Tag Archives: Depression

Summer of Love

Read Matthew 22:1-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away” (Luke 15:7 NLT)!

Summer has always been a time I have looked forward to. As a child and teenager, summer meant that I was not in school and was free to stay up later than I could during the school year. As an adult, I long for Spring and Summer because those are the happiest times of the year for me. Let me reword that. I long for Spring and Summer because, during those seasons, I am the least depressed.

I am someone who has battled depression and anxiety my entire teenage and adult life. Perhaps I had it earlier than that; however, that is when I became aware of it. My depression and axiety are not gone during the Spring and Summer, heavens no. They’re both very much there; however, the warmth of Spring and the summer sun help to brighten my mood and make my days better than they are during the Fall and Winter.

It turns out that I not only do I have depression and anxiety, but I also have what is known as Season Affect Disorder (SAD), which is depressive disorder where the shorter days and lack of sunlight causes depression. For me, when Fall and Winter approach and the days get darker quicker, that causes my depression to be worse than it otherwise is.

So, as was aforementioned, I have always looked forward to Summer and it is durinng the summer that I get creative and have fun, especially in ministry. One such example of this is the current worship series that I am in the midst of, entitled, Summer of Love. During this series, we have explored what it means to be a part of God’s Kingdom. We learned about what it means to be loving friends, a loving community and even a loving family as a way of witnessing to the love of God as well as inviting more people into God’s Kingdom.

Pastor Todd “warming up” for Sunday Worship!

With a title such as Summer of Love, I had to do something fun and creative and, as far as I could see it, I could only really choose one theme: 60’s Hippies! I was going to decorate the santuary up like it were Woodstock minus some of the inappropriate elements. That means our sanctuary was beautified (in my humble opinion) by tie dye tapestries, wallflowers, peace signs and LAVA LAMPS! YES! We purchased two lava lamps and had them a-flowing during worship. As for me, check out the picture above and the one here as well. I was dressed like a hippie.

It has been maximum fun; however, it also has been a living testimony to the vibrant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Reflecting on my own life and my own personal struggles, I must say that we can live our lives in a perpetual Summer of Love with the help of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is possible and God wants that for you and I.

How, you might ask? Well, by placing our faith and trust in Christ who promised we would never be left alone no matter where in the world we are! No matter your situation, no matter what season in life you are in (literal or metaphorical), Christ is with you and LOVES you. God has placed loving friends, community, and family around you. If you find that you are lacking those things, dig deep to see where they are in your life and also be open to God leading you to those things.

Once you realize God’s love for you, that’s HIGH that is hard to kill and certainly hard to contain. You will want to share that LOVE with others in ways that make them realize their inherent value in God. That is what God calls us to in Christ…to a perpetual summer of love where we are free to express that LOVE as creatively and joyfully we wish to! Friends, God has invited you to a never ending PARTY…who’s ready to join? See ya there!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“All we are saying is give [love] a chance.” – John Lennon, altered by Todd Lattig

PRAYER
Lord, help me to grow in your love so that I might bring others into your Kingdom. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: Guilt-Free Zone

Read Psalm 22:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

grief

As a pastor and a spiritual counselor, I often deal with people who are going through rough times in their lives. Perhaps they have just lost a loved one and are beginning to go through the grieving process. Perhaps they are struggling in their relationships with others or with God. Perhaps they have been separated (for whatever reason) from their loved one(s). Perhaps they are struggling with alcoholism and/or addiction, or perhaps they know and love someone who is. Perhaps they are going through rough times financially or physically and they do not know how to begin to cope with the problems that are piling on top of them.

Whatever the case may be, each of us struggles in life one way or another. There is not a single person in this world who breezes through life without a host of “somethings” weighing them down. Each of us have our own set of struggles that we go through. I personally have suffered from teenage depression, the loss of loved ones, sudden and unexpected unemployment, financial difficulties, relationship struggles, and a whole host of other issues. And there were times I felt so burdened down by the weight of everything that I wondered if I could even carry on.

