Monthly Archives: July 2011
God’s Triumph — Depression, Part 3
I started writing when I was thirteen. My eighth grade teacher inspired me to work on “creative writing”. I wrote some very bad science fiction stories even though at the time I thought they were very good. Why did I write? What compelled me to sit before a typewriter or a blank piece of paper and put down some story that was trying to burst out of my skull?
Why do we as authors write? Is it for fame? Money? Self advancement? Therapy? Maybe some of you are like me, a person who “can’t NOT write”. I guess in those early days of writing, I was inspired by my science fiction icons such as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Frederick Pohl, Richard Matheson, and I could go on and on. I wanted to see my name on the spine of one of those books. I wanted to know that somewhere in a cool, dark bedroom a boy or girl was hiding under the covers with a flashlight reading MY book! Maybe I was tapping into a need for fame and glory. Maybe I wanted my name to live on after me although at the age of 13, I was pretty certain I was immortal!
Years later, as I became a drama director, I began to write dramas for the purpose of reaching people for Christ. I felt it was a calling. I wanted to write for God and I certainly never imagined making money off of these dramas (they were never published) or becoming famous (how many famous Christian playwrights can you name?). I never imagined that getting involved in writing dramas and producing dramas would be a major contributor to my coming depression.
As I mentioned in my last post, writing a book on depression was never on my list. In fact, so much of what I have done in life was never on my list. But, it was on God’s! God uses people for His purposes. He uses our failures and our successes. He uses our pains and our triumphs. I recall the first day our book, “Conquering Depression: A 30 Day Plan to Finding Happiness” appeared at our local Barnes & Noble for our book signing. It was the first time I had held the actual book in my hands. It was the first time I had seen the cover. Mark Sutton and I sat behind a table and we signed books. Over and over and over. People were not there because of us. They were there because they needed help with depression. I was stunned. I was shocked. Something I suffered through could help others? Here are just a few of the testimonials to our book. I list them not because I want to promote the book. As I mentioned, Mark and I have made very little money off of our book. The payment for us has been to know what we suffered through has helped others overcome their depression. We get monthly emails from readers who make the claim our book “saved my life”. People who were contemplating suicide, who had given up, who had no hope. Now, that alone is reason enough to write a book. I will never see my name in lights or win any awards for my writing or know that somewhen a hundred years from now my books will be required reading, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has used my life experience to touch someone and give them hope. And, that is worth it all!
Here are some testimonials:
I’ve been reading Conquering Depression: A 30-Day Plan to Finding Happiness for just over two weeks now. I don’t know what exactly to say to both of you other than, “Thank You” for giving me my life back. I realize that God is Great Physician is all of this; however, you were His mouthpieces. I really appreciate that.
Please excuse the first-name basis, but I feel like I know you both. I first encountered your book back in 2002 when my daughter was a junior at Hope College in Michigan and she experienced yet another bout of depression — this one being her worst yet. I received an e-mail from her that actually made me fear for her life. I called work, told them I wouldn’t be there in the morning, threw some items in a bag and immediately made the 3-hour drive from our home to her college. When she returned from class and found me in her dorm room, she crumbled in my arms and sobbed. The lost and terrified look on her face said it all. The depression had her cornered and she was fighting for her life.
I spent the next 2 days with her every minute except when she was in a class. Then I brought her home for a few days. My husband and I prayed with her and for her. I quoted scriptures to her and insisted she speak them out loud. I repeated the same truths over and over and over to her because the depression would steal the truth away from her mind almost as quickly as I could say it. I read scripture to her. I sat with her while she fell asleep and I made sure I was there speaking truth to her when she woke up. I fought like a mother bear for my cub. Depression (Satan) was not going to snatch my child.
Somewhere in that time, I ran across your book. It was a God-send. Although she didn’t have the strength or concentration to read it at the time, I read it to her and for her. I used the Life Filters with her. She learned to stand in front of the mirror and quote them as she looked herself in the eye. Of course, somewhere in all this we got her to a counselor and on some medication. In time she healed. But she did more than that. My daughter has become a champion for overcoming depression. She was a favored speaker at the most recent depression support group I ran at our church. Her testimony of God’s truth and power in her life is something really special. She is an overcomer in the true sense of the word. I’ve always loved the passage in Romans 8 that says we are “”more than overcomers. I always thought, “Well, I know what an overcomer is, but what is ‘more than an overcomer’?” I’ll tell you, it’s my daughter. She didn’t just fight and persevere until she was no longer depressed; she fought and persevered until she had a testimony of God’s power, grace and healing in her life. AND…your book was a big part of that.
