Category: The Daily Life

This Is Serious

Understanding-DepressionSuicide is a serious issue.

When my wife and I lived in Tampa we would occasionally drive over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to St. Petersburg.  It was a beautiful but scary drive.  Unfortunately it was (and is) a popular location for people to jump in an attempt to end their lives.  Just recently I have read where there is also a bridge near Nashville in the Natchez Trace which has become the same thing for people looking to jump.

A person really has to be in a dark place to resort to this measure.

Too many times people who are depressed or hurting are blown off or the situation is taken lightly.  Sometimes it takes just a wrong word or critical comment to push someone over the edge mentally.  We live in a world that is so quick to hate and be divisive but slow to encourage.

I have been extremely depressed before.  I know what it feels like to be in a seemingly hopeless situation.  First, you are frustrated with the situation and you think there is no way out.  You find yourself stuck in the same routine of hurt.  Second, you are too embarrassed to tell anyone or if you do you don’t feel like they are taking it seriously.  Honestly some people are uncomfortable with this confession or they simply don’t know how to help.

I know I was there.  Probably not to the point of ending things but I think we’ve all been at a low point at some time in our lives where just one more nudge or push would send us over.  For me, I was involved in the church.  That didn’t help.  In fact, when someone knew I was depressed they would say “Keep looking up brother” or “Trust in the Lord” or some other worn-out religious cliché.   Thanks, that does NOT help me.  I have to tell you honestly that sometimes church is the worst place to be for someone who is extremely depressed.  I mean, you’re at the point you need some REAL help and you can’t find it in the church routine.  It’s a bad place to feel worse when you leave church than when you arrived.  I’m not dogging church but I know that sometimes what we think is the cure can sometimes be part of the problem.  I stood in the parking lot after a men’s breakfast one Saturday morning wanting to talk to my pastor about what was going on but he kept looking at his watch because he had someone else to go.  I retreated from my desire to tell him and never tried that again.

Telling someone to “smile” isn’t the best response either.  A depressed person can give you a smile on their face but it does nothing to heal what’s going on inside.  Pat answers and religious clichés are not what a person needs.

If you are depressed and even remotely considering ending it all let me ask you to stop for a moment and don’t allow the darkness inside cloud your thinking.  Consider these things:

  • Start making changes in your life.  Sometimes even the slightest change can lead to a change in your thinking.  Depression can make you think that there is no way out or that things are hopeless.  That is a lie.  Yes, there can be some serious problems that can’t be solved overnight but taking just one step to change it will lead to more steps.
  • Talk to someone you can trust.  It’s embarrassing and difficult to swallow your pride and admit this to someone but this is so crucial in getting out of the dark place inside of you.  Don’t talk to just anyone.  Talk to someone you trust or see a professional.  You will be totally amazed what a relief it is to talk to someone.
  • Delay the jump.  If you get to the place of taking the drastic measure to jump or something else, delay it.  Step back.  Allow your thinking to reset.  Sometimes you will talk yourself out of it or shake out of that state of mind.
  • Think of people in your life if you go through with it.  The people you leave behind will be racked with guilt and mostly asking that “what if” question.  They will wonder why you didn’t ask for help or say something to them.  This act you are considering will cause incredible pain to people who really love you.  Sometimes, unfortunately, someone will do the same thing because you did it.  Think about it.

The important thing to remember is not to make a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  The darkness will make you think that the problem is forever but it isn’t.  Stick around and see what happens next.

The darkness is serious.  The rest of us need to be aware and do what we can to pull people out of it if we can.  If someone confides in us, we need to take it seriously.  Don’t blow people off or make light of it.  Don’t check your watch or joke about it.  If someone thinks enough of you to confess then it’s worth your time to listen.

Although I never got to the point of jumping or anything drastic, I have dealt with the darkness and the wound in my soul.   There were several things to push me to do something about it.  One was the pastor who blew me off when I was set to confide in him but he had more important things to do.  Another was a cutting criticism of something good I was trying to do but a hurtful comment cut me to the heart.  If I could get religious with you for a moment, I will tell you that the Bible verse in 1 Samuel 30:6 when everything was going against David and he had no one. The verse tells us:  “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”

At this point in my own life, I determined that I was going to take matters into my own hands and encourage myself.  I was responsible for my happiness and getting out of the dark place in my soul.  I made some drastic changes in my life.   There was a quote in a movie where Robin Hood’s father told his son, “It’s time for you to be who you are.”   It was time for me to be me.  One was leaving the church I had been a part of all of my life to that point.  I am sorry if this doesn’t set well with people I know who are still in the church and I know it is difficult for people to understand but this was huge in making the right change in my life.  Now I can see how much of a burden that life had been and the expectations I had to meet for everyone while I was failing miserably.  Since then, other things changed as well as other people have changed my life.  Just making that first change led me out of that state of mind.  Like I said, sometimes just making that first change can lead you out.  It worked for me.

