Monday, October 25, 2010

Luther on Despair

Luther throwing an inkwell at the Devil in his study
O My Soul:

Great quote at Doxology from Luther on the Spiritual Care of the Despairing.

Luther on the Spiritual Care of the Despairing
Listen, then, to what we are saying to you in God’s name; Rejoice in Christ, who is your gracious Lord and Redeemer. Let him bear your burdens, for he assuredly cares for you, even if you do not yet have all that you would like. He still li.ves. Look to him for the best. This is the greatest sacrifice in his eyes, for as the Scriptures say, no sacrificing is more pleasing and acceptable than a cheerful heart that rejoices in the Lord.
When you are sad, therefore, and when melancholy threatens to get the upper hand, say: “Arise! I must play a song unto the Lord on my regal (be it the Te Deum laudamus or the Benedictus), for the Scriptures teach us that it pleases him to hear a joyful song and the music of stringed instruments.” Then begin striking the keys and singing in accompaniment as David and Elisha did, until your sad thoughts vanish. If the devil returns and plants worries and sad thoughts in your mind, resist him manfully and say, “Begone, devil! I must now play and sing unto my Lord Christ.”
Ed. Theodore Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2003), (pp. 96-97)

God be with you,


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Prayer With My Family

O My Soul:

I have never sweat blood during prayer but leading my wife and children in prayer comes close.

It is something I know I should do but I can not count the ways that delay, interfere, and eventually bring family prayer to an end.

Here are a few things I have done to make it a routine:

1.  8:00 a.m. is family prayer time.  It helps that the two youngest children are not homeschooled this year and need to be at the elementary school at 8:30.  So at 8:00 we all sit in the living room.

2. I follow a very, very simple order of service:

Invocation, Psalm, Apostles' Creed, Prayer Requests, Lord's Prayer, Blessing.

And then we go about the rest of our day.

Hope in Christ &
God Bless You,


Monday, October 18, 2010

Poll Results

O My Soul:

The question was:  Have you ever visited a  psychologist?  I'm glad that so many of found it helpful.  In fact I'm surprised only one found it not helpful and that no one said they would never even try.

I am in therapy but will wait before I give my own opinion.  However, I am more hopeful than I have been in quite some time.

And yet, I found out this weekend that I have a relative who is unresponsive to any medication for clinical depression.  She has been fighting this for over a dozen years but now meets certain requirements to enter of special program which might include shock therapy.  The program only accepts three applicants per month.  She and her husband are in my prayers.

Here are the results of the poll:

Yes, and it was helpful.
4 (50%)

Yes, but it was not helpful.
1 (12%)

No, but I think it would help me.
3 (37%)

No, and I never will.
0 (0%)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Therapist Sarge

...and a chug on over to mamby pamby land and just maybe we can get you some self-confidence you jack wagon!...tissue? cry baby.

O My Soul:

Ya gotta love a Geico commercial every once in a while. I laugh out loud every time I see this one.

This afternoon I drove over to namby pamby land and met with my therapist. She is not a Sarge. Since I'm not in a lot of pain right now (which is not the same as feeling ok) I tend to think this is hopeless theater and if she threw a box of tissue at me I would probably agree with her.

She is continuing to evaluate before laying out the plan. I thought it might be this week but it may now be next week. I like the deliberateness of the whole thing. Besides I'm not going anywhere, I think things are going in a good direction, and this is part of the 10-12 weeks of therapy that we agreed to in the beginning.

Gotta run. I want to run that video one more time.

Hope you enjoyed it also &
God be with you

Families Coping with Mentally Ill Loved Ones

O My Soul:

This video is from the gives voice to the anguish of family caring for loved ones with various kinds of mental illness. Due to my own struggles and also as a pastor of a congregation, I am more aware of the difficulties faced by family members.

What struck a nerve with me from this video is when one gentleman said he was asked by several churches to leave because of the distruptions caused by the mentally ill family member. Ouch!

What can a Christian congregation do to help these families? If there was any intentional support for them what might it look like?

Besides personal awareness of a few individuals within the congregation, I have not pursued much targeted work toward the care of their souls. But I have done the following:

1. I pray for them in my private prayers, asking Jesus Christ to have mercy upon them.

2. I visit occasionally and listen. My hope is that with that individual family I can reduce the stigma. The biggest difficulty for me as a pastor is that if I listen and feel the pain to much my own depression can worsen. They don't know I have depression they just know that I am sensitive and acknowledge that depression and other mental illness exist and that it not simply a lack of faith on their part.

