, it’s good to be alive
I wanna live like there’s no tomorrow
Love, like I’m on borrowed time
It’s good to be alive
I won’t take it for granted
I won’t waste another second
All I want is to give you
A life well lived to say, “thank you”
In September, 2012 my son, Sean and I attended Hutchmoot 2012. During one of the most moving breakout sessions, Jason Gray shared his struggled with a depression so deep and so profound, he considered ending his life. His friend and colleague, Eric Peters also shared his struggle with depression. We were sitting in a room with about 35 people most of whom were in their 20s and I was shocked at how many of these young adults with their entire life ahead of them echoed these two singers’ struggles with depression.
Right now, I should be on top of the world. I am on the verge of a new contract for a new book series. But, at the same time, I have been released from a five book contract and I don’t know what the future holds for my fiction. It is a time of difficulty decisions and uncertainty while I wait patiently for my agent to give me advice regarding the future of these books and my career. It is so easy to forget the positive and dwell on the negative.
But, I must continue to remind myself the reason I write. Not only is it cathartic, but it is revelatory. God speaks to me as I write and the words that show up on this page are a reflection of God’s working in my life. They are an echo of the work that God has for me to do. In that respect, it is “good to be alive”. Because I want to live like there’s no tomorrow. I want to love like I’m on borrowed time. I won’t take my life for granted another second. I will not waste these moments that God has given me. I will wait upon the Lord for He knows the plans for my life. And, I am grateful that God has given me a tiny piece of His Story to write!
Live today for God!
I am giving my last radio interview today on “Violent Video Games and their relationship to Teenage Violence”. And, as has happened to me before, several seemingly totally unrelated events have come together to put all of the past few weeks into perspective.
Yesterday, I reviewed “The Little Seer” for an new author, Laura Cowan. I wondered why God had placed this “divine” appointment in my path when I was already so busy with building a platform for my books and attending the PLATFORM conference. One of my takeaways from the book was the realization of how evil can destroy a life. How the enemy uses his minions to target a person, in this case the character of Tara and not only destroy other people through that person, but destroy the person in the process. I write about demons and spiritual warfare. And, in the years since I have started to do this, I have had personal attacks directed against me by forces of evil. Some of them I have recounted in past blog posts, such as the Devil house in Austin.
Now, let me take you in a lateral move to violent video games. When I started researching the effect of our current culture on young adults way back in May, 2012 as preparation for my update to our Conquering Depression book, I had no idea I would be studying violent video games. My son, Sean, is an avid game player. I have posted his comments on this phenomenon in the past few weeks and I urge the reader to review those posts. Sean began playing video games at an early age on my Commodore 128 computer. Last week, while attending the PLATFORM conference in Nashville, Sean and I had a great time together. On our last day together before I took him to the airport to fly back to his lovely wife in Austin, we stopped off at one of favorite haunts, Best Buy. There is nothing quite like geeking out with your son at Best Buy! As we walked through the door we entered the first “zone” and it was video games. Sean paused, looked around and made an amazing statement. “This used to be my area.”
Used to be? I looked at him in amazement. He went on to say he had practically given up playing video games, specifically violent first person shooter games in the weeks since he and I started talking about this phenomenon. Wow! I was impressed. Let me say this again. The boy has been playing video games his entire life — heavily immersed in video games — hours on end — online with his friends! And now, he has practically given them up! This was a stunning revelation to me. Why? He was tired of the only option for advancing a story — to kill or be killed. There is more to a story than this. There is more to life than this!
