Monday, March 31, 2008

Help in the Pit

Many thanks to you who have prayed for the situation regarding my mother and sent messages. Though she remains in the deep pit of her depression, God's sustaining graces have been evident to me.

At the risk of blogging too often or too much about this experience, I thought I might offer some key resources the Lord has helped me with through this time. Never did I imagine a few years ago I would spend so much time in psychiatric hospitals or be confronted with decisions about medications and ECT. Yet apparently these decisions are before more and more Americans.

According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, adult use of antidepressants almost tripled between the periods of 1988-1994 and 1999-2000, with ten percent of women 18 and older and four percent of men taking them. Americans spend 86 billion dollars annually on antidepressants alone. So it is likely you know someone who is taking common antidepressants such as Prozac or Lexapro, or antipsychotics such as Zyprexa. I am aware of several people who have even had their family doctor, during fairly routine appointments, offer to write a prescription for antidepressants after making some expression regarding their emotional state. Despite the rise in medications and treatments, the number of Americans reported as suffering from depression is also on the rise, with nearly 19 million Americans estimated to have it. So I imagine you are dealing with it in one place or another.

If the only ones you listen to are doctors (particularly psychiatrists), the media, or the patients themselves speaking about medications and treatments, you can begin to think that the use of antidepressants is an exact science. However, that is far from the case. Why not check out the following resources to approach it from a more Biblical perspective?
  • Psychobabble - This book by Dr. Richard Ganz, former clinical psychiatrist turned pastor, addresses the modern practice of psychology from both his experience (which is fascinating) and more importantly from the Scriptures.
  • Spiritual Depression - Though nearly forty years old, this book by Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, a former medical doctor turned pastor, is a wonderful treatise on dealing with the soul. Since I have blogged on this before, you can go here if you want more of a review.
  • Blame It on the Brain? - Dr. Edward Welch, whose doctoral work was on brain physiology, in his books addresses many social ills from the Scriptures while exposing the underlying worldview of secular approaches to counseling. He is always clear and practical.
  • St. Anne's Public House, an audio/internet magazine addressing cultural issues from a Christian perspective, did an issue on psychiatric drugs that you can listen to here. The interviews with experts are extremely informative and, without being completely "anti-medication," point out the problems with the modern approach to treating mental illness.
  • One of the psychiatrists interviewed is Dr. Peter Breggin. Though not a Christian, Dr. Breggin has practiced for over forty years and does not prescribe common medications. His website has many helpful resources and shows the harmful impact of these medications on both the physiology and psychological well-being of people.
If you know of others, please feel free to share them.

However, be warned that I reserve the right to delete. Sadly, many in the pit of depression have fallen even further, with the cure becoming worse than the original problem. When dealing with issues of the soul of deeply troubled people, we must take special care not to put stumbling blocks before people.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Love Never Fails

Tending to the situation regarding my mother has kept me from several extracurriculars the past three weeks, of which blogging is one. However, yesterday I was able to bring her back to her assisted living home. Thank you to all who have prayed and/or written, as it has encouraged me. Though my mom remains much the same, she promised not to run away again so we hope that will be the case. A blog is brewing on lessons the Lord is teaching me from this, but I don't have time to pull it together now.

Instead, how about a few nuggets of some of the encouragements and even laughs God has sent our way even in the midst of struggle?


We are entering into the active phase now of our Hope for Eternity Outreach that will be held the last week of April. Our featured newsletter on the theme of "Heaven & Hell" is at the printers, and we'll be distributing it in neighborhoods over the next few weeks and sending people to it at our website. As you can see in the pictures, two billboards have gone up already that seek to use common questions or misconceptions to create interest, and two more will soon follow. Lord willing, a large banner should hang from the side of our building announcing it this next week. Efforts at community bridging have been encouraging, as a number of families attended a family dinner we hosted last week. We took a step of faith regarding the financing of this outreach, and the Lord has already provided almost all of the extra funding needed. Seeing the Lord answer prayer gives joy as He promised (John 16:24), and we are growing in our longing to see fruit borne. Already this has helped us as a people to be more active in our witnessing.


Just discovered this morning my son Trevor is now taller than me by half an inch. We had just measured him no more than six weeks ago and that was not the case! Hopefully the extra height will help him as he plays basketball next Monday down at Conseco Fieldhouse for the Indiana Christian Basketball Alliance's all-star game. All I know is that I'll keep pointing out that cross-stitch hanging on his bedroom wall from my Aunt Barbara that used to hang in mine as a boy: "A father is someone you look up to no matter how tall you grow."


This past Lord's Day we celebrated the resurrection by having the baptism of a young lady from our college ministry whose testimony of transformation we have watched happen over the past months, so that was exciting. Meditating on how Christ was Raised for Our Justification from Romans 4:25 and observing the other sacrament of the Lord's Supper were especially strengthening.