It is human to question ourselves, our surroundings, our situations and even God when things seem to be pressing down on us and crushing the life out of us. It is natural and human to be angry at God, to cry out from the depths of our soul in despair, to question where God has been in our lives. It is natural and healthy for us to be able to engage God with those questions; however, often times we feel guilty for doing so.

When we get angry at God, when we question why God is allowing stuff to happen to us, and when we begin to wonder if God is even there at all, we often will feel guilty because we feel that such anger, such questioning, and such “doubt” is a sign that our faith is weakening, or that it is a sign we don’t have faith, and that God will somehow hold that against us. We often pressure ourselves into repressing our emotions and shutting ourselves off from asking the questions that we so desperately need to ask.

What I would like to impart to you today is that you DO NOT need to add guilt to your grief. First, I would like to challenge you to rethink the question, “why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Is God “ALLOWING” something to happen or does life happen, with all of its ups and downs, despite what God does or doesn’t want? Second, God is love. God is grace. God is present. Repeat those words to yourself, make them your mantra and trust that God is with you, that God wants NOTHING MORE than for you to have hope, for you to rise up out of the situation you’re in, for you to heal, and for you to experience wholeness.

With that said, you do not need to add guilt to your grief. God doesn’t do guilt; guilt is not from God! It is not only okay for you to express your anger and doubt to God, but God WANTS YOU TO. It is a part of the grieving process, when we are grieving any type of loss or circumstance, and it is necessary to our health. Anger, doubt, and asking God the tough questions does not show a dying faith or a lack of faith; rather, quite the contrary…it shows a STRONG FAITH and a STRONG RELATIONSHIP with GOD.

So fear not, God is with you! Be liberated in the fact that you are not alone in your struggles. That in spirit, and in the lives of those supporting you, GOD IS WITH YOU. Do not add guilt to your grief, for your grief is enough to bear on its own. God is calling out to you through the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, for I will give you rest.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I am with you. I will not fail you or forsake you.” – God (Joshua 1:5)

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for your undying presence in my life and thank you for your listening to me in my times of need. Help me to see when I cannot and to have the peace of your presence when the storms rage on and I feel alone. Amen.

Walls

Read Joshua 6:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Jesus replied, ‘Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!’” (Mark 13:2, NLT)

dungeon-tunnel_0005In my late teens (17-19 years old.), I was rebellious against authorities. This, honestly, is nothing too uncommon. Teenagers are trying to define who they are and what their purpose is. They are able to think for themselves, do things for themselves and yet they are still very much dependent on their parents and/or guardians. Older teens tend to have more and more responsibility put on their heads and at eighteen they are considred responsible enough to hold guns, shoot at people and get shot at in defense of their country; however, they are not considered adult enough to smoke cigarettes, have a beer, and gamble, among other things.

So, it goes without saying that I had a bit of angst toward authorities when I was a teenager. One of the songs that I always related too was Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” I think the lyrics really point to the distrust of the system and the realization that, as much as one wanted to be an individual, we are all becoming “just another brick in the wall.” In an individualist society such as the American society, there can be nothing scarier than realizing that your individuality is more of a ruse, more of an illusion, than it is a reality.

As a teenager dealing with angst toward the system, distrust for the authorities, and a general distrust of my peers, I found myself building walls all around me. I literally boxed myself in and built up walls all around me with the hope that no one could ever break through. In doing so, I literally shut nearly everyone (barring a few people) out of my life.

In effect, by putting up walls, I ended up walling myself in my own personal sepulchre. The result of that can be seen in the following poem I wrote back when I was only seventeen years old:

Visionary Madness

Destruction weighing heavily on my mind,
Confusion restraining my next move.
Darkness seeping into my eyes,
And attacking my vision.

Tormented, twisted paths of the brain,
A deranged, sadistic grin.
Hate distorts my evolution,
With a primitive dream.

Disconcerted by surrounding noises,
Fearing shadows on the wall.
Coughing up bloody solutions,
The vengeance of an angry ulcer.

Destruction, thoughts into action;
Restrained movement, no longer confused.
Blind to my surroundings
From a visionary madness within.