Yesterday at dinner, I sat across from my daughter, Casey. She is 25 and is still living at home battling epilepsy and migraines. She has suffered from seizures since age 8 and the story of her life is one of heroism and defiance to this horrific disease. She is one of the strongest people I know on the face of this planet. Recently, we have discovered that her seizures are migraine auras. We are changing out her medication completely. This has left her on an emotional roller coaster as she weans herself off of one drug and onto another. As a consequence, Casey has led a very sheltered life. And now, most of her friends are online — girls in distant parts of the country. Yesterday, I saw in her a deep oppression, a deep depression, a weight of worry and anxiety unlike anything she has faced. Instead of her online friends encouraging her and helping to build her up, these girls are sucking the very life out of her. Surrounded by needy, emotionally labile friends, Casey is desperately trying to please her friends; to help her friends; to encourage her friends. Only the energy is flowing in one direction — over the wifi into the world of ether and faceless “friends” leaving her listless and emotional empty.
This is the bane of their generation. They cannot exist without the internet and yet, all human relations become virtual. There is a danger of becoming isolated and disconnected from real people and, reality. This is the danger of addictive video games, as I have said in my interviews. This is the danger to this generation; a loss of interpersonal relational skills; a deepening, oppressive, paralyzing isolation into a totally self centered world where the greatest danger is becoming your own god.
Last night all of this came together in a sudden and shocking realization. Was Casey like Tara in “The Little Seer”? More specifically, was she like Aria, the main character? Isolated and alone at the hands of jealous, evil oppressed “friends” and not realizing her own special beauty as a “daughter of God”? I gasped as the realization settled in. Thank you Laura for writing your book! Thank you God for giving me insight and discernment.
For you see, my son has been under oppression for years with the evil that naturally resides in the the story of these video games. It had effected him and held him back from a healthy relationship with God. And, now, this is happening to my daughter! I immediately called my wife this morning and we are going to pray for Casey; pray with Casey; bind up the evil forces around her; and help her see that she is a beautiful, radiant daughter of God; meant for happiness and joy; meant for a life filled with light and love; meant to be so much more than the punching bag for a bunch of selfish, anonymous souls suffering in solitude on the internet.
So, here it is in a nutshell. We live in a world full of evil. It is growing in influence and power every day. It’s greatest ally is our isolation and loneliness. For in our solitude, we risk the danger of becoming our own god. But, there is light in the world. Satan is already defeated and God is waiting right where we left Him. He can deliver us out of this solitude by showing us that we are never alone; we are created in His image — an image of love and laughter and creativity and community and joy. Pray for my children. A selfish request on my part. Pray for your own children as they struggle in this world that is increasingly hostile to God. Be a part of their lives. If you are a young adult, seek the company of others — find real community and stop getting pulled into the false reality of video games that are just that — games. Know when to turn off the console and walk outside into the real world and look around. When you do, you will SEE GOD!!!!!
In the past few days, I’ve been involved with interviews that propose the question “Do Violent Video Games Make Teenagers Violent”. I’ve been preparing for this question for months as I research data on depression among young adults for the update of “Conquering Depression”. That book was released in February, 2001 and the world is SO much different now. My co-author, Mark Sutton, and I started talking about this update in May, 2012 when I became more aware of the prevalence of depression on an increasing basis in our culture. In a previous post, I talked about my shock to discover that in an artistic conference with 90% of people under 30 almost everyone admitted to having depression!
So far, I have been stunned by what I’ve learned just through the radio interviews. Young adults today see nothing wrong with playing violent video games in which they kill innocent people. They vehemently deny that violent video games or violent media produce changes in their behavior. And yet, the studies show just the opposite. Here is my analysis. There is a subgroup of teenagers and young adults, proportion unknown, who have the capacity to play these games and not allow them to effect their worldview. These kids all seem to have sound values, involved parents, high self esteem, and the ability to separate fantasy from reality. BUT, there is another segment of teenagers and young adults who are drawn to these games; who spend hours and hours immersed in these games; and who are unable to separate the fantasy from reality completely. It’s called the “Tetris Effect” and occurs when these gamers see elements of their game show up in their real world.
The problem and solution, as I have mentioned in my interviews is three fold.
1 — Violent video games and the video game industry continue to make these games. Violence and sex sells. But, they have also stepped up to the plate and put at least some type of rating on the games and a description of the content.