I’m 24 years old and I have battled depression my whole life (as has my mom), but have not had this realization until about 2 months ago, when all broke loose and I was forced to face the reality, the battle, the heartache, and the beginning of healing. I have been visiting The Well at Brookwood for a few months, and have had the pleasure of experiencing refuge, community, joy, and most recently–the finding of “Conquering Depression”. I thought it was just another one of the coffeeshop books (at the time, I had no idea that you were the pastor there AND the author!) and was too afraid to browse through it for long, much less purchase it from one of the super-friendly baristas. So, I waited. I waited about another week, and then was searching again through Lifeway for SOME sort of help, release, direction out of the pit I’d found myself in. So, I searched through all the books and there on the bottom shelf screaming my name was your book again. So, I bought it. (Mind you, combined with a little journal, two cd’s and another book–I was too afraid to admit that’s all I needed…surely it was convincing that it was for a friend…right? 🙂 ) I cannot tell you the healing it has brought just within the first several pages. My eyes, heart, mind, no, my very soul have been opened up to the “blessing” that is depression–and that’s where I’ve come to turn to you.
As one who has suffered from clinical depression for many years I was skeptical about this “30 day plan” approach but after reading this book I am skeptical no more. Written by a medical doctor and a pastor, this is not a “pray it away” approach but rather a multidisciplinary approach that gives information from a medical and spiritual perspective as well as recommendations for treatment and tools to use on a day to day basis. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who lives with depression or even thinks they might have it.
First I’d like to say that if I could give more than 5 stars, I would for this book. This book is a wonderful book on how to conquer depression, an illness that has plagued me for over 9 years. It is written by two professionals who both are strong Christians and both have suffered from depression which makes you know they understand what you are going through and there is hope. I also appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to sift through what I felt was Scriptural and what I felt wasn’t as this book is very Biblically based and glorifies God throughout the whole book. If you are suffering, have suffered, or know someone who is suffering from Depression please purchase this book for them. I only wish I had found it years ago when I went through my first major depression.
My Darkness, His Light — Depression, Part 2
My counselor was a disturbingly chipper man with bright, blue eyes and a smile. I did not want a smile. I did not want chipper. I did not know what I wanted!
He led me up the stairs to a room on the second floor of the counseling center and invited me to sit in a chair. Then, he asked me why I was there. So, I told him. I was depressed. And, before I knew it, I was telling this total stranger everything. It just poured out of me, venom and pain and tears and all. Do you know how easy it is to just dump all of your emotions on a total stranger? Very easy! Poor guy! I started feeling sorry for him. Because as I dumped, I felt better! Maybe this thing could work. Problem was, as I was dumping, there was nothing filling up the ensuing emptiness!
He asked me a simple question, “What is the lie?”
I sat there floored. You mean I had been living a lie? No, not living a lie. I had been deceived by a lie. Not just one, but many of them. In the weeks that followed, we dissected each lie and replaced it with the truth. And, here is the most important point to take home. Who is the father of lies? Satan. Who wants to destroy me? Satan.
And so I began the long road to recovery. As I mentioned last post, I developed a tool called the LifeFilter. For me, the biggest problem was in saying “yes” to every oppotunity around me. I did not know how to say “no”. In fact, if I said “no” then someone would possible not LIKE me! I might DISAPPOINT them. And then, I might make them MAD and so on and so on. Not only that, they might not let me RESCUE them. Boy, was I screwed up! I had to learn how to say “no”.
One day, I was watching the pool guys clean out my pool filter. The filter had layers of material starting with large pebbles and decreasing in size. Each level of the filter was finer and more discriminating and caught smaller and smaller particles until the water was pure.
I came up with my own filters — questions I would ask myself beginning with the largest “pebble” and moving to the most “discriminating” level. If the request someone made of me passed through all five questions, then I would say “yes”. The first time my pastor asked me to do something, I pulled out a business card sized laminated piece of cardboard and starting reading the questions. I looked up at him and this is what I said, “Right now, I would have to say ‘no’. But, if you would allow me to pray about this for a few days and talk to my wife and family, I might change my mind.” Mark’s mouth fell open. His eyes widened. “You never tell me ‘no’!”
I shrugged. “From now on, I have no choice. If you want a quick answer it will always be no.”
And so, a few months later, we sat at lunch contemplating writing a book on depression. As I mentioned, we would emphasize the nature of depression as an ILLNESS, not a lack of faith.