Human beings tend to build walls for all sorts of reasons, but the underlying reason for wall building is fear. I built up walls as a teenager because I was afraid to be vulnerable before my peers and others. I had been picked on and bullied throughout elementary school, was never popular, and had very few friends in High School (especially my freshman and sophmore years). So I built up walls to keep people out and as a result I felt even more isolated, alone, afraid, and vulnerable.

The fact is that walls are built to keep people separate from each other, and when we are separated we can no longer hear each other, see each other, and/or connect with one another. The church is excellent at building up walls. We build them around our theologies, our denominations, human sexuality, sexual identity, gender, religion, doctrine and an endless host of other things.

All those walls do is keep us separated from each other. Today’s challenge is for us to begin tearing down our walls and to reconnect with each other in divine community. To do so is to honor God. So, tear down those walls, commune with one another, and love one another regardless of the cost. That is what being “Christian” is all about.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Walls don’t make us safe; on the contrary, they seal our fate and entomb us.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to shatter the walls I’ve built around me and others. Amen.

Guilt-Free Zone

Read Psalm 22:1-11

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

griefAs a pastor and a spiritual counselor, I often deal with people who are going through rough times in their lives. Perhaps they have just lost a loved one and are beginning to go through the grieving process. Perhaps they are struggling in their relationships with others or with God. Perhaps they have been separated (for whatever reason) from their loved one(s). Perhaps they are struggling with alcoholism and/or addiction, or perhaps they know and love someone who is. Perhaps they are going through rough times financially or physically and they do not know how to begin to cope with the problems that are piling on top of them.

Whatever the case may be, each of us struggles in life one way or another. There is not a single person in this world who breezes through life without a host of “somethings” weighing them down. Each of us have our own set of struggles that we go through. I personally have suffered from teenage depression, the loss of loved ones, sudden and unexpected unemployment, financial difficulties, relationship struggles, and a whole host of other issues. And there were times I felt so burdened down by the weight of everything that I wondered if I could even carry on.

It is human to question ourselves, our surroundings, our situations and even God when things seem to be pressing down on us and crushing the life out of us. It is natural and human to be angry at God, to cry out from the depths of our soul in despair, to question where God has been in our lives. It is natural and healthy for us to be able to engage God with those questions; however, often times we feel guilty for doing so.

When we get angry at God, when we question why God is allowing stuff to happen to us, and when we begin to wonder if God is even there at all, we often will feel guilty because we feel that such anger, such questioning, and such “doubt” is a sign that our faith is weakening, or that it is a sign we don’t have faith, and that God will somehow hold that against us. We often pressure ourselves into repressing our emotions and shutting ourselves off from asking the questions that we so desperately need to ask.

What I would like to impart to you today is that you DO NOT need to add guilt to your grief. First, I would like to challenge you to rethink the question, “why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Is God “ALLOWING” something to happen or does life happen, with all of its ups and downs, despite what God does or doesn’t want? Second, God is love. God is grace. God is present. Repeat those words to yourself, make them your mantra and trust that God is with you, that God wants NOTHING MORE than for you to have hope, for you to rise up out of the situation you’re in, for you to heal, and for you to experience wholeness.

With that said, you do not need to add guilt to your grief. God doesn’t do guilt; guilt is not from God! It is not only okay for you to express your anger and doubt to God, but God WANTS YOU TO. It is a part of the grieving process, when we are grieving any type of loss or circumstance, and it is necessary to our health. Anger, doubt, and asking God the tough questions does not show a dying faith or a lack of faith; rather, quite the contrary…it shows a STRONG FAITH and a STRONG RELATIONSHIP with GOD.

So fear not, God is with you! Be liberated in the fact that you are not alone in your struggles. That in spirit, and in the lives of those supporting you, GOD IS WITH YOU. Do not add guilt to your grief, for your grief is enough to bear on its own. God is calling out to you through the words of Jesus, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, for I will give you rest.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“I am with you. I will not fail you or forsake you.” – God (Joshua 1:5)

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for your undying presence in my life and thank you for your listening to me in my times of need. Help me to see when I cannot and to have the peace of your presence when the storms rage on and I feel alone. Amen.