Friday, July 31, 2009

It is NOT a way out! At All!

O My Soul:

Six years ago, you said suicide made sense but it was not for you.

That scared the daylights out of me, but I'll leave that for another post.

However, today, on my day off, after two large funerals in one week...I have a gentleman who called me in deep sorrow and tears this morning. It's a long history but I'm spending my day putting together a plan with the local doctor and police officer to intervene if necessary. May he continue to talk. May he voluntarily get help. May he live through the weekend. And let it be known that he's scaring the daylights out of me.

O Lord, out of the depths I cry to you on behalf of this man and this congregation, do not count our iniquities against us but grant us forgiveness so that we may stand as our souls wait for the morning (Psalm 130) for Your mercies are new every morning (Lam 3) in the name of Jesus. Amen.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book Review

O My Soul:

Well, well! On your first read you arrogantly dismissed the Rev. Todd Pepperkorn's book entitled

I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression

I thought, "That doesn't sound so bad." But I am clinically depressed and haven't read a complete book in over year, let alone analyze the content of one. Nor do I yet fully grasp what has been happening to me.

So I began digesting this hundred page gem - sentence by sentence and half chapter by half chapter - to completion.

My wife exclaimed after she read Chapter Two: The Place of the Family, "So that is what is happening to us!" Dad's growing anger and both emotional and physical withdrawal from her and our three children.

Through the fog of my depression, a new view of the last twenty-five years began to emerge. Teenage depression in the 1980's triggered by divorcing parents. The severe recurrence of that depression while cutting my teeth as a pastor on the foreign mission field in the 2000's. (But, hey, the 1990's weren't so bad:) Anyway, the Reverend Pepperkorn's description of his descent into mental illness is helping me become aware of my own descent into that "ghastly landscape called clinical depression" as described in the introduction by Dr. Beverly Yahnke.

Chapter One addresses the Build Up to the Fall. Chapter Three reviews The Early Signs That Things Were Wrong. The fear of anti-depressant medication is discussed in Chapter Four: The Pill That Marked Me. The rest of the book describes one husband/dad/pastor's journey to a healing that most depressed people never experience due to nothing but a crushing fear that has the capacity to suck the life-breath out of you. In fact, suicide is the topic in Chapter Nine: Thinking the Unthinkable.

The take home message is that Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant, does not forsake His people. He is near you. His death is for you. He provides doctors, psychologists, pastors, family and friends to deliver His care and cure to you.

Are you the spouse or friend of a mentally ill soul? Read Appendix 1: What to do if a loved one suffers depression.

Are you a pastor without a pastor? Read the Addendum by the Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil to help you find a pastor to speak God's grace into your situation.

I encourage you to read this book.

Thank you to the Reverend Todd Pepperkorn for writing this book.

Thank you to the Reverend Matthew Harrison for bringing this book to publication through LCMS World Relief and Human Care of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

They Speak Our Language

O My Soul:

New neighbors moved in across the street! You met them last night. He is a pastor for one of the rural churches. He and his wife have four children ages 14, 12, 10, and 8.

My children ages 10, 6, and 4 are very excited. My ten year old son is lonely. As I learn more about my illness I see many of the same signs in him (I'll leave that for another post). Maybe my son will click with the ten and twelve year olds across the street.

My daughter woke up early this morning. She wanted to visit them but knew it was too early to knock on their door. She said, "They need their rest from traveling from so far away."

Then she said the funniest thing. (Background: our family lived in Asia but have been back a few years). Anyway, my daughter said, "Well, they couldn't have traveled to0 far." I asked, "Why?" And she said, "Because they speak our language!"

Lord, you are our Good Shepherd. You have provided much for me over the past year as I began to be diagnosed with major depression. As the fog begins to lift I see pain in my family. Care for them. And thank you for them. In Christ, Amen.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Compassion Fatigue

O My Soul:

Here is a definition of compassion fatigue.

It was first identified among nurses. Those nurses with excellent bedside manners left the profession more frequently than those who only focused on the medical needs of the patients.

Other professions at risk are journalists, clergy, law enforcement officers, military personnel and emergency medical responders.

The first step down the road to compassion fatigue is a compulsion to prove you are above average at what you do. However, the main concern, particularly for pastors, should simply be faithfulness.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Gospel Day

O My Soul:

It was a Gospel day. Rejoice and be glad.

Also, a child came home from the hospital. I'll say it again, rejoice.

However, another young man (28) died. Late last night. The truck rolled.

Lord, the joys and the hurts of being your undershepherd are great.

