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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Miscellany

I haven’t posted on my website in a while. It is because I’m working so hard on my other website, conqueringdepression.com. The release of our new book is just around the corner and I’ve been busy with social media and tweaking our blogs.

I just finished writing a scathing review of self-publishing companies and decided it was SO negative, I couldn’t go through with it. I’ll just say this. Self publishing companies make their money up front and if you fail, they still succeed. This is the win/lose scenario and many times we are the other end of that equation. So, beware.

I do have faithful readers waiting for book number 4 in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles. I plan on working on it in September and finishing up a re-edit now that I don’t have to worry about the word limits imposed on me in the first two books. But, I still don’t know how this fourth book will reach my readers. I am considering starting my own independent publishing endeavor. For what I’ve spent on self-publishing I could have released my next three books on my own with stellar independent editing and a killer book cover. So, don’t despair. You haven’t seen the end of Jonathan Steel. I’m just getting started on his story and the fourth book promises to up the stakes considerably!

For the next three weeks, check out our daily content at conqueringdepression.com.

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The Clock Strikes Twelve!!!!

I came home late this evening. Darkness had already fallen and charcoal clouds churned across the sky against a new moon. My loved ones had left the light on for me so I could see to get into my home. So tired from a15 hour day at work, I could barely hold my head up as I slumped out of the car and trudged toward the front door. I paused to fish my keys out of my pocked and looked up to see this:

IMG_0920Don’t blink!

If you don’t know what that means; if you didn’t get a chill down your spine just then how can I explain my incredible excitement over the events of this coming weekend?

I kept my eyes on the weeping angel and I DID NOT BLINK! I made it through the door and locked it behind me only to turn around and find something evil; something vile; something foul waiting for me in the foyer!

IMG_0919

Okay, so this Dalek is a little bloated and overweight. Maybe too much rock salt! It seemed to be dormant so I made my way around him and looked in the kitchen. No one was there. The house was empty. Even Romeo was gone! Where could they be?

I slowly made my way to the bedroom, making sure not to wake up the sleeping Dalek and this is what I found:

IMG_0922

So, that explains it! Well, I won’t have to wait for Saturday to meet the twelfth doctor! He’s waiting for me along with my friends and family. And, not to worry! It’s bigger on the inside! Don’t miss the new doctor Saturday night! We’ll see you in the TARDIS! I hope he didn’t redecorate!

Second Star to the Right . . .

Granny Wendy: So… your adventures are over.

Peter Banning: Oh, no. To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.

It was January, 1992 and I was lost and alone in Los Angeles. In looking for the hospital hosting my radiology meeting I had somehow ended up in East L.A. a most unsavory and dangerous place. In the days before GPS, I had to rely on a map and somewhere I had made a wrong turn. I said a silent prayer for safety and slowly made my way through the prostitutes and drug dealers converging on my vehicle. God was with me that day and I made it safely out of that area of the city and found my destination. At the end of the meeting that evening, I hit the interstate and headed back toward my hotel on the grounds of Disneyland. There, I would be safe and protected from the harsh world of reality I left behind. There, I would find magic. And, I desperately needed some magic in my life.

Even though I had only reached my mid thirties, a deep and darkening oppression eclipsed the California sun. My wife and two small children were tucked safely at home back in Louisiana and this country boy was a stranger in a strange land. I could not shake the feeling of dread and depression as the days passed even though I was staying just across the street from the “Happiest Place on Earth”.

peterpanAnd so, I decided to go see a movie. Just down the street in Anaheim I entered the darkened theater and sat through a showing of “Hook”, Steven Spielberg’s dedication to all things Peter Pan. And, in that movie, I found something deeply disturbing. I found myself. The character of Peter Banning, once the young, impulsive Peter Pan, had grown older and his self absorbed exterior of narcissism and type A behavior was disturbingly familiar to me. In one telling scene on an airplane, he chastises his son:

Peter Banning: (To his son, Jack) Jack, my word is my bond.

Jack: Yeah, junk bonds! [Jack hits the ceiling door in the plane with his ball, and causes the oxygen masks to drop down and scare Peter half to death]

Peter Banning: What in the hell’s the matter with you? When are you gonna stop acting like a child?

Jack: [laughs] I am a child.

Peter Banning: Grow up.

I did not realize it at the time, but I was already descending into the shadow world of depression. In just three years, I would spiral downward, every downward into complete and utter self destruction. By 1995 I would experience a total meltdown.