2 — Retailers are asking for IDs on teenagers to make sure they aren’t purchasing a game meant for over 17. I’m not sure how many of these retailers are doing this.
3 — And, finally, parents are not engaged in what their teenagers are playing. They have no idea about the rating system, the description and content of the games, and that they can put a parental block on game consoles.
Perhaps we need to dig deeper to understand this problem. It is a cultural problem; a society that has abandoned values we once held high. Yesterday, I showed my readers an answer from my son on his take on the current state of this problem. But, he also gave me a solution. It is striking; stunning; and for me as a father, ultimately satisfying in a way no father can even begin to imagine. I was involved in my son’s choices throughout his childhood. My wife and I told our children over and over to make the right choices and we provided spiritual and practical guidance on how to do that. We allowed them limited freedom but strong boundaries. We emphasized that THEY had to learn discernment so they could make the wise choices on their own. I think my son has done so. Here is the remainder of his response to how to deal with a society that is incredibly violent:
Let’s start with the Lord. I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of the world. He is the Center of the universe, the Fulcrum of creation, the Mass towards which all created things eventually bend. He is the True Great Intelligence, the Author of the Story we inhabit and inherit. He is beyond and above all created things (even time), yet He orchestrated our mechanics so that we are a part of His full work. He is the True Doctor – fire and ice, humor and majesty, grace and justice. He is the missing piece that resolves all of our mess into a beautiful whole. He is in all and through all, pulling all creation towards redemption. He is the true Word, the unbroken Orthodox Logos passed from Adam, Noah and Abraham through Jesus and His church to this present day. He is the Power, through the cross, to restore creation and heal wounds and deliver sinners from hell. His is all glory and dominion.
We, His church, are heirs to (and stewards of) that dominion. Filled with His love and emboldened by His Spirit, we are His explorers and heralds. We are His captive train, full proof of His sure and complete work of redemption, and a promissory note of that work’s fulfillment and true expression. We are not just beggars with bread – we are vagabonds and explorers who have been to the lost city and have seen its hidden riches. We are maps and signposts to a good Kingdom. We are evidence that the stories are true.
That Spirit of freedom, of equality, of deliverance, is the root of my passion, the theme of my song.
# Yesterday’s entry was here.
Jesus answers violence with Himself, a man of peace whose Kingdom is of peace. We are His body and temple, His bride and His family; therefore, we are peace as well. We show that peace by our love. Revile us? We love. Strike us? Love. Hate us and wish our destruction? Love and more love. God is the center of the universe, and His heartbeat is love, in mercy and in justice. His is the judgment, so filled with His Spirit and trusting in His promises, we love.
We love actively. When we love our enemies, we act in peace to both acknowledge their worth and call out the oppression in their actions. When we love one another, we do so honestly, in full faith and trust. We also do so in openness and diversity, undoing the trendy perversion of tolerance by trusting the Holy Spirit to build the community He wants, the Body He desires, rather than the same-painted tribes of our comfort or preference.
We love comprehensively. We must show that in the face of man’s deprivation or God’s plenty, our community is one of love. Jesus’ tribe is different: a God without a land, a Temple in our hearts. We must meet extortion with generosity, war with peace, hate with love.
We can only do this from a place of victory. If Jesus is not King, then we must fight to protect what we have and who we are because we might lose. We would “build the kingdom using the devil’s tools” because the are the only tools we have. We are pagans and fools, old gods in a new land with no one to worship us but ourselves.
If God is King, if Jesus is the true Caesar, the final Lord of Lords and the Center, then what do we have to lose? Who do we have to fear? If we give Him the space, He will perfect our love, overtake our dreams and ambitions with His own, and utterly, fully cast out all of our fear. We can live generously, love freely and walk wisely because He is true and His Way is true. If the stories are true, if the treasure is real, then with love and peace we can sell all we have to buy the field and the pearl. In so doing, we model Christ – King of peace and love and wisdom and justice – who gave His all to deliver us from sin and redeem all of creation. When they see His love in us, they can choose Him or reject Him, but they cannot break away from His grasp.