After arriving at the 30 day format, we outlined the book and began working on a book proposal. We thought if we could nail down the first week, we could begin contacting a publisher. At this point, Mark had one book published and I had my collection of children’s plays. So, technically we were published authors. But, we did not have an agent. We did not have a working relationship with a good publisher. We were shooting in the dark!
By that summer, we had the outline for the book worked out and started writing on the first week. I remember sitting at my dining room table on Halloween working on my part of week one while handing out candy to trick or treaters. By the first week of November, we had our book proposal. Now what?
Mark had an inspiration. Five years before, we had both attended a writer’s conference in New Orleans. It was the third year in a row we had gone to this conference and we had met some editors. One editor, Len Goss, had almost accepted one of my manuscripts for a book. But, it had died in committee. See why I hate committees?
Mark had made a commitment to put on a marriage seminar in Nashville, Tennessee the third week in November. And, he had learned that Len Goss had become the chief acquisition editor for Broadman & Holman headquartered in Nashville. I was also off the week before the seminar so Mark contacted Len and asked if we could have lunch with him. No mention of the book, just lunch. Len agreed and so we flew up to Nashville.
I had insisted on putting the book proposal in a clear plastic folder so the title would be visible, a trick I had read about on the internet. We met Len for lunch and went to a restaurant with a buffet. Mark and I had worked out our strategy on presenting the book because Len was unaware of this real reason for our visit. Mostly, this meant for me to let Mark do the talking.
We got in line at the buffet and Len reached our table first. I had placed the book proposal on the table. I followed and sat down, keeping my mouth firmly closed awaiting Mark’s arrival from getting his food. Len picked up the folder. My heart raced and I almost threw up. He looked at the title through the clear plastic.
“What is this?” he asked.
“A book proposal. Mark and I want to write a book on depression. He’ll do the spiritual part and I’ll cover the medical.” I managed to say with a very dry mouth and thick tongue.
Len was quiet as he studied the folder. He gently placed it on the table and frowned. “Someone I care deeply about has been fighting depression. Did you know there are no good books out there on depression for Christians? They all just seem to say ‘have more faith’. I think we’ll take the book.” He started eating.
Mark arrived and sat down and started into his presentation and I kept trying to interrupt. Finally, Mark looked at me and I said, “Len said he wants the book.”
Now, it wasn’t that easy from that point on. We had to go before the committee. We had to fight for the inclusion of our LifeFilters as tear out cards in the back of the book and this was almost a deal breaker. But, finally, two years after that meeting, “Conquering Depression: A Thirty Day Plan to Finding Happiness” hit the bookshelves. And, although it has never been a best seller, it has been as “consistent back list seller”. Most importantly, although Mark and I have made very little off the book in the last ten years, it has been amazing how many lives the book has saved.
Yes, I said how many lives the book has saved!
You see, as dark and constricting and suffocating and horrendously painful my depression was; as hard as it is to keep it at bay; as hard as it has been to fight to keep the book going; I never imagined God would use my pain and suffering to help others, much less save their lives. In my darkness, God showed His light! Now, I can truly praise God for my depression. For, it made me stronger and deepened my faith and brought me closer to my Savior. And, through my travails, God has used those pains and sufferings to help others.
In the third post, I’ll share some of the stories of those who were helped by this book. Check out our website at www.conqueringdepression.com .
My Darkest Demon: Depression, Part 1
Deep, dark, constricting, suffocating depression.
I had just turned 40. No problem with mid life crisis. I had MLC at 35. Go figure. My wife had planned a special trip to Colorado Springs. We were getting ready to ride the train up Pike’s Peak and my eight year old daughter had a seizure right there in the hotel room. Out lives changed forever.
I had a dream. A multimedia company that would produce Christian drama, music, film, and published works. The Foundation of Inspirational Arts was born but by my 40th birthday, it was in shambles. My dream was dying.
I had been the drama leader for our church drama team for almost four years. During that time, we had gone from two major dramas a year to the following schedule:
- 4 Dinner Theaters
- 4 Sunday Evening Worship Service Full Length Dramas
- 1 Major Easter Pageant/Drama with cast of hundreds
- 1 Halloween themed “Eternity House” with huge special effects and multiple dramas.
- 2 “Saturday Night Alive!” young adult variety shows with live music, videos, and more drama
- A full time youth drama team with two “dinner theater” type productions per year
- A full time children’s drama team with an annual “SNACK at Night” variety program featuring children acting out dramas for other children
- 1 weekend drama festival
- And, of course, the FIA (noted above)
I am a doctor working full time in the field of radiology. I was the vice chairman of the Long Range Planning Committee charged with developing a plan to relocate our church from a neighborhood setting to a major intersection in town, a move that was opposed by 1/4 of the church in a bitter, contentious fight. I am the father of two children both growing at that time age 8 and 11.
