I’m facing major surgery on December 4th. That’s just three days short of the anniversary of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Whenever this time of year approaches, I jump into full Christmas mode beginning on November 1. But, this year will be different. Christmas celebration for us will be dialed back a bit.
So, I have already put up our “Homecoming Tree”. It is not yet decorated and sits in our living room waiting for its mantle of shiny decorations. This year, Sherry has decided to dig out all of our vintage Precious Moments decorations. Some of these date back 40 years! Decorating the tree will be quite nostalgic!
I guess it is fitting that this is the year I release my novelization of “The Homecoming Tree”, a play I wrote and directed at Brookwood Baptist Church in 2005. In looking back through my photographs of that play, I found one of my father. Sean, my son, took those photos on black and white film and when we developed them, yes, developed them — not digital, the developing process left artifacts on the photographs. These artifacts resembled what you would see on a genuine old film. Here is the photograph of my father as he is looking up at the set for the play.Read the rest of this entry
Plan on coming to our Conquering Depression Seminar at Brookwood Baptist Church on Saturday, November 17th from 8:30 to Noon. I and Mark Sutton will be talking about depression based on our book “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”. You can go to this link for information and registrations: Link
I was alone in the dark bedroom. I had pulled the sheet and blanket up over my head to shut out the world. I wanted no light; no sound; not even a speck of floating dust to touch me. I wanted to not BE.
Pain so bad it took my breath away filled every fiber of my being. Not physical pain. Emotional pain. And fear, yes there was fear. If I could just shut the world out for a few moments I might find some relief from this pain. Perhaps I could sleep? Probably not. Often elusive, sleep came for me with great difficulty and even if I did manage to slip into a sleeping state I knew it would not be restful. Because the dreams waited for me. Vivid, realistic, outlandish dreams. Read the rest of this entry
Sherry and I are in the Orlando area this week celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary. We first came to Orlando in October, 1980 for our honeymoon and we’ve been coming back to Walt Disney World for the last 34 years.
People ask me why I come to Disney World so many times. Doesn’t it get old? Don’t you grow tired of it? Haven’t you seen everything you can see? Let me tell you a story.
A father took his two girls to an amusement park every Sunday afternoon after church. The amusement park sat on the coast in California. But, the father was not happy about his experience. The location was windy and dirty and wet. The attractions were seedy and broken down half the time. The grounds were unkept and weedy with trash blowing everywhere. The workers were, well let’s just say somewhat undesirable to be around children!
The father would sit on a rickety bench and watch his girls riding the carousel and he wish he could join them. And so, this father began to dream. After all dreaming was his business! What if there was an amusement park that was clean and bright with gorgeous landscaping. What if the workers were right out of a Hollywood movie — clean and costumed and playing the “role” of a kind, considerate person who would make you feel like you and you alone were the most important person in the world? What if the attractions were safe, high quality, and most importantly, allowed families to enjoy the attraction TOGETHER? And, what if the amusement park was every changing and improving over time so that families could return again and again and never get bored?
That father was Walt Disney and the rest of his story is history. He went back to his studios and quickly drew up a plan for such a park in the studio’s parking lot. By the time he was finished, as was his nature, he began to think bigger and bigger. Disney’s “folly” as it was called opened in July, 1955 as Disneyland and changed the world.
This is why Sherry and I continue to go back. It is a place that is clean, high quality, magical, and restive. Also, we have good friends in the area and we have always loved Florida in general.
We are here this week and this weekend. If you are in the Orlando area, Mark Sutton and I will be signing our book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” on Saturday, September 27 from 1 to 3 PM. Come see us! We’d love to meet you!
This is the week our new book on depression launches. There are two events so check them both out.
Our book launch is Friday night and snacks and coffee are complimentary. Also, if you want copies of my Jonathan Steel Chronicles, they will be available at special prices along with complimentary tee shirts.
BUT, if you can’t make it Friday:
And, here is another perk. If you are one of the first 15 buyers for Hope Again, you will receive a complimentary copy of our Deluxe LifeFilters. (Additional sets can be purchased at the Well ONLY on Friday for $5). All others buyers will receive a complimentary set of our regular LifeFilters.
We’ll see you there!!!!
First formal announcement.
Mark Sutton and I will be at the Well, the coffee shop/bookstore of Brookwood Baptist Church on Friday night, September 19th from 6:30 to 8 PM. We will be signing copies of our new book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression” and the first 15 purchasers will receive a set of Deluxe LifeFilters. All others will receive a complementary copy of standard LifeFilters.
Mark and I will be sharing our story about this incredible opportunity to update our depression book. Snacks are complementary. AND, if you didn’t make my book launch for “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” back in December with the ice storm, I’ll have copies of all 3 books available for purchase at this event only.
BUT, don’t forget to support our local Lifeway Store. They don’t hold book signings very often and they are allowing us to hold a book signing the next day, Saturday September 20th from 1 to 3 PM. Even if you show up Friday night, come by and say hello or send a friend to the book signing. We will be again giving away 15 sets of Deluxe LifeFilters to the first 15 buyers.