This is what I struggle in my unbelief to take hold of every day. This is the rest towards which I trudge and march and dance in hopes of one day fully entering. This is the redemption, the Truth on its way to set me free. This is the good news in which I stake my all, and for which I would give all I have away. This is what I wish and pray for every struggling brother, for every doubt, and this is the truth I pray against the enemy’s deception.
If you would like to discuss these issues with me in an interview, drop me an email via the CONTACT tab and I would love to accommodate you.
In my recent interviews, I talked about five things that we can do to avoid being sucked in to the digital world. For parents, number one applies. For EVERYONE, all five apply.
1 — Parents get involved in your kids’ lives. We are afraid of technology and, frankly, we don’t understand our kids’ fascination with all kinds of social media. So, we tend to pull back and nag. Instead, parents need to realize this digital world is NECESSARY for our kids in today’s world. They cannot separate from it completely. Once we get that, then we understand that we must help our kids learn how to control the digital world without letting the digital world control them. More on this later. Parents need to sit down and talk face to face with kids about WHY they want to play video games; WHAT is in the video games; WHEN it is inappropriate to play games hours on end; and HOW to walk away from it. Don’t use technology as a babysitter!!!! Remember, garbage in, garbage out. What kids put into their minds STAYS there and IDEAS have consequences! This is where the other four points come in!
2 — TURN IT OFF! Tech rules the world. Digital devices scream from all around us for our attention. We know they’re there, waiting with a very important message for us. So, take a technology fast. Start slowly. Break away for a few minutes a day and try to work up to an hour or so. Turn off the cell phone once you get home and be AT HOME! Leave the work at work! I love music, but take time to just think, meditate, and pray without music. For instance try driving to work with NOTHING turned on. Take your run, walk, or workout with no IPOD! You might hear something; see something; experience something brand new and life changing! I know! It make us nervous just thinking about it! And, that nervousness tells us something very important. We are controlled by our tech! Anything that controls our lives is our idol; our god. Become a tech atheist! Control the tech or it will control you! Check out this link: http://www.qideas.org/blog/do-you-need-a-technology-fast.aspx
3 — Be creative. Find a creative outlet. Do something creative. Art. Music. Photography. Write. Poetry. Crayons. Paint. Draw. Blog. Rearrange your office. Redecorate. Being creative utilizes different parts of your brain other than the parts utilizing tech. Immersion in our technical world burns out part of our brains and, let’s face it, in today’s culture the one thing that replenishes these chemicals, sleep is sadly lacking!
4 – Trade virtual community for REAL community. Imagine you are broken down on the side of the road in the middle of a raging storm. Who are you going to call to come help? Can your “friends” on Facebook living three states away be there within 30 minutes to give you a lift? I don’t think so. I don’t want to diminish virtual friends. My wife plays bridge online and she has made dozens of friends. But, there is no substitute for face time. And, I don’t mean the Apple program. The power of human interaction face to face is so important. We are seeing an entire generation of people who no longer have the important interpersonal social skills to communicate in person. They cannot handle contact. They lack the skills needed to build intimate, loving relationships. Men are waiting into their 30’s to get married because they can’t handle a relationship that demands more than a bright screen with pornography playing on it.
So, find real people in a real location. Go to a coffee shop. Go to the, yes I will say it, mall! Go to church. My wife made certain that the people she cared about online became part of our lives. There are a dozen women my wife met playing bridge and now they get together once a year for a week and play bridge. Two of those friends have become my wife’s best friends. We have visited one of her friends here in the states more than once and we have gotten to know her family and friends. Our REAL world is much larger and richer now. Another friend living in New Zealand came to the states this past spring to meet with some of the bridge ladies and she and my wife have become fast friends. We are visiting her and her family in New Zealand in the fall. Imagine this. I have always wanted to visit New Zealand. Now that my wife has made friends with someone in New Zealand, we not only get to visit, we get to see our friend’s world from her perspective and I cannot wait!!!! See the benefits of transferring your virtual world to your real world?