Oh, and I was trying to get published. I was successful! A collection of children’s dramas was published by Contemporary Drama (Meriwether Publishing) entitled “Montana Holmes’ Adventures in the Bible”. I made all of $300 advance and was told I would get no royalties because the collection would not sell for long. It was still a best seller 10 years later!
Now, add all of that together. I was a little stressed. I was a little STRESSED!
It was late September. My daughter had her seizure in June and the neurologist said she may never have another seizure. I was walking and a car pulled up. It was the lady from across the street from our house. My daughter had another seizure.
That was a Saturday morning. Saturday night the FIA had a blow out and one of the actresses showed up on my front porch screaming and insanely offended she was not the “main” actress for all of our upcoming productions. Sunday, my best friend and music director chewed me out for putting together a quartet to sing in my place instead of a solo.
It was near midnight and I saw everything crumbling. My dreams were dying. The FIA was over before it started. My publishing career would be over because my days as drama director for my church was over. My daughter had epilepsy. I was a failure as a father, a doctor, a drama director, a writer, a singer, a best friend. You name it. I started pulling my hair out by the roots and sobbing uncontrollably. My wife sat there watching me descend into the deepest, darkest pit of despair I had ever felt in my life. Oh, and there was one other dream that died — a big dream — I cannot talk about.
I felt like a skier at the top of a mountain faced with a pristine slope of fresh snow only to watch it begin to crack and fissure and to feel the snow shifting under my skis and realizing I was at the top of an avalanche and if I didn’t ski fast enough and just right, I would be ground to bits by the churning snow and rock. I fell that night and the avalanche took me and tumbled me and ground me and tore me asunder and left me broken and frozen at the base of the mountain I had been climbing for four years.
I woke up the next morning and I still had my family and my job. But, all of my dreams were gone; dead; stripped away never to return. I was paralyzed with fear and anxiety. I was off from work that week and I stood at the door to my bedroom with my heart racing. My wife had taken the kids to school and gone on to one of her appointments and I was totally alone in the house. I would have to cross the living room to get to the kitchen to get breakfast. And, the foyer was off the living room and there were two tall, slim windows on either side of the front door. What if someone was standing there? They would see me like this! I was so scared and frightened. I ran across the living room and that was the beginning of a week of total panic and fear. My pastor and best friend came by that Monday night and I locked myself in the bedroom. I wouldn’t come out. I couldn’t come out.
I left the house early each morning and drove to a nearby town and wandered the mall all day to avoid seeing anyone I might know. I didn’t know what to do! My life was over!
I talked to my sister that week and she told me I had a problem. Church was my problem and I had developed some bad “Habits” at church. She said, anyone can break a bad habit in 30 days. So, I talked to one of my good friends and made a pact with him that I would take a break from church for six weeks and would return on the first Sunday in November. I left town every weekend and went to visit friends in other cities and went to their churches.
Finally, I sat outside Samaritan Counseling on a cool November evening watching ordinary people walk through the front door of a Victorian era style two story house. I didn’t need this! I could get over this depression! But, I realized something very profound. God had been trying to get my attention and I had been ignoring His voice. I had been holding up all these wonderful things I was doing for God and telling God to go ahead and bless them. But, God had something planned for me and the only way He could get me to do those things was to break me, strip me of all I wanted to do, leave me broken and crushed so that I had no choice but to look up to Him. It was in this realization that my healing began when I surrendered everything I held dear: dreams, hopes, aspirations to God.
And so, I stepped out of my car, walked up those wooden steps and entered that house of healing. Two years later, I was coping and handling life far better than I could ever have imagined. God showed me three things that helped me begin to heal. First, I developed my LifeFilters. I discuss these at length in the book I co-authored with Mark Sutton, “Conquering Depression: A Thirty Plan to Finding Happiness”. Second, I began a daily regimen of Bible reading, prayer, and devotions. Third, I kept a journal. I used “My Utmost for His Highest” devotion journal. Each day, I would read the Bible passage and read the devotion, AFTER I had written down what had happened in my life that day. By “bleeding” all over the page, I was able to confess so much to God and learn to rely on His word. It was amazing how whatever it was I had been through that day was reflected in the Bible passage and the devotion.