Life is worth making the effort.

You are NOT alone.  Confidential help is available for free.   Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

 

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The Government Shutdown Is Over But…

government-reopens-generic-mgnThe longest Government shutdown in American history ended on Friday and my office welcomed me back to work.  It’s back to normal….well almost.  I still have not been paid back and the next payday is still 10 days away so, yes, I’m still needing to pay my bills.

Even with being back to work, the dark cloud of another shutdown looms in three weeks as this temporary reprieve is almost certain to result in yet another government shutdown.

I was encouraged that more and more companies were starting to help out furloughed government workers with food and assistance with our bills.  It really got off to a slow start.  It was really nice that the Nashville Zoo offered free admission to us in spite of the haters.

I was disappointed in the Robins Financial Credit Union for not providing better assistance to me after 35 years of being a member.  Since Robins Air Force Base wasn’t affected by the shutdown, I was one of the few customers who were affected by it.  They did approve a loan but nothing to fit the situation and not as understanding as they would have been had the base been impacted by the shutdown.

It was encouraging that one of my past co-workers, mentor and friend offered me a loan to hold me over.  That meant a lot to me that he offered.

Some financial institutions finally started offering some assistance such as PayPal which offered a one-time 0% APR cash advance up to a maximum of $500.  Our local electric and gas companies also offered assistance thanks to our mayor.  These were all nice gestures to help us in this very unique situation.

We are told to call our elected representatives which I did and I got their interns.  How do you actually get to talk to your elected representative?  How are you certain that your voice is being heard?

Then there were the haters who failed to see the difference between a government furlough and layoff.  Until you’ve been through it, you truly can’t understand it and I have grown tired of explaining it.  In this situation, you are left in limbo where you can’t really go out and get another job or function very well while politicians are withholding your paycheck.   Contrary to what some of the millionaires suggested, I was not able to barter with my landlord for the rent, I couldn’t put my groceries on a tab and taking out a “small” loan still means interest that I will have to pay back which will cost more than my back pay.  No, this certainly was no vacation.

I also didn’t like being called into work when I was originally deemed non-essential.  I think they should do something where people who have to work during these shutdowns are paid extra.  It doesn’t seem right that we all get paid back the same but I’m still glad we’re getting paid back.  There is never any guarantee that will happen.

Three weeks and all this could happen again.  There is clearly not enough time to save up enough money to survive another 30+ day shutdown.  It isn’t fair that political debates can cause our paychecks to be withheld.  Something should be done to keep any politician from using this hostage tactic in order to get a project passed.  This isn’t the way we should function. It is really a helpless situation where you have to watch CNN or some other news source to find out when you are going back to work.

So you get paid for staying home?  It’s not what you think.  I spent several days staying home in a self-imposed house arrest so as not to spend any money and stressed about how the next bill was going to get paid.  When I missed my second paycheck, the stress level was elevated and I was trying to find someone that would hire me for part-time or contract work.  No, I assure you it wasn’t “fun”.

I don’t want sympathy because I know most people don’t really care and already have a low opinion of government employees as well as those we support.  I also don’t want to be called a patriot or thanked for my sacrifice.  This wasn’t done willingly for anyone.  The shutdown took away my paychecks which I needed to support my family.

I think I can speak for my other 799,999 fellow government colleagues and say that we are happy to be back to work for you and able to support our families….for three more weeks.

 

 

 

 

Worship In Virtual Reality

vrworshipSince I have received the Oculus Go VR headset, I have explored many things with this technology. One of the things that has been greatly enhanced is my time of personal devotion and worship time with God. The VR goggles have taken my experience to a new level. When I have the VR headset on, it dramatically cuts down on distractions and totally immerses me in whatever I am doing. Let me share with you some of my experiences using the Oculus Go in VR worship time.

The first app I downloaded was the VR Church: The Bible app. It’s okay but it has a few quirks to it. The main issue is that the app has a place where you can set up a custom plan to read the Bible. Unfortunately, I have found that after I select a plan and start it that the actual Bible reading text doesn’t appear. I can, however, go directly to the Bible section and read it. There are a couple of meditation Bible readings in the app that are nice to go through but they need to update it with more. It is a nice app but it needs to be improved. I keep hoping for updates to this app.