5 — Invest your time and energy in something that will last beyond your lifetime. In other words, take an eternal perspective. You don’t have to belong to a particular religion to use this tool. All it takes is for us to turn our attention away from ourselves for a season and on those around us in need. Charities. Homeless. Missions. Children. Mentoring. Take that creative process I mentioned earlier and use it for someone or something else. Years ago, a friend of mine was down and depressed. We wandered around that morning as I just simply spent some time with him. We ended up at a local art fair and a group of people were involved in completing an outside mosaic with broken tiles. We joined in. Now, my friend’s life is back on track and he is actively involved in his church, his community, and in local theater touching hundreds of lives every week. And, that mural? It’s still there for anyone to see, cheering people up every time they see it. And, our story? We’re making a book and a movie about that mural!
Take a cue from Walt Disney. When he built Disneyland he had one purpose: to create a “magical” world where families could spend time together. And Disney had a simple philosophy: “it will never be complete”. It will keep growing and changing and improving to touch families for generations to come. He looked far beyond his lifetime and that vision touches millions of families around the world every day!
If you want to have access to the four books I mentioned as resources for understanding violent video games and young adults in today’s digital culture, check out my EXTRAS page and you can download a simple PDF with the book titles and authors.
When you get this kind of email, it is startling; amazing; humbling. Let me tell you about the book that has changed thousands of lives. It is my book. It is our book. It is your book.
In 1995 I went through a horrific depression and in the aftermath developed tools to help me keep depression at bay. These LifeFilters, as I called them, intrigued my pastor, Mark Sutton. Mark professed to me that he suffered from depression also. This was a shock. After all, if you have enough FAITH, then you should NEVER suffer from depression. Which is a lie from the pits of hell. In fact, the statement that set me free came from my counselor who said to always ask, “What is the lie?” And, who is the father of lies? Satan!
If you think that depression is a spiritual disease then you are WRONG! Depression, as Mark and I discuss in our book, “Conquering Depression” is a multifactorial illness. If you have enough faith, why do you wear your glasses? No! God gave us our minds so we could learn. And, as a physician called by God to medicine, my mind may be the answer to your prayer!
Mark asked me to help him write a book on depression and we did. It was published in 2001 by Broadman & Holman (Now, B&H Publishing). Over the past 12 years, this book has refused to die. And trust me, the publisher has tried time and time again to let the book fade away and have a peaceful death. This past summer, after a change in editorial management, B&H came to Mark and I and asked us to consider updating the book. Conquering Depression lives on!
So, here is the message in a nutshell. Depression is currently approaching epidemic proportions. It’s cause is multiple and our current culture is fostering a hopeless, helpless, depressed populace especially among young adults (see the latest issue of Relevant magazine). In order to conquer depression, Mark and I developed a 30 day plan, a chapter a day, along with the tools of the LifeFilters. Our approach is that depression is a physical, emotional, and spiritual disease. You have to use a comprehensive approach with a doctor, a counselor or psychologist, and a Christ centered community for spiritual support.
If you are suffering from anxiety or depression this book is for YOU! If you love someone who may be depressed, this book is for YOU! Come by tomorrow and let’s chat. I’ll be signing copies of this book and I’d love to meet you. This is a new year. The old year is gone as Eric Peters sings in his wonderful album “Birds of Relocation”. But, soon, our current hopeless, helpless, dark, nihilistic culture will depress you. When it does, have the tools you need to “Conquer Depression”!
Okay, so in my last post, I told a very bleak and scary story. We live in a state of fear and there is a reason. In my two books in the “Chronicles of Jonathan Steel” I deal with this state of fear and its cause, EVIL. Want to read a good book that has an ultimately redemptive message? Want to see what evil is REALLY like? Want to know how you can have assurance that evil will not win the day?
Pick up a copy of “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”. If you like Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, Stephen King, or Peretti, you will like these books. They are written for men, women, and older teenagers.