3. I have made available Rev. Todd Pepperkorn's book I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression (get a free download copy here). I've mentioned it in one or two sermons and it flew off the shelf like hotcakes.

What do you Pastors, congregations, individuals suggest may be helpful if a more intentional support would be given to these families?

Just askin'

God bless you.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


O My Soul:

I have noticed that I have been praying the Matin Prayer Service regularly for well over a year.  It has become part of my daily schedule along with breakfast and bathroom breaks.  I've been praying it Monday through Thursday without many misses.  I schedule it on the church calendar, vest, and speak the whole service aloud including lesson from the Daily Lectionary.  Aloud, so I can hear the texts and the prayers.  Usually a time of silence during the additional collects just to listen, ponder, or add my own requests.  It takes up to a half-hour.  Sometimes congregation members join.  Sometimes not.

I started at the suggestion of my pastor.

At first it bored me to tears.  It was just hard work.  My ears had been closed to the gospel.  I didn't get anything out of it.  It seemed like a waste of time.  But it was on the schedule so I kept at it.

I still battle depression (obviously) but I am hearing the Gospel.

I receive benefits from Christ's death more and more and more.

I reflect on those benefits off and on throughout the day.

It is a blessing in the midst of the darkness that comes and goes (almost at random).

But, it is now hard for me to imagine going weeks or even days without listening to my Lord and my God.  And it is definitely not a waste of time.

Open my lips O Lord and my mouth will declare Your praise.

He has and I am.

Hope in Christ &
God be with you, too


Monday, October 11, 2010

Treasure Kept For You

O My Soul:

I am continuing to meet weekly with my psychologist and pastor.

A detailed plan from the psychologist is not complete.  She spent our last session asking me questions about key relationships in my life and the conflicts involved with them.  Next week, we will go over all the results and I will most likely be presented with a few psychiatrists to look at my medications.  I am hopeful this will lead to improvements for my aching soul but it will take awhile.

I am thankful that I am able to meet with my pastor after meeting with the psychologist.  The psychologist is good at focusing on the law and clarifying it for my emotional health, however, the pastor speaks the gospel.

There was a time when I thought suicide may be an option for no other reason than to end the pain.  That thought alone scared me and continues to frighten me.  How bad can depression be?  Death.  I think that's kinda bad.  I know and am afraid of the thought that I could lose all that I have even at my own hand.

I never acted on that suicidal tendency but I now know it is possible whereas several years ago I would have not thought it even possible.

My pastor said a number of comforting things.  (I'm not sure if I heard all of them, but..)  One stands out.  Jesus is not only the giver of His gifts to sinners, but He is also the protector of His gifts for me.  Hearing that meant a lot.  I have been afraid of losing much.

It's hard to be cared for.  My flesh rejects it.  But this depression thing is maybe changing that.

I've been in over my head for a long time.  The help is appreciated.

Hope in Christ & 
God bless you.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

National Depression Screening Day

Well the sun is setting and I didn't mention that today is National Depression Screening Day.  If you would like to take an anonymous online screening click here.

Not all wounds are physical. Depression, PTSD and related mood disorders can not be seen on an x-ray. Yet mental illness is just as painful. And the stigma associated with the disease often prevents many from seeking help and getting treated. National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) gives people access to an anonymous validated, screening questionnaire and provides referral information for treatment. Visit www.HelpYourSelfHelpOthers.orgto find a local organization offering depression and anxiety screenings or take a screening online today.


A Poll: Have you ever visited a psychologist?

Dear Reader:

Have you ever visited a psychologist?  For depression?  For any other problem?

I've added a poll to the sidebar of the blog and would appreciate it if you cast a vote.

I'm visiting my psychologist Friday afternoon.  I'm hoping a plan is put together by the end of that meeting.

God bless you!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bless the Lord O My Soul

Gentle Soul:

Here is some sacred music with subtitles.

God be with you,


Christians, Take Depression Seriously

O My Soul:

I ran across this post and thought I would share it with you here.

It gives a rather balanced view of the sources of depression, but also addresses the need for Christians to take depression seriously.

Why do we Christians think we are impervious to depression?  Please leave your insights in the comment area to share with me and others.

In the meantime, here is the article linked above:

Depression can be a crippling illness. It strikes most of us at one time or another. Most of us suffer from situational depression, but some of us experience serious clinicaldepression. What comfort and help can we get from the Bible?