Reading the Bible (or any digital book) with the Oculus Go is very cool. There are a couple of book reading apps such as Virtual Book Viewer or ImmersionVR where you can import a Bible and you can adjust the size to what is comfortable for your eyes. For me, it is much better than paper or even my iPad. The ImmersionVR reader app is a bit different because you can turn the pages by simply moving your head as well as setting some calm background music while you are reading.

There is an app call AltspaceVR where you can customize your personal avatar and transport to different rooms and events. One of the rooms is the VR Church Prayer Room. You can teleport your avatar to the room and watch the International House of Prayer. I think this is a church that conducts worship 24/7.  Yeah, it’s a little different but what’s even more interesting is that you can also attend a virtual church service.

What’s Virtual Reality Church like?

The first 30 minutes are somewhat formal with worship music, prayer, and a sermon. The rest of the time is very informal with discussion and hanging out. At the beginning, a VR pastor will welcome everyone. Then you can listen to worship music for a few minutes. During this time, you can sing, pray, meditate, or simply take it all in by enjoying the worship music. After the worship music, they share a few announcements. Then a VR pastor will give a short interactive sermon. Sermons are designed to encourage your spiritual journey. At the end of the sermon, attendees are encouraged attendees to meet each other and discuss the sermon. They say this is a great opportunity to ask questions, make new friends, or simply hang out.  That may be true but I would caution anyone about “hanging out” online.  I think this virtual church is a good idea but I’m not sure about meeting people there.

Virtual church can’t replace going to a real church but I think it’s a novel idea.  I would still be cautious about it.

Probably the most amazing features of using the Oculus Go for my personal worship time is that I can watch my favorite preachers or Christian music artists on the web or YouTube in what is comparable to watching them on 30-foot screen. It is pretty amazing.  In my most recent personal VR worship time, I watched music videos by TobyMac and Micah Tyler.  I visited the AltspaceVR prayer room to check out what was going on at the International House of Prayer then I went to the Virtual Book Viewer and read another chapter in the Bible.  Other times, I have watched Bible studies and various videos on Bible issues I have questions about. In addition to the worship time, I can also visit the Holy Land and as well as some beautiful places on Earth.

Yeah, this version of worship and personal devotion time sounds a little gimmicky but it has really been an amazing experience for me. I hope developers will create more content for this technology.

Some things I would like to see in VR worship would be:

  • An app with a selection of video praise and worship songs with the lyrics.
  • I would like to see some contemporary Christian music artists shoot some music videos in 360 degree video.
  • It would be nice to have a selection of 360 degree photos of churches where you can sit and meditate.

I love the VR technology and think there could be some awesome things added for personal worship time.  It’s already a pretty awesome experience.  I have enjoyed it so far and looked forward to more time spent in the VR worship.

“Well you’re gonna get paid back…”

backpaySince being directly affected by the “partial” government shutdown, I have been furloughed and will miss my second paycheck this Friday.  I have heard people who are not affected and have no clue what it is like make the comment:  “Well you’re gonna get paid back…”

Clueless.

Yes, we are supposed to get paid back but you still have to pay the bills when they are due and contrary to what they are saying, you can’t negotiate with your bills to wait or delay payment with everyone.  Coming up I have the water bill, mortgage, HOA fees, electric bill and car payment due.  The only “break” they are giving government employees affected by the shutdown is the normal “grace period” you would get anyway.  No special treatment or circumstances because of the government shutdown.  Even my credit union said that they would not give me a break of my credit card bill.  “After the 10 day grace period, it will be sent to collections and affect your credit report.” is what the customer service lady told me.

Nobody tells you about this on the news.

“So, take out a loan?”

Okay, when you apply for a loan they want to know if you are getting a paycheck.  See how easy it is to get a loan then.  If you do apply for a loan then how are you going to pay the first loan payment?

Nobody tells you about this.

And if you do get a loan, how much are you going to get?  With no end to the government shutdown in sight, you are just taking a wild guess on that amount.

The comments that government officials make on the news shows how they have absolutely no clue on what is going on here.  How could they?  They are getting paid.  Most of them are rich and have more assets than the 800,000 that are being held hostage.

One of these brilliant millionaires suggested that we barter with our landlord to pay the rent.  Are you serious?  We don’t all have landlords and this isn’t feasible for those of us with mortgages.  What century are they living in?