Have these two books changed lives like the depression book? In fact, they have. I received an email from a man who read both books and then passed them on to his younger teenage brother who was dealing with doubt about his faith. After reading both books, the younger brother came to his older brother and they had a conversation about the young man’s faith. The books helped the younger brother strengthen his failing faith in Christ. In fact, both books are a good alternative to the Twilight Series or Vampire Diaries. If you want to hear what people are saying about these two books, checkout my tab for book reviews.
Tomorrow, January 5th, drop by the Shreveport LifeWay on Youree Drive between noon and two PM. I will be signing all three books and giving away FREE TEE SHIRTS. Even if you don’t buy a book, come by and support our local Christian book store! Come spend some of those Christmas dollars! I’ll see you there!
I’m taking a short break from discussing the essential teachings of Jesus of Nazareth for this message from your sponsor.
This holiday season if you are looking for an action packed thriller for the man on your gift list who likes books by Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti, then check out my two books in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles. The first book is “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and is followed immediately by the second book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”.
Jonathan Steel is a Christian version of Jason Bourne afflicted with amnesia yet having skills like an assassin or a mercenary. His one memory is of the day he became a Christian and this memory sits at odds with his nature. He wants to recover his lost life and find out why he seems to be at such odds with himself. In the stories, Steel comes up against some very evil human beings in league with demons from a “Council of Darkness”. The council is charged with carrying out the plans of Lucifer to destroy humanity and claim their souls. Steel ends up being the man in the Council’s path
Note that the numbers of the demons are in descending order. They get more powerful the closer we get to the number ONE demon. The 13th demon is the first book; the 12th demon the second, etc. You can check out the review page for discussions of my books.
Also, if you have a teenager who likes Twilight or Hunger Games, they will like these books. One of the major characters is a teenager named Josh who ends up fighting demons alongside Steel, much to Steel’s dismay. Let’s just say they don’t get along very well.
Each book also features strong female characters and a hint of romance. My sisters LOVE Jonathan Steel and want to read more of the book, so if you like thriller type romance novels, this book is for you.
Now, if you or someone you love is suffering from depression this holiday season, check out Conquering Depression: A 30 Day Plan for Finding Happiness”. This book has had an amazing history and continues to help people literally around the world. My co-author, Mark Sutton and I still get emails weekly from people who say the book “saved my life”. It is an easy to read introduction to begin the process of conquering depression in your life. Each chapter is a “day” in the 30 day plan. You take it in small, gradual doses and the LifeFilter cards in the back are there to give you a daily tool. We highly recommend the book and it continues to help those who suffer from depression or who have friends or family who suffer from depression.
Now, that’s it! No more commercials. Come back in the next two days for more posts leading up to Christmas.
The days are growing shorter and night flies across the world in record time. These are the dark days; the cold days as winter and its death grip tightens across the land. As wonderful as the holiday season can be, for some of us, the lengthening shadows bring the cold, hard press of depression to our souls. In a time when we should be thankful and happy, sadness tinges our every thought.
I understand. I have been there and I battle the teasing touch of depression every day. But, I have developed a plan that helps me battle depression on a daily basis. This plan was born out of my two years of counseling and with the help of my Lord. Today, I spoke at length with Armstong Williams on the coming epidemic of depression that is sweeping our land, particularly our young adults. How do you combat this depression?
Let me share some thoughts.
First, invest some time and effort into a creative endeavor. Write a song. Sing a song even if the only person in the audience is the shower nozzle. Write a poem, a letter, a blog post. Pick up some crayons and a coloring book. Find a way to give a special gift of your own making to that loved one this Christmas. Creativity utilizes a totally different part of our brain than that part which is more cognitive and intuitive. Exercising creativity brings a balance to brain chemistry. And, its fun. When you are depressed, you seldom do anything that is fun. Now is the time to indulge yourself. Even if it is to make a cool, colorful ice cream sundae with lots of colorful sprinkles!