I bring this up because the actor who played Peter Banning was, of course, Robin Williams. To say I, like many in the world, was greatly disturbed by Robin Williams’ suicide is an understatement. Robin Williams was one of the funniest men in the world. His frenetic and manic antics made so many of us laugh. But, I knew, I just knew what was really going on inside that head. I knew because I have many of the same inclinations as Robin Williams. He has spoken many times about his depressive episodes and how he used his laughter to cover up the tears. Unlike Robin Williams, I was blessed to never fall into the world of addiction. But, I did find myself face to face with the specter of self imposed destruction.

Recently, someone very close to me heard the voice of destruction. I cannot share who this person is, but they shared with me how they heard a voice as if someone were sitting on their shoulder and urging them to hurt themselves. We discovered that this inclination was due to medication. And, thankfully, once the medication was changed those voices lessened and hopefully, will go away.

I have heard it said you should always “follow your heart”. But, I want to caution anyone about listening to emotions. Emotions are temporary. They change like the seasons of the year or the angle of the sun during the day. Our “heart” can often hear the voice of our emotions and we should be very careful what we listen to. In our previous book, “Conquering Depression” Mark Sutton and I have spoken often about the danger of making major decisions based on emotions. If my dear loved one mentioned above had acted on those voices, those emotions, the outcome would have been catastrophic.

I saw a Tweet about Robin Williams. It showed another famous character of his, the Genie from Aladdin. An image showed the Genie hugging Aladdin and the words reflected the idea that as the Genie, Robin was finally “free”.

Let me caution anyone very carefully, as I am sure Robin Williams’ family would, that contemplating self destruction is never the best answer for gaining “freedom”. There is a lie here that death is somehow a better alternative than living everyday with emotional pain. Remember, emotions change and they can BE changed. Mark and I will soon be releasing our new book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”. What has amazed us over and over are the testimonials of those who read our previous book and felt that it “saved” their lives. Something in our book changed their emotional outlook.

I mean, how can you even wrap your brain around that outcome! Something I experienced; something I worked through with the help of God and my family and friends; something I endured in spite of the voices calling for me to give into the terminal darkness; something I managed to write about — to bleed all over the page — to bear my soul has helped someone in their moments of utter despair? Thank you God for allowing me to have that outcome. And, God I pray now for anyone who is feeling the heavy hand of self destructive emotions and I pray for every family touched by suicide for peace and understanding and the strength to endure.

For, I believe anyone can find hope again. I will miss Robin Williams. I am sorry his pain was so unendurable that he chose the path he did. For those of us left behind struggling with a world that seems absolutely insane; a world that makes no sense at times and yet, a world that still has moments of peace, tranquility, and hope — my prayer for you is that you NEVER make major life changing decisions in the heat of your emotions. Pause. Pray. Think. And reach out to someone for help!

This blog post will appear on our Conquering Depression website. And, we have not spoken about our current book on that website because the new book is coming out. But, if you need help now — please seek it. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your family. Talk to your friend. Buy a copy of “Conquering Depression” and use the LifeFilters. It’s only about $10 and then, you can pick up the new book in September. But, don’t wait for help. Get it now!

To Robin Williams’ family I say thank you for sharing this incredible man’s talents with the world. I close with another quote from “Hook” — a movie that made me see that I had to become a child again and see the world through the eyes of my children:

Peter Banning: [sees Tinkerbell on the Peter Pan statue] Tink!

Tinkerbell: Say it, Peter. Say it and mean it.

Peter Banning: I believe in fairies.

Tinkerbell: You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming?

[Peter nods]

Tinkerbell: That’s where I’ll always love you… Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.

We all need to believe in something. If you have followed my blog and if you check out our new website, you know Who we believe in! And, He is waiting to give you hope again!

Conquer Depression and Find Hope Again!

I have good news and bad news!HopeAgain_04

Bad news first!

We are experiencing an epidemic of depression in the United States. That shouldn’t be a surprise! What is really worrisome is the level of depression among our “millennials”, those who are between 20 and 30 years of age!

In February, 2001 Mark Sutton, my former pastor and co-author and I were privileged to publish our book, “Conquering Depression: A 30 Day Plan for Finding Happiness”. Within a few months, the world would change forever with the events of 9/11. In the years since our book came out, we have seen it become a “strong backlist seller”. What that means in publishing lingo is this was a book that wouldn’t die! Publishers give books about a two year shelf life unless they end up on the best seller lists. Our book never made it to the best seller list but it just kept on selling.

Why?

