I have seen the Promised Land

I've been to the mountaintop... and I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 3, 1968

It’s hard to explain. We call it a funk, or depression, or a million other things. And often times, we think we deserve it. We think it is a punishment. We are told it’s because our walk with God is weak, or because we are out from under authority.

Mental health is one of those things that’s not talked about, especially in the church community. But it is very real, and yes it affects Christians. If David, a man after God’s own heart, could write, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.” (Psalm 22:1-2), how are we to say that it is because we are out of fellowship? 

It is a serious thing. It is a dark and lonely thing. But while you pour yourself into the scriptures, fill your heart with songs and spiritual songs, and pray without ceasing, it is still okay to ask for help.

So here it is. I am on medications for depression and anxiety. I meet with a therapist on a regular basis. I have a wife who is understanding and supportive. And I have friends that encourage me. And I encourage them as well. You see, we all experience it. It is a part of life. It is not something we should be ashamed about.

I’ve not been suicidal, but I’ve been close before. Most people assume it started with the cancer, but it’s been around for years before that. It just took me until recent years to get to the place where I would ask for help. And I am so glad I did.

It gets better. It may get worse again after that, but the hope of it getting better is what can keep you going. I have seen the Promised Land. There are two of them: one that will last for eternity and one mortal one that can be life after cancer, depression, whatever you’re going through.  And I know that I will be there again one day. I decided long ago to keep pushing for the good days. There are good days and they are my (mortal) promised land. When the valley is deep and the shadows long, I remember the mountain and the beauty of the promised land. When I have an allergic reaction to the meds and my skin burns like fire, I think about the promised land. When I’m facing down a syringe that I know will cause my body to ache for days, I remember the mountain, and I think of the promised land.

We all work for something. A cure. Being able to go back to work. Being able to start a family. That vision is your promised land. Focus on your promised land. But like the civil rights movement from which I borrow the quote, you’re not going to get there overnight. It’s even more difficult alone. So if you need help, ask for it.

Talk to your doctor. Talk to your friends. Talk to your religious leader. Use the contact page and talk to me. As a friend posted earlier, “If you need help, look for it. It’s there. People want to help you, myself included. You ARE important. You DO matter. This time WILL pass. Depression isn’t a joke and shouldn’t be taken lightly.” You’re not alone. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

Waiting on the LORD

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
This was done for me by my good friend and multi-talented Claire Sanders Calligraphy.

Isaiah 40:31 has long been my favorite verse. From the eagle imagery to the promise we can run and not be weary and walk and not faint, has always spoken and ministered to me. But these promises come with a condition. I can’t go out, register for a marathon, and then claim that I will not grow weary and take off running.

Read moreWaiting on the LORD

On history, memories, and things you’d rather forget

I’ve undertaken a project of late: digitizing and tagging my parents’ old photo albums. Part of it is quite the walk down memory lane. But with all the smiles, laughter, and fond recollections, some of them have a dark shadow too. We live in an era of omnipresent selfies, snapshots, and video streams. These images are curated and often manipulated into a false perception of reality for public consumption. The outtakes are deleted, leaving the illusion of perfection. But perfect was a bit more fleeting during the days of film. You had to wait and see what you had, and hope some of them were worth sharing.

Read moreOn history, memories, and things you’d rather forget

Traditions, tiny hamburgers, and a drive through the country

Many years ago, a Dublin Irish football player would leave practice to head downtown for some 10¢ hamburgers. I’ve never been told how many teammates accompanied him, but I can’t imagine there were many. There simply isn’t room in the establishment. These burgers, what we would today call sliders, were as small as the building that begat them. But these are not normal sliders, burgers, or even as some have called them  knock off Krystals. This delicacy of steamed beef and bread evolved from a snack for a hungry high schooler to become inextricably linked to what it means to be a part of my family.

Read moreTraditions, tiny hamburgers, and a drive through the country