Second, take a technology fast. Turn off the cell phone and tuck away the ipad. Don’t message any one for an hour. Go outside and take a walk in the cold sunshine or read a real book. Better yet, try a REAL interaction with someone instead of a virtual interaction. We are becoming increasingly isolated from real contact due to Facebook and Twitter and texting. But, we need to touch and talk to and listen to real people in real time in person. Scary, but I suggest you try it before you forget what it is like to sit at a table with your best buddy and talk over coffee.
Third, invest your time and energy in something that transcends your life. Find a cause that helps others. Serving others can be the best diversion from depression. And, when you invest in a cause that is greater than yourself; that will have lasting impact beyond your life; it gives you perspective. You will find others that may be worse off than you and a smile and a helping hand is what you are looking for so give that to them. Find someone who is suffering from depression and help them out by sharing and talking to them. They might have good advice that will help you. And, vice versa. Turn your “tragedy” into “triumph”. Redeem your depression!
Finally, turn loose of that grudge or that unforgiving attitude. In my book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” the character of Raven is an assassin who started out as a little girl in love with God. Because of some tragedy in her life, she moved into a life of crime, killing for a living. In the process, because she could not forgive, she died inside. Like the vampires in my book, she is the walking dead; dead inside; dead spiritually; dead emotionally. Until she meets up with Jonathan Steel, a man from her past who reminds her that there is a Love that transcends hurt and death and evil. Being unforgiven has left her numb and depressed. Can she ever find forgiveness? Is there some deed so horrific; so heinous that God cannot forgive? Can you ever find peace?
Like Raven, this question is true for all of us. There are always those in our life we should forgive. And, there are always those in our life who should forgive us. Think about that and if you can find it in your heart, forgive. If you can find the strength, ask for forgiveness. You will find the sudden rush of holy wind that floods your soul will rejuvenate your dying spirit; it will fill you with new life; it will blow away the dregs of depression and leave you healed and restored.
Don’t spend another day as the walking dead. Start conquering depression right now!
This holiday season, check out “Conquering Depression: A 30 Day Plan for Finding Happiness” available in all bookstores and through all ereaders. If you’re looking for a good fiction book for someone, check out my first book, “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and the newest book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”.
I’ve held at least a couple of dozen book signings over the years. I can think of at least three of these events where I sold almost 50 books. But, the others? Well, at one signing I didn’t sell a single book. In fact, not a single person even stopped at my table. Most of my book signings result in selling less than a dozen books. So, why continue to work so hard to have a book signing?
It’s the people. You can’t meet people face to face on Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites. You can’t reach out and touch someone through their Kindle or Nook. But, you can look someone in the eye over a book signing table. And, most importantly, you can hear their STORY.
This is what life is all about — sharing our stories; writing our stories; continuing the Story that God has written for our lives. And, there is one story that always plays out at my book signings. It goes like this:
A man in his mid forties walks up to the table. Before him are my first two fiction books, “The 13th Demon” and the newest, “The 12th Demon”. Sitting to my side is my co-author, Mark Sutton and in front of him is a pile of our book, “Conquering Depression”.
The man pauses in front of me and picks up “The 12th Demon”. But, his gaze averts slightly to the pile of depression books. Why? Because that book is the real object of his quest. However, a man cannot admit his is depressed. Certainly not a stranger and certainly not even to himself. But, that book is tantalizingly just out of reach. Maybe if he shows interest in the fiction SOMETHING will happen and he might get his hands on the depression book. There is a deep seated discomfort with his life; a gnawing desire to face the beast head on and kill it; but to do so is to admit weakness, failure, the inability to FIX it! And so, he peruses the fiction book instead and asks me the inevitable question.
“I have a (son, daughter, nephew, grandson, granddaughter) who likes scary books. Would they like your book?”
“If they like books by Ted Dekker or Frank Peretti they will like my book. It’s about vampires so if they like the Twilight series, they’ll like my books. And, don’t worry about the subject. There is a redemptive message in the book. It does have a Christian point of view.”