First, there are no good practical books on depression for Christians. Trust me. I know. When I went though my depression back in the late 1990’s the only books I could find were far too clinical and used “case studies”. Frankly, it was like trying to read a textbook! When you are depressed the LAST thing you are able to do is to read a textbook! Read the rest of this entry

Guardians of Imagination!

la-et-ct-projector-guardians-of-the-galaxy-get-001I sat in a dark theater embraced by the cool dankness waiting for what was promised as a miracle. I had suffered through the drought of science fiction films from 1968’s 2001 and Planet of the Apes until the late seventies and this movie promised to end that drought. I doubted it. No one had any idea of how to make good science fiction movies anymore. Spielberg had approached that possibility with Jaws, but it wasn’t really a scifi movie. Would this obscure George Lucas deliver?

I sat slack jawed, weepy eyed and stunned through my first viewing of Star Wars. In 1977 the scrolling introduction mentioned something about a “new hope” but I had no idea this would be the fourth installment in what would become six films. I just knew that everything had changed and nothing would ever be the same again. Over the next 12 months, I returned to my local cinema (this was in the days before VHS so movies would stay in the theater for months) and watched Star Wars over 33 times. Sometimes, I would show up in the middle and watch to the end. Sometimes I would watch until the trash compacter scene. It was pure scifi addiction.

In the years that followed, the movie studios tried to reproduce Lucas’ achievement and failed. Star Wars knock offs proliferated but they never got it right. What made this movie work so well?

First, Lucas just dropped us smack into the middle of a galaxy far, far away. He did not explain the alien lifeforms, the planets, or even the politics. He allowed me, the moviegoer, to join him in the work of figuring out the backstory and setting. He trusted me to figure out the story without having to feed it to me. This was classic “show, don’t tell”.

Second, he created characters who were real and stand alone and defied stereotypes (Leia was the first female action movie figure instead of a typical damsel in distress) and at the same time had enough of the scifi tropes in their personalities that there was a sense of familiarity. Take the cliche and adopt and adapt it.

Third, he used classic storytelling elements — a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Fourth, he created moments of hilarious humor followed by deeply moving emotional moments. The scene where Luke gazes over the dead, burning bodies of his foster parents and then looks away in disgust is still simple yet emotionally gut wrenching.

Fifth, he gave us the Laurel and Hardy comedy pair in the droids. One of them was over the top silly and the other silent and subversively serious. R2D2, would save the day always with his hidden talents.

As I have watched the stories unfold regarding this new movie, “Guardians of the Galaxy” I began to sense the same kind of potential. Here was a movie based on a very obscure Marvel comic book line. There would be no familiar characters from the rest of the Marvel Universe. And, there would be no anchor of familiarity with the galactic civilization in which this story was based. But, I knew, in my heart and in my soul and in my mind this movie could be another “Star Wars”. I could only hope and I think I was right.

I took my daughter, Casey and our friend, Lisa to the first showing last night. There were no scrolling narratives at the beginning but the opening 5 minutes were some of the most gut wrenching introductions to a movie I have seen since J. J. Abrams killed off James T. Kirk’s father in “Star Trek”. Wow, I was stunned at the depth of this scene and I knew, I just knew that this movie would play off of that opening scene and if it pulled that off, it had to be great.

I laughed. I laughed some more until it hurt! I clapped with joy. And, I wept more than once. All of those classic elements from the original Star Wars were there but in their own, unique and singular fashion. The musical score from the 70s and 80s was perfect. I found myself singing along as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord mimics Karaoke with a handheld critter. Don’t ask. It was brilliant! And, the comic team of a certain genetically enhanced raccoon and his friend,  a walking plant took the relationship with C3PO and R2D2 to a new level. In fact, everything about this movie was familiar. But everything about this movie was totally foreign and different. They pulled off one of the most daring and risky moves in recent history.

I predict Guardians will make the most money of any of the recent Disney/Marvel movies. I predict that moviegoers, like me will go and see it over and over and over to enjoy every nuanced line, every missed moment because our eyes were watering with joy, laughter, or sorrow. I predict Guardians will usher in another round of wannabes, but they will be pale reflections.

I was concerned about the future of space opera scifi when Disney announced new episodes of Star Wars. But, the team from Marvel that worked with the team from Disney has created such an epic, classic movie with Guardians I am now in eager anticipation. I can’t wait until I can sit down in front of a dark screen and listen for that familiar fanfare and see that scrolling intro to J. J. Abrams’ next Star Wars installment. The fact that Marvel/Disney has reached out to young, enterprising directors who think outside the box for the next few Star Wars movies as well as these wonderful Marvel movies gives me hope that imagination is new again; that nostalgia has been resurrected and given a new hope, a new skin for future generations.

I cannot give Guardians of the Galaxy enough positive stars. It was fantastic, fun, moving, exhilarating, alien, bizarre but the most satisfying movie experience I have had in many years. Go see it and bring lots of tissue. You’ll be laughing so hard you’ll cry and then you’ll be crying so hard you’ll laugh!

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