Be Excellent – Listen

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Woke up this morning and laid in bed for awhile. Peace.

Got out of bed, grabbed my phone, and I started scrolling through twitter.

A Southern California pastor dying of suicide filled my feed. As well as discussions on:

  • Checking on friends
  • Listening
  • Anxiety and depression

Being greeted by a brother in Christ’s suicide, first thing in the morning, just sucks. But I can’t imagine what his wife and children are feeling.

A few years ago, over a lunch with a pastor, I confessed that I wasn’t doing well. My depression was trying to drown me, and I admitted it out loud. The pastor half listened and eventually changed subjects/blew me off. He had no clue how close I felt to doing something… and yet he didn’t care either. There was never any follow up. Nothing. I cringed when I heard friends were going to talk to him. Afraid of the damage his lack of pastoral care could bring about.

I get that we are not all gifted in all things. But I do think we all have the capacity to listen and empathize.

Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

Bill and Ted have said it best:

“Be excellent to each other.”

Listening and empathy are but a level of excellence worth fighting for. I’m not sure where you are today; not sure what side of the bed you woke up on. I want to encourage you to find someone trustworthy who will listen before/after things get bad, someone who practices what Bill and Ted preached. Be excellent.

From Across the Net – “Technology and our anxious hearts”

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Working in an office, I have constant access to social media. All day, everyday, I keep up with the news as it unfolds around the world. Once the weekend hits, my access to social media declines. I take the weekends off from blogging. At home, I find that I check Facebook, Twitter, and email out of boredom/to fill time. What I have noticed though is that I feel much more at peace over the weekends minus the constant social media connection.

Reuben Bredenhof wrote a piece titled “Technology and our anxious hearts“.

The problem is that our sinful natures will always say that if we could just have our idols (whatever they are), eventually they’ll be able to satisfy us. That goes all the way back to Paradise. What more could Adam or Eve want than what God had given? But Satan said, “Escape your creature-hood. Define your own truth. Keep the glory for yourself. Why miss out on becoming like God with just one bite?”

You can read more here

Whichever Shoe Fits

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Back in February, Tabitha and I were sitting in the auditorium at church listening to a guest speaker. I was having trouble paying attention, my mind wandering, until the speaker started talking about the Stages of Hurt:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

God spoke to Tabitha and I in that moment. We both realized that we had been cycling through those stages for years. Years. Not always in that exact stage order but something quite like it. You see, we have been trying to have another child for about 9 years now. Seeing what ultimately are the Stages of Grief, written down on the conference handout we were attending, did something. I could finally see the bigger picture. I could see how a friend’s baby announcement would suddenly shoot me into anger or even bargaining over not being able to have more children; I could see why, at times, I’ve been depressed.

In that moment of epiphany, Tab and I both felt that God was calling us to step out of those stages. We felt Him calling us to more.

So we talked and met with wise counsel at church. My church’s youth pastor and his wife sat down with us over dinner. They listened to our story and shared their own (I can’t put into words how much this meant to us). We learned that we weren’t alone in our experience. After meeting with them, we decided to contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. We attended an informational meeting (which was awesome). Soon after, we signed up to take adoption certification classes (PRIDE) which lasted a few weeks. We have since finished up:

  • Turning in financial information
  • FBI Database fingerprinting
  • Having a fire inspection of our home

We have a:

  • Health Inspection for the house
  • And an Home Study/Interview left before we are certified to adopt. We are almost there!

If you think about my family, as we move forward in this process, we are asking for:

  • Prayer (if you are not the praying sort, positive thoughts then)
  • Discernment
  • Wisdom
  • That God would lead our adoption caseworker to the child He wants

Excited to finally share this news with ya’ll. More to come.

A Christmas Note To Myself

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On the day before December begins,

I’d like to remind myself.

That no matter how stressful work gets,

Nor how much I miss family,

Swirling down into the depression pit isn’t worth it.

At all.

I need to focus on my family around me,

My friends,

The anticipation of the Advent season.

Spending the entire month of December, in a funk, sucks.

You know it, and your wife knows it. 

So stop it!

Break the cycle this year.

Tell depression to get off your mental lawn.

You’re welcome, by the way.

– A note from November Bryan to December Bryan.

Photo by Adam Birkett on Unsplash

Not sure about you, but December is traditionally a tough month for me. All through November, I’ve been watching depression circle around outside the fire light. Beckoning me to step away from the comforts of clarity and embrace the dark/warm fuzzy jacket of depression. Wanted to write a quick note to remind myself not to go down that path this year. I want to encourage you also to stay near the fire and pay attention to the words you are speaking to yourself. We can do this.

From Across the Net: “Help, I’m Exhausted by Social Media”

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Thankful for this piece by Stephen Altrogge:

“I get jealous. I want your calling. I want to do those fun, amazing, big, fast things. I want to do cool stuff for God. Quiet is boring. Mundane seems lame. I feel pathetic and purposeless.

Social media stretches me beyond my calling. It makes we want people and places and things that God has called you to, not me. I find these words of John Calvin to be helpful:

Each individual has his own living assigned to him by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life.

Your calling isn’t my calling, and if I try to take what’s yours, I’ll wander heedlessly through life. I’ll leave the places of good, fruitful, productive work God has staked out for me, and wander into wastelands instead.”

Read more here

We are made for community

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An isolated soul can become an echo chamber of lies. Creating a false but believable reality. Apart from community, we can mentally torture ourselves with untruth.

In the midst of saying depressing things like:

  • Those that are dead are happier than the living (4:2)
  • Better to never be born than to live and see evil (4:3)

King Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, tells us that we are made for community:

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (4:9-12)

We need others to speak truth into our lives. To tell us when we are doing well, off target, and sometimes just to listen. Trusted and positive outside influences help break through the mental echo chamber. Breaking down the walls of silence.

There are often days where I am doing my best to go to work, come home, and spend time with family. I tell myself that I have no more energy to spend. A simple text, email, or phone call too much work. I believe these are lies we tell ourselves. I believe that God calls us to more.

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That intergalactic communication device, you know, the one in your pocket? Use it.

I want to challenge you. I want to challenge myself. We need to break out of our everyday lives and invite others in. I think it’s more simple than either of us realize.