AND, if you are in the Orlando area the next Saturday, September 27th, we will be signing books at the Orlando Lifeway Christian Store from 1 to 3 PM!
Make your plans NOW!!!!
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”.
And 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?
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!
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.
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
Summer is here along with the heat and humidity. I wrote in my last post that soon I will launching a website dedicated to depression and our new upcoming book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan For Conquering Depression”. So, I dug through my previous posts and found this little story I wrote for the now defunct website, Posterous. It is set in the dead of winter, a reflection of the cold, dead feeling one can experience with depression. But, it is a story of hope!
Awake My Soul
I do not move.
I am quiescent and still.
Movement for me is pain. Life is pain.
The trees outside are harsh and bare. Winter has stripped them of vigor and life. Gray fingers claw at the even grayer sky. Even the clouds do not move. The air is still. No wind. No breeze. No life.
My daughter has placed me here on the porch. I feel the sting of cold on my cheeks but I can ignore it. I have ignored all feeling for months now. Since Tom died, I have had no reason to move.
My daughter has wrapped a scarf around my neck and tucked it into the woolen sweater Tom gave me last year for Christmas. I can still smell him on it when I choose to acknowledge my sense of smell.
The air is so cold, it numbs my face. The numbed is numbed even more.
“Why is she out there on the porch?” That is my son-in-law inside the warm house.
“I’m tired of her, Richard. I can’t take this anymore.” My daughter has tears in her voice. I cannot feel them. I cannot touch them. The tears mean nothing to me.
“She’ll freeze to death.” Richard says.
“That’s the idea.”
There is a profound silence. And then, subdued sobbing; quiet, subtle.
A white flake shimmies down the still air and lands on my nose. I choose not to feel it melt. So intricate, so beautiful in its design — one of a kind — it dies on my cold skin. It dies on the already dead. For, she has left me to die out here alone; cold; still; frozen.
The sliding door opens behind me and a waft of warm air bathes the back of my head. I cannot feel it on my neck for the scarf. Richard’s shadow falls over me from the lights inside the house; lights that try in vain to chase away the gray.
“You’ll have to forgive your daughter, Mom.” He says behind me. “She is very frustrated and wants to leave you out here to die.”
“I’m already frozen.” I whisper and he leans over me. His breath touches my forehead.
“Did you say something?”
“I’m already frozen.” I said more strongly. “Let me finish dying.”
My lips pull apart and I realize they have frozen together. I feel the pain as the first real sensation I have experienced in months.
Richard squats beside my wheelchair and for a second, I choose to notice the strong profile of his face; his angular cheekbones; his gently stubbled chin; his clear eyes. He is watching the trees.
“Winter is hard for all of us, Mom. Spring is coming. I want to tell you a secret. It is a deep and abiding secret that no one can know.”
More flakes are falling now and caressing my cheeks. I choose not to feel their gently touch. One lands on my cornea and I blink involuntarily. I must not do that again. But, try as a I might to ignore his statement, the attraction is there. What secret is he talking about?
“What secret?” My voice is a bare whisper.
“Virginia is stressed out because we have chosen to take a journey. It is a long and tedious journey and we will be gone for weeks. She doesn’t know what to do with you during that time. She can’t leave you alone. And, she isn’t going to leave you out here to die.” His breath streams away from him, a living thing full of warmth and moisture and the snowflakes eddy and swirl.
“Rawanda. In Africa. There is a little girl. She needs a family.” He turns his head to me and his gaze is full and hot on my face. Tears mingle with the snowflakes. “She needs to know her grandfather. She needs to know what he was like. Only you can tell her that.”
Another snowflake hits my eye and melts. The moisture runs along my eyelid and I feel a hot tear trickle down my cheek. No! I cannot let this happen! I cannot feel!
“Will you come with us to Rawanda? Will you come with us to get your granddaughter?” His eyes are full and round and wet and the snow is covering his bare head, peppering his shoulders.
I feel something deep within stir from a slumber of unforgiving anger and frustration. The black dregs of my depression begin to drift away as the warmth stokes itself in my heart. No! I want to scream. No! I want to hold onto the stillness; the inertia; the coming of winter’s death. I try to ignore Richard’s gleaming eyes and his warm breath and when I subtly avert my gaze a flash of bright red burns my retinas. A lone flower dares to challenge the grayness from my camellia bush. The snow flakes are covering it now and it wants to be seen; it wants to look upward to the hidden sun for life and warmth; it wants to live.
The chair creaks; the ice breaks across my knees and I push, push, push up and out of the heaviness of my crypt of sorrow and I stumble to the flower. I brush away the snow with shaking hands and my tears anoint the petals with life. With life!
Awake my soul!
I turn to my son-in-law who is standing with his mouth wide open and the snow covering his head and my daughter stumbles through the open door with her hands pressed to her tear streaked face and I feel the ice crack as I smile. “When do we leave?”