Today Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says that he doesn’t understand why furloughed workers are using food banks.  This is a joke right?  He doesn’t understand?  How could he when he’s getting his paycheck?  He went on to say that it should be no problem for us to get a loan and while we might have to pay a little bit of interest.  Little bit?  Let me see, maybe he considers 10-12 percent a “little bit” but when your paycheck is being withheld, even when we get paid back, we are going to have to pay MORE than we are getting back to repay this loan.  They aren’t paying us back with interest.  So why are furloughed workers going to food banks?  When you are in this situation, you have to do what you have to do to survive this crisis.  If the bill collector refuses to give you a break on your bill then you pay it if you can out of your grocery money and take advantage of whatever is out there.

White House Economic Adviser, Kevin Hassett, suggested last week that we are better off because we don’t have to use our vacation days.

Let me assure you that this has been no vacation.  On the days when I haven’t been called to work, I have sat at home because I don’t want to go out and spend any money.  It’s a solitary confinement as I stress about how I am going to pay the bills when the money runs out.  No, it isn’t a vacation and I definitely don’t feel like I am better off.

Call your elected officials?   That’s what they tell us to do.  Do you know what you get?  You won’t talk to your Congressman or Senator, you get an intern who takes the call and gives you the canned statement they have been told to say.

So what else is happening during the shutdown?  I can’t contribute to my retirement and I can’t pay my health insurance payments.

And when we do get paid back, we will get taxed MORE.

I certainly don’t feel like a patriot.

Government Shutdown Book Sale

Although writing is mostly a “hobby” for me, I am directly affected by the Government shutdown so without a paycheck from my day job, I am promoting my books today with a sale.  Today all of my books are on sale as well as my last book “Passing Toward The Prize” is currently discounted.  If you would like to support me and get something in return for it, please click on one of the book links to purchase one of my books.

“Passing Toward The Prize” is a good book for church groups to read.  It has a very realistic story and deals with today’s issues faced by teens.  I would encourage pastors to purchase several for their congregation.

Any support you can provide would be appreciated.

PassingTowardThePrize_bookcover

Coach Turner leaned forward and looked directly at Colton.

“Look here Preston. You have to decide if you are going to be a leader or a quitter. A leader FINDS a way to lead. A quitter doesn’t bother to try. It’s easy to quit. Don’t pick the easy way.”

This is not the way Colton thought his high school football days would turn out for him. He is in the Class of ’82 at Tompkins County High School in the small town of Tompkinsville, Georgia. His father moves them to a new church in Savannah, Georgia. He misses his friends and his girlfriend, Belle, who are now hundreds of miles away. Colton also finds himself on a football team that clearly does not want him there.

Starting over and dealing with these changes are difficult for any age but for a 15-year-old preacher’s kid, it adds to the challenges he faces. He is not immune to the consequences of sin and the need for forgiveness. Colton will have to trust God that all things will work together for good.

If you loved “Facing the Giants” and “Remember the Titans” you will root for Colton Preston.

Paperback:  $9.99  Kindle Edition:  $4.99

Click here to purchase Passing Toward The Prize

KnightofRedemption_BookCover

A princess needs to be rescued.
A knight needs to have his confidence restored.
A kingdom to be united.
The harmony of the three kingdoms of Alphania, Memphilla and Winthrop are threatened by the evil Aldair who is driven by his lust for power and will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
The land needs a hero.
A mysterious dragon holds the key that will dramatically change life for everyone.
Knight of Redemption is a medieval, action romance that will take you through the adventures of Cashton and Crystaline. Cashton, a former knight from Alphania, fled when Aldair seized power of the kingdom. Cashton is pressed into action when Crystaline is captured. He must choose to be the hero he was destined to be and rescue Crystaline from Aldair as well as confront a dragon. Will his confidence be shattered or will love restore him to the man he always wanted to be?

Paperback:  $9.99  Kindle Edition:  $2.99

Click here to purchase Knight of Redemption

GideonForce_BookCover

Gideon Force is an elite tactical unit led by Commander Gabriel Morrison called to help missionaries around the world by rescuing them from persecution they face from radical groups and governments. The unit is equipped with a futuristic military-style armada to assist them in their mission. Members of the Force are hand-picked by God to serve their fellow man in protecting those who are called to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kindle Edition Only:  99 cents

Click here to purchase Gideon Force

Scaredy Cat Faith

I have that scared feeling in the pit of my stomach right now. I hate this feeling. Because of the Government shutdown, I have not received a paycheck and I have been stressing about paying the bills. After being turned down from a bank for a loan to hold us through, I felt myself cracking under the pressure. Instead of giving into the panic I was feeling, I got alone with God and He calmed me down.

I’m still scared but I’m believing God is going to get us through this situation. Faith isn’t always about feeling but about believing. Although I still have that scared feeling in my stomach, I am still believing.