The man looks at me and I sense a profound sadness. “That may be a problem. You see he/she has renounced their faith. He/She’s an atheist now.”
Ah, here is the question. Here is the heart of this man’s sorrow. It is most difficult to lose a child to death. But, to lose a child to atheism? That is a lingering death that drives the knife into the heart day after day. How do you deal with this? How do you love someone when they no longer share that faith connection with you? Is it possible?
I tap my second book. “One of my minor characters in this book wrestles with just that issue. She has become an assassin but early in life professed Christianity. She has wandered far away from her faith. In fact, she can no longer consider the possibility that God exists because if He does, how will she ever be forgiven for her heinous acts of violence and murder? Is it possible to move beyond God’s forgiveness?
He just looks at me and his gaze drifts for a second to the depression books. “I don’t know . . .”
I am an apologist; someone trained in the defense of the truthfulness of the Christian faith. My discipline utilizes historical, scientific, and philosophical evidence as fuel for logical “arguments” in support of Christianity. But, I have learned the hard way that when someone loses their faith, rational discourse; reasonable debates; objective evidence will fall on deaf ears. It is because evidence is not the issue in question. Most people who fall away from their faith do so because they have been hurt or angered or disillusioned by well intentioned “Christians”. This hurt comes from someone in a position of authority or respect. Bottom line is the person is hurt; a heart felt need. NOT a head need!
I ask the man a simple question: “What happened between the two of you?”
He looks at me as if I have read his mind. What then unfolds is a tale of woe and pain. As with previous such encounters the story is one of a nasty divorce between the person’s parents or an abusive parent or a figure of trust who violated that trust. Bottom line: people will always let us down. Always!
I reach for a depression book. “Listen, you are depressed. This book is what you need. You can buy my books for your nephew/niece/son/daughter. My fiction books will give them something to think about. But, until the two of you repair your relationship, he/she will continue to be distant from their faith. Love him/her. Simple and clean. Show him mercy. Show him forgiveness. Show him the love of Jesus. That will bring him back. Then, one day, if he has questions that need hard factual answers, contact me and I’ll give you some resources. But, for now, he needs your love. In fact, both of you need love.”
I tap the second book again. “In this book the assassin’s anger and violent nature can be traced back to her father. This will provide an angle from which you can find common ground with him.”
He bought all three books. But, what he walked away with was not something to read. It was something to think and pray about. And, a little dose of hope.
I had listened to a sermon at First Baptist Church Orlando the night before. In that sermon, the pastor talked about Jesus being surrounded by a rambunctious crowd when Jarius came to him requesting Jesus heal his daughter. Jesus was headed for Jarius’ house when something happened. He was interrupted. He felt the power go out from him and stopped to ask his disciples “Who touched me?”
Can you imagine the disciples looking around at the milling crowd. I’m sure they wanted to say, “You’ve got to be kidding, Master. This is worse than Disney World on the 4th of July! You want us to tell you who touched you? Look around! Pick someone at random!”
Or something like that! Of course, Jesus didn’t ask them because he wanted an answer. He asked them to see if they were paying attention to the lowly, broken woman who had been shunned by society — bleeding and “dirty” and forbidden from touching ANYONE. Jesus wanted to know if the disciples had NOTICED. They had not. They only saw the powerful and wealthy Jarius. But, Jesus noticed the unnoticeable; the man or woman wandering up to the table in desperate search for answers to their pain; for healing; for the gently touch of a caring conversation or the kind brush of a hand on their shoulder. Jesus noticed this woman and praised her for her faith.
I will never forget this unique perspective on that account from John. I had never seen the woman as an interruption; a divine appointment unforeseen by anyone except God. THIS is why I continue to hold book signings. There will always be one person whose day I hope God will interrupt with a moment of hope and caring. And, I can only pray I will be there with the caring message God wants me to share. It’s not about the books. It’s about the PERSON!