Sometimes, depression is a spiritual condition. We humans are made up of a body, a mind and a spirit and depression can attack all three of our essential beings. Gaining relief from depression in our spirit often helps relieve our emotional depression.

The spirit is much like the body in that it requires food to live. We feed our bodies nutritious things to keep it well and sometimes we feed it junk that can make us sick. It’s like this for the soul, too. We sometimes feed it
 good food that encourages it and uplifts it. Other times we feed it junk that can lead to depression.

Spiritual causes of depression can include difficult circumstances, mourning, sickness, sorrow, anxiety and fear. Identifying and dealing with possible spiritual causes can be very healing in two ways; we address the underlying issues causing depression and we deepen our relationship with God.

Difficult circumstances can drain our emotional and spiritual strength, causing or aggravating depression. Circumstantial challenges are sometimes tests of faith or the result of sin or disobedience. Other times, things are difficult just because they are difficult. Whatever the reason for the challenges, Christians always have a loving Father willing to help. As difficult as it is while depressed, we must keep our eyes focused on God. He is the answer for all of our challenges. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)

If disobedience is a factor in your depression, it’s very important to confront it and change your behavior if you wish to get well. Disobedience that is ignored or rationalized will blossom into despair. Disobedience is spiritual junk food and must be gotten rid of if the spirit is to heal.
Mourning is certainly a cause of depression. Grief can sometimes be overwhelming. The loss of a loved one tosses us from emotion to emotion like a leaf on the wind, keeping us in a state of internal upheaval for some time. Grief seeps into our spirit, numbing it and dulling our communication with the Holy Spirit within us. When this happens, we have a difficult time hearing the promises of God because we are so wrapped up in psychic pain. While mourning, we need God the most. We must, by an act of our will, keep His Word before us. Daily devotions help, even if they are done out of habit, our soul is fed and a slow recovery begins. Readings from Isaiah and the Psalms are particularly helpful for those in grief. “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11)

Physical illness can sap energy from our spirit, too. Illness brings with it all sorts of spiritual challenges, not the least of which is doubt. If the illness is quite serious or prolonged, spiritual depression will probably result. When dealing with depression that is the result of illness, it’s important to keep feeding our spirits with the Word of God focusing on verses that promise His care and constant presence. Sickness can be difficult to cope with emotionally and spiritually but God does care and that information is what we must feed our souls.

Sorrow for things we have done can lead to spiritual depression. We all have regrets about things we’ve done, hurting others, lying, cheating, and not doing our best. The best thing we can do is make up for what we can make up for and turn all of our regrets over to God. All sin leaves a scar on someone. Whether the one scarred is you or someone else, ask God for His forgiveness and healing. Carrying around regrets for things that have been forgiven is counterproductive and can aggravate depression. If you have done what you can to correct the mistake and have asked forgiveness, then you must also accept forgiveness and leave the regret behind.

Sometimes, we think that we are paying penance by carrying the regret with us, but we’re not. Remember, there is nothing that we can do to earn forgiveness, it’s God’s free gift to us. Holding on to regrets starves the spirit of the food of forgiveness.

Anxiety and fear are often big elements of depression. Worry over circumstances, nervousness about the future, and fears of all kinds can eat away at our confidence and sense of security. Spiritually, these things put up barriers between us and God, preventing open and honest communication. Christians accurately define fear as a lack of faith. We need faith food to drive out fear. Reading the Word of God and associating with strong, mature Christians builds faith. If you’re experiencing overwhelming fears andanxieties that are depressing you, consult with your pastor or a mature Christian friend for guidance. Remember that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. “ (1 John 4:18a)

When depressed it is critical to focus on hope. There is all hope with God, He is with us always, concerned with our living, concerned with our feelings and health. He is our hope. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Psalms 42:11) Even if it takes every ounce of energy, we must feed our souls with hope if we wish to overcome depression. Depression quickly lapses into despair so we have an obligation to ourselves and to God to focus on hope. As long as there is breath in the body, there is hope.

God is faithful to us. Even in deep depression, He is with us, loving us and working things for our good. This is what we must focus on. We have to keep our eyes off of the world and the things that would try to starve our spirits and stay focused on God’s love for us. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

...and again, why do Christians think depression is not real?

Hope in Christ &
God be with you,


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Humor and Comfort for a Depressed Pastor

O My Soul:

Part of the problem with depression is the inability to feel pleasure.

I watched this video twice.  Hilarious.  It is also true and clear teaching.  Thank-you Rev. Fiske.