Exchange my pain for your life and grant me to be faithful to our heavenly Father within your congregation of saints.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Top Ten List

O My Soul:

Top Ten helpful hints for your journey to healing and cure from major/clinical depression:


10. Read aloud from the Psalms and/or the Gospel of St. John.

9. Take your doctor prescribed anti-depressant medication.

8. Run three miles.


7. Give 10 minutes per day focused attention on each of your three children.

6. Do the homework assigned by your therapist.


5. Stretch lightly for up to 20 minutes.

4. Debrief with your wife and then together with God about any pain you have experienced going about your God given vocations as His child, husband, father, pastor, son, citizen, etc.

3. Give thanks to God for the family, friends, and congregation He has given to you.


2. Take two days off per week from anything at the church (Monday and Friday).

And Finally:

1. Chill out! It will be ok. Your heavenly Father gave you this cross and He is near to you while taking care of you in the midst of these dark days.


Friday, July 24, 2009

R.I.P. Mr. K.

O My Soul:

Mr. K.'s funeral service is this afternoon.

Please remember, you are not God but a creation of God. You are not The Good Shepherd but an undershepherd to deliver Jesus Christ crucified to a grieving family, congregation, and community.

Mr. K...Rest in the blood bought peace of Jesus Christ. I will miss you, too.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Anti-Depressant Behavior

O My Soul:

You became a runner last year. Partly to help you sleep and partly to prove to yourself that you could do it. You chalked up two half-marathons and it had a lot of helpful benefits. Improved mood, less insomnia, and lower cholesterol. All from running (very slowly) three times per week.

I recently learned about the benefits of anti-depressant behavior, such as running or walking. It's not the particular exercise that is important but increasing your heart rate to 70% of maximum a half hour per day.

Problem is ... I don't like exercising every day. I'm beginning to think of it as a needed part of my soul care. Like an anti-depressant medication, anti-depressant behavior is part of that care.

Lord, help me to slow down and make this a daily (or more frequent) priority.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Death in the Congregation

O My Soul:

A young man (52) in the congregation died suddenly yesterday afternoon.

You are the pastor. Keep your eye on the Good Shepherd of our souls - Jesus Christ. Receive His gifts and pass them along to this grieving family.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer is Good!

Ahh...summer! -oms

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I'm back

O My Soul:

You've been gone for three days! Three days of deep depression.

One day sitting in front of a blank computer screen.

One day on the couch.

One day slowly waking up.

Glad you're back! We missed you.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thank You

O My Soul,

You were so anxious before the Board of Elder's meeting, but it went so well.

You prayed, prepared, and prayed again before the meeting.

Now, give thanks to Him. Our Father is gracious and merciful for the sake of Jesus Christ His Son, our Lord. He is taking care of you.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Congregational Conflict

Today the cross of Christ's congregation is heavily resting upon me and our elders. The Lord's people need a shepherd. I would prefer not to be that person right now, but I have been called by God through this congregation to serve His people with His gifts.

I'm looking at 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 2 which states:

"To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul addressed the people as saints! The congregation had many and various problems and sins BUT they are addressed as saints for the sake of Jesus Christ who shed His blood for them.

The people of the congregation at which I serve are also saints who call on the name of Jesus Christ.

May Christ and His gifts be the focus of tonights meeting for the benefit of all His saints congregated in this place.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Not Thinking...again.

O My Soul:

You say you are unable to think? You look at a blank computer screen and two hours later it remains blank?

You use to enjoy talking and writing. Now it is a chore. That doesn't make sense but then again you are depressed.

You say you don't think you will get better but, o my soul, you are wrong.

We will find a way to healing. I will walk with you.

You are not alone. You must expect to heal. We will do this.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Taking Care of You

O my soul, hear this:

1 Peter 5:6 Cast your care upon Him (Father); for He is taking care of you.

Most popular Bible translations make it sound like the Father cares about you but is far away from you. Sort of like a good friend who lives far away and can do nothing for you.

No the Father is near you and is taking care of you. He is the one who provides you with a Pastor, Doctor, Psychologist, Family, and Friends.

So, hear what they have to say because they are gifts from your heavenly Father who is taking care of you.

Rest in His care.


Monday, July 6, 2009

O my soul, you went mobile!


O my soul, your medical doctor is prescribing an anti-depressant. Yet you say you are afraid of addiction?

But are you afraid of addiction to your breakfast or a snack? Are you afraid of addiction to your daily vitamin? Your doctor is advising you to help you. It may be a missing nutrient your body needs. Your doctor (not you) is prescribing it to care for you.


A Good Book

O my soul, check out this free booklet at



O my soul, you even have a licensed psychologist to help care for you in your downcast state. Good for you.


Private Confession?

O my soul, I see you found a Father-Confessor to listen to you. The ear of an ordained confessional Lutheran pastor is the tomb for your sin. The mouth of the same is the mouth of the Gospel for you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.



O my soul, you have been diagnosed with clinical depression.

Your wife knew it. Your children sensed it. Friends and colleagues would be surprised to hear this news and yet what is surprising is that you are surprised as well.

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

We have much to talk about. Will you listen?