Someone once said that the Bible says “fear not” 365 times which is one for everyday. That’s a good thing because I certainly need to be reminded of that every day.

The Bible says faith is the substance of things hoped for but the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1). That has always been a cute little Bible verse until you have to live it and you are not seeing how things are going to work out. There are some that I have heard say that you can’t have fear and faith together. Okay, so can you introduce me please to this race of super humans because that just doesn’t exist in the real world. I have learned that with believing in God that you many times you have to do it with the fear.

I can have all the faith possible but still feel that scared feeling in my stomach. We have to have a scaredy cat faith. We believe but do so while holding down the fear inside and keep it from overcoming us.

I am scared right now but I believe God will help me through it and make a way. I have also learned that having faith doesn’t mean I can just sit back and do nothing. I still need to look for where God is leading in this situation. He’s not likely going to drop a bag of money on my head but He might lead me to the right person at the right time. I don’t know how He is going to do it but I do know it isn’t faith to curl up on the floor and worry about it. I want to be in position where God will make a way. God wants us to go forward in faith, not sit down and wait for it.

Having faith isn’t easy and sounds nice when you are not facing a crisis. It’s easy to have faith when you are standing in church singing praise and worship choruses off the screen. When you have to walk by faith and go through something is where you make it happen. The bumps and knocks in life aren’t comfortable but the reality of living by faith.

Somehow God will see us through this time. I really hope it’s sooner than later but I’m taking it one day at a time while looking for the opportunities that God could open for me. I’m not into religious cliches. I’m into results.

So how do you have faith when you have that scaredy cat feeling?

  1. Talk to God – a LOT. This is the time you need to ramp up your communication with God.
  2. Be silent. Also take some time to be quiet. These are the times He can calm your soul and the troubling waters inside of you.
  3. Read His promises. Get a list of faith building Bible verses.
  4. Listen to encouraging music. There are some awesome songs out there that will keep you encouraged.

Let me tell you, this isn’t easy. Believing God when you’re scared is no fun. These will be times that will try you and push you to your breaking point. Just keep with it and do it while being afraid.

The No-Pay Payday

payThis is a strange day for me.  It is usually the day I get a paycheck from my Government employer but with the current “partial” (it’s not-so-partial when it directly affects you) shutdown, nothing will be deposited into my bank account.  So, I have been scrambling.  When I left work for the Christmas holidays, I had absolutely no idea that this was going to happen.  We always assume (yeah I know what it means to assume) that cooler heads would prevail and everything would get worked out.  Today I turn on the news and they still say “no end in sight” and that after this weekend, this will be the longest government shutdown in history.

To add insult to injury, my supervisor called and asked me to report to work on Monday to support some of my “essential” co-workers who have been working during the shutdown.

Right now my bills need to be paid.  I’m not okay with this.  I am not on strike and I am not voluntarily sacrificing for funding for this wall.  I just want to work and pay my bills.  The suggestion that we should “barter” with our landlord is yet another example of how politicians are out of touch with reality.  Even if I could barter with my landlord (which I don’t have one) how am I supposed to pay my other bills.  Not many of them are understanding.  Sure, they might defer payment or give you an extension but many times this is still reflected on your credit score.  Getting a loan?  Yeah, try that one when you apply and you AREN’T GETTING A PAYCHECK.  Duh.  Is anyone home?  With the end of the shutdown nowhere in sight, how are you going to make the first payment on the loan if you get one in the first place?

I don’t like being in this position.

Get another job?  That would work if I wasn’t being called back into work and how long am I supposed to work another job?  What other employer is going to agree to hire you when you return to your normal job when the government re-opens?

Someone said to contact my congressman.  I did.  Three days ago.  No response.  None.  Zip.   He’s still getting a paycheck.

I have read people’s comments who say they are willing to make the sacrifice for the funding to build the wall.  I am not.  I did not asked to be held hostage in this negotiation.  It is ridiculous to suggest that I should.  As I have told others, I work for the American people, not a political party.  In fact, we aren’t even allowed to identify with any political party or do our jobs with any political favoritism.

I see reports that government workers are protesting and picketing the White House.  Yeah, that will show them.  Ineffective.  I read where lawsuits are being filed for making us work while not being paid during the shutdown.  Yeah, let’s see how successful that will be.  Point is….no one cares.  Our employer certainly doesn’t care.  If this were a private company and the owner refused to pay their employees until he got what he wanted, people would be livid about it.  The only people livid today are my fellow 800,000 workers missing a paycheck today.

I’m not asking for sympathy.  I know most people don’t really give a damn.  I’m just pretty mad about this – especially today.