Mark Sutton, my pastor at that time, came to me after hearing about LifeFilters and confessed he also suffered from depression. At a lunch at our favorite restaurant, Oxford Street, he asked if I wanted to help him write a book on depression. He would handle the spiritual/counseling portion of the book if I would handle the medical part of the book. We talked about the 30 days it took to break bad habits and decided to break the book down into 30 small steps, one for each day. We also developed more LifeFilters for each day.
I was excited to be a part of this book project because I truly wanted to help anyone suffering from the horrible depression I had been through.
So, that is my story up to that point. Later in the week, I’ll tell the story of getting the book published. It is amazing!!!!
Doubt and Regret: Twin Destroyers of Creativity
What a fantastic day it has been for me. I was so down after getting my galley proofs and realizing I couldn’t make substantial changes anymore and what I was reading was what was going to be in the final book. And then, the electricity was out last night so I got three hours behind on proofing. And so, I had all kinds of bad feelings going to bed. And then, today I read two wonderful blog posts.
Mike Dellosso is the author of “Darkness Follows” a truly frightening and great read and in his post today, he brought up the issue of regrets. Read it and follow the comments. It was, for me, very encouraging.
And then, over on Rabbit Room, what an encouraging post on the power of doubt in an artist’s life. Read it and weep with understanding, compassion, hope, and joy.
A Good Day for a Monday
I have had two exciting things happen today.
First, my galley proofs are in! What is a galley proof?
In the olden days, a book was typeset and placed in trays called galleys. The book was typeset and a copy was printed for proofreading and called the “galley proof”. Any changes that needed to be made were done so before the book was printed in its final form.
And so, I now get to read through the galley proof for “The 13th Demon”. Good news is, I can make sure there are not any glaring mistakes. Bad news is, I will want to rewrite the entire thing!!! That is the curse of being a writer.
Second, I am now on the official blog of Charisma House — Realms Books’ author blog. Check it out:
What is a Hutchmoot?
Check out my guest post on Speculative Faith. I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Pete Peterson of the Rabbit Room about the writer’s gathering known as Hutchmoot.
Demons Anyone? Anyone?
“Listen, I will NEVER read any book with the word ‘demon’ on the cover.”
I looked at my friend in amazement. “Why?”
“Because the Bible says not to practice witchcraft.”
“But, my book is about spiritual warfare. It does not promote witchcraft. There’s nothing about witchcraft in the title.”
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “But, if you read about demons and Satan then you are opening your life to their influence.”
“So, you should just ignore them?”
“Out of sight, out of mind.” He shrugged.
I sat back in my chair. “You were in the Army, weren’t you?”
“Did the Army give you specific training on what to expect when you engaged the enemy?”
He nodded. “Sure. But, that’s different.”
I sat forward and looked him in the eye. “If you were to go to Afghanistan or Iraq and fight on the street, do you think it would be important to have some kind of training and instruction on the manner in which the enemy will engage you in those street fights?”
“So, the only way you can be safe, save your life, and combat the enemy is to know everything you can about them. Agree?”
He seemed to be thinking. I had backed him into a corner. “But, what does that have to do with demons? I’m not going to read that kind of book. It will scare me. It will make me uncomfortable.”
“Which is exactly the response Satan and his army wants you to have towards them. As you said, out of sight, out of mind. Ignore them and they can do whatever they want around you.” I sat back in amazement.
“I’m not going to read a book with demons in it, okay?”
I reached over and pulled my Bible out of my backpack and plopped it, rather irreverently onto my desk. “Then you better throw this book out the window.”
This is the conversation I had just last week with one of my best friends. He jumps out of airplanes. He swims with sharks. He flies in acrobatic aircraft. But, he’s AFRAID to read a book about demons? I’ve run into the attitude more than once in the past few years. Good people refuse to read a book that even mentions Satan and his demons.
Here is the fear. If I read a book about demons, I open myself to demonic influence. Therefore, I will not read anything remotely demonic or scary or Harry Potterish or horrific.
However, the Bible is filled with references to Satan and his demons and how to respond to them. Words like “be wary”, “resist the devil”, “get thee behind me, Satan.” remind us that Jesus did not back off from confronting Satan and his demons. And, I believe, neither should we. How, then, can we combat an enemy we do not understand?
So, what do you think? Is it wrong to read books that utilize Satan or his demons in the storyline? As an author, how would you handle this dilemma? What advice can we, as authors give to readers to reassure them about reading books with demonic presences within them? And, readers out there, why would you read or not read a book with demons in the story?
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