My good friend Keith Magill sent me an e-mail that addressed me as "Very." Amused, I noted fifteen minutes later he sent an apology, saying his voice technology had heard my name incorrectly. Of course I could not let that go, so I sent him the following:

Deer Teeth,

Know prop phlegm. Eye under sand.


Bear E


Last Friday night I spoke to the Purdue college ministry of the Lafayette church on love in personal ministry, particularly sharing the lessons God has taught me through the life of Bill Scott. Bill is an elderly member of our church who was a former Rescue Mission resident and a double amputee. He is currently in a hospital in Lafayette, and after hearing about Bill several students went on Saturday and Sunday and sang psalms to him. Bill was actually despondent and had been saying he wanted to die to the nurses on Saturday, but Sunday after these times and some help eating by deacon Jason Camery his spirits have revived. The nurses spoke of how they and other patients were uplifted by the young people's singing, and a visit yesterday found Bill still somewhat disoriented but smiling and interacting more. Love never fails!


Certainly God's love never fails. Thank you for these reminders, O Lord!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Coming Down from the Mountain

From February 28 through March 1, I attended the annual meeting of our presbytery in Orlando, Florida. Though I must honestly confess that I normally have a fleshly aversion to these all day, dawn-to-dusk-plus meetings, last week's presbytery was an exciting affair. A few highlights:
  • Several pastoral candidates preached, and each message was as crisp and clear as the Florida sunshine. Jason Camery, an intern in our congregation, did an outstanding job. It is a joy to see the Lord raising up men for the ministry.
  • Many encouraging reports were given from congregations who are seeing the Lord's blessing upon them. Some of our more rural congregations who have gone through periods of dryness are seeing new families and opportunities; three congregations are building or have found better facilities to house their expanding ministries; our two newest works have gifted men establishing them and seeing fruit; even two very old, small works whose future is uncertain were given the careful attention and respect they deserve.
  • Dr. Roy Blackwood, founder of the Second RPC of Indianapolis and one whose vision has led to the establishment of churches throughout our presbytery, resigned so that he might give more care to his wife. Friday evening a touching memorial that included a reception and sharing memories of his influence by the presbyters was held. As one of "Roy's Boys," it strengthened me as I was reminded of the privilege of knowing this man whose vision and love have helped me profoundly.
As we enter into presbytery, we constitute our meetings in prayer and sing psalms that remind us that Christ is the King of Zion. These meetings by representatives of the church are times spent with Christ on His holy mountain, the New Jerusalem. I could not help but think of how like Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, we were allowed to see and share in the glory of Christ during this time.

However, upon my return home, I was also reminded of what happened as soon as the disciples came off the mountain with Christ. They were immediately confronted with the brokenness of this world as a man brought to them a lunatic son who threw himself into fire and water (see Matthew 17:9-20). On Sunday night my mom, whose struggle with depression I have chronicled before (see "On Depression" or "Mourning atop a Blue-Green Hill"), ran away from her assisted living apartment. She is absolutely certain she hears people talking about her, plotting to arrest her for staying in her apartment, and no amount of talking or reassuring her will convince her otherwise. So she keeps a bag packed all the time, and this weekend decided it was time to go. Fortunately some unidentified man saw her walking alongside the road and brought her back in his truck. These last two days have been spent trying to reason with her, working with the staff, making yet another one of the endless adjustments to her medication, and deciding on her future care.

Why share this? Why tell you of how helpless I feel? Why take such a personal matter and make it known? Two reasons. First, to warn you to believe. Having watched my mom descend into the pits of depression over the past twenty years, and having been her chief caretaker the last three, more than ever I believe the ultimate cause of these things is her inability to believe in the gospel. Over and over through those years she has hardened herself to the proper response to God's offer of forgiveness and life, quietly but stubbornly and persistently rejecting what has been offered to her. In turning to pills to deal with the anguish of her soul (even as new research is raising questions over the effectiveness of clinical drugs in treating depression), she abused them and her mind has been so altered that it has become the playground of demons. If you have anyone in your life heading toward this hellhole, warn them to seek the Christ who can take even demoniacs and put them in their right mind.

The other reason? To plead with you to pray. When the disciples asked why they could not drive the demon out of the boy, Jesus rebuked them for the littleness of their faith. He then said with faith as small as a mustard seed, they could say to "this mountain" to move, and it would move, for nothing in Him was now impossible. Could it be that rather than just a simple proverbial statement, the mountain to which Jesus was pointing to was the one they had just come from? Could it be that He was saying the glory they had just witnessed up there, through faith and prayer, is now mobile and would come down to the rest of the earth? So even as I am tempted to give up, might I ask that you pray earnestly that my strength would be renewed and that God's glory would come down?