Friday, October 1, 2010

The Beginning of a Plan

O My Soul:

I met with my therapist for the second time.  Still answering some intake questions.  She answered my questions and even brought up the "P" word before I did. 

The "plan" may be put together for next week's session.

Although tentative, she is leaning toward Interpersonal Psychotherapy as her tool of choice.  Yeah, I never heard of it before either, but that's why I'm the patient.

She explained it to me and I think this could be good.  I've posted a few things below that I found on the internet that helps explain it. 

To conclude the afternoon, I met with my pastor for individual absolution.  

What Happens in a Course of IPT for Treatment of Depression?

Beginning Phase
The therapy has three phases. In the beginning (sessions 1 to 3), a psychiatric assessment focuses on interpersonal relationships to assess suitability and establish the focus of the therapy. The need for medication is evaluated and depression is discussed as a medical illness in a social context, with interpersonal antecedents and sequelae. The focal problem areas are derived from research on the determinants of health and disease. This research has demonstrated the protective function of interpersonal support (15,16), as well as the associations between interpersonal adversity and depression (17–21). The focus of therapy is determined according to the current interpersonal problems that appear to be most related to the onset and perpetuation of the individual’s current depressive episode. The goals are then explained to the patient: to remit depression and to help resolve the selected interpersonal problem area(s), thereby instilling positive expectations. With more complex patients or patients with severe and chronic depression, combined treatment with medication is often recommended (1,4,22).  

Middle Phase and the Focal Problem Areas
IPT focal areas guide therapeutic interventions through the middle phase of therapy, linking symptoms and affect to interpersonal events, losses, changes or isolation.  Klerman, Weissman, and others (1,4) offer direct content guidelines to frame life experiences into four main focal areas: inter- personal disputes, role transitions, bereavement and interpersonal deficits. In addition to focusing on specific goals, throughout its course the therapy highlights interpersonal patterns linked with dysphoric mood. Relationship expectations and communication are examined to develop social supports and a more effective interpersonal behavioural repertoire, in which empathic responsiveness and clearer expression of emotions and needs are encouraged (Figure 3).

Interpersonal Disputes. These are defined as nonreciprocal role expectations” with significant others (for example, a marital dispute) and are often accompanied by poor communication or misaligned interpersonal expectations. During the course of therapy, behaviour patterns are often revealed in which the patient interacts with significant others in such a way as to inadvertently exacerbate conflicts through acts of commission or omission.  Different ways of understanding and communicating within relationships are explored to facilitate more satisfactory interpersonal relatedness. In some instances,
patients will decide to end relationships, and the focus of the therapy then shifts to role transition.

Role Transitions. These involve life events that lead to significant interpersonal changes. Examples might include becoming a new parent, moving, changing jobs, ending a relationship or adjusting to a loss of functioning. The tasks of the therapy involve systematically exploring both positive and negative aspects of the old role in addition to examining the challenges and opportunities of the new role.

Bereavement. This focus is chosen in IPT when the onset of major depressive disorder coincides with the death, or an anniversary event related to the death, of a significant other.  Ambivalence is typical in these relationships, yet the lost other is sometimes idealized. Therapy facilitates grieving and examination of the relationship’s positive and negative aspects to achieve a more realistic view of the lost loved one. In the latter stages of the treatment, patients are encouraged to replace aspects of what was lost in the relationship and begin to move forward in their lives.

Interpersonal Deficits.
This final focal area is chosen when specific life events coinciding with the onset of the depression are absent, particularly for individuals who have difficulty forming or sustaining relationships. These patients are often interpersonally hypersensitive (5,p. 209,18). Since they have few relationships in their social network, the therapeutic relationship can be used to build social skills through role plays.

Ending Therapy
In the concluding, or termination, phase of IPT, therapeutic gains are reviewed and consolidated along with contingency planning in the event of a recurrence of depression.  Normative sadness is differentiated from clinical depression, and the feelings associated with the ending of therapy are openly discussed. In the spirit of not leaving things unsaid as the therapy comes to an end, this is opportunity for a “good goodbye” and for exchange of honest feedback. If the therapy has failed to achieve the goals of remitting the depression, one might contract to extend the course of treatment or re-evaluate it and suggest sequencing with a different form of treatment. In research protocols for acute major depression, the course
of treatment is usually 12 to 16 once-weekly sessions; however, some authors suggest a tapering schedule and maintenance monthly sessions, especially for individuals with chronic or recurrent depression (4,5,23).