Friday, February 17, 2017

Male Postpartum Depression

It was December of 2008 when my life got flipped over with the news that we were going to be adopting two great kids. Within two weeks of being asked if we would adopt, our son was living with us. He was only nine months old. It would be only four months later and his sister was born. After six years without children our family went from two to four in four months. It was a time of extreme excitement and yet a few months later after all of the excitement settled down, I found myself in one of the most dark/depressing places I have ever been. It wasn’t until months later that the kids social worker told me exactly what was going on. No pastor, no friend could tell me what was going on. In fact, many never really cared to ask. I recall sitting with a junior government group in my city that we were a part of. They were discussing how they could help another pastor couple help pay for some of their adoption fees because they adopted a couple foreign kids. I said “with us here and going through adoption as well, you don’t have to worry about us.” Their response was “don’t worry, we won't be discussing your adoption.” It wasn’t until this social worker lady asked me how I was doing. I told her exactly what was going on. She reassured me what I was dealing with was semi normal for men. She stated “you are mourning the loss of your freedom’. It was the male equivalent to postpartum depression. It was as if I just rolled a YAHTZEE! What an "aha moment" as I navigated these unfamiliar waters that quite honestly was not me. 

Fast forward 7+ years and I find myself with those same feelings once again. Sounds stupid doesn’t it? I mean really? A newborn son that lights up a room no matter where he goes and the struggle is back on? Years prior I recall days where I would be at church snow blowing, doing maintenance, etc. and having all out pouting prayer matches with God asking him what is up with this? I would say “Some teens can go screw around and get pregnant and here Tracy and I are trying to have our own biological child to no avail.” I just didn’t see the fairness. My wife works a job with babies while I dedicate many babies and yet, we have not experienced this in our own life. These were regular conversations I had with God in my thirties. 

The classic saying “His ways are not our ways” comes to mind when we found out Tracy was pregnant. You see, as a guy I would like to say I am wired differently than most guys but this is not always the case. It was spring of 2015 when I found out I had Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 41. Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and we found out Tracy was pregnant. This was just months after my diagnosis and me turning 42. This threw me for a loop wondering why now?  None the less we were very excited for the arrival of our son. I flipped our house in short order adding a room to our basement, repainting the kids bedrooms, built new loft beds from scratch and painted Noah’s bedroom. Yet almost a year later I have found myself in that dark place once again. It started months ago and I hope to find peace soon.

It has not been easy and during the winter months I found myself sitting, sleeping and eating a lot. Eating so much so I now have health issues that need to be addressed in weeks/months ahead. I tried to talk to some but it always turns into their problems or “but you’re Bob, you will snap out of it!” It is met with lighthearted joking. The fact that I need a day or two break from kids almost seems irrational. My home is my office and though I love the fact we don’t have to pay for daycare…I am around the kids 24/7. This is a huge reason I found myself mourning the loss of my freedom once again. I had two kids in school and now it is starting all over again. No one ought to question the love I have for my kids or wife but it’s a real thing I deal with being 42 and having a newborn. 

No doubt I will snap out of it. I have been down this path before but for some reason this one seems tougher. With spring around the corner I realize that helps a persons attitude and mindset. I share all of this with you to remind you that if you see a person struggling with depression, be there for them. Genuinely ask how they are doing…it means the world. If they choose not to talk, at least you have done your part. It does not make that person any less a Christian when they battle depression. In fact a Christian going through these times puts them in good company with some from the Bible. I think of Noah, Elijah, Jonah and more. They had mountain top experiences followed by major depression. Did they need to get counseling? Should they enroll in a Bible study or attend a conference that would result in JUST ANOTHER THING on their calendar? No...they spent time alone, with God heeding the words of the Psalmist "Be still and know that I am God." It is only for a season but what a season it is.

*I am currently working without an editor. Forgive my grammatical errors. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Getting a Grip on Multiple Sclerosis

So another year is more than halfway gone and I am beginning to finally get a grip on this thing called “Multiple Sclerosis.” It is a disease that takes up much of my brain space, figuratively speaking. Since there are various forms of the disease it can make people a bit uncomfortable. No doubt, a person of faith will always have those around them who will say, “Just trust God” or the classic, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Yes…yes he will and though I could reinvent the wheel, I will share this link with you regarding that thought: Click here

With that said, this disease does cause me to worry and it is hard not to let my mind wander at times. Thankfully, I have some answers regarding my diagnosis. After one of my least favorite lab tests (spinal tap) and seeing the results, I have the most common form of Multiple Sclerosis which is “Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis” (RRMS) According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the definition of RRMS is that it is “The most common disease course – [and] is characterized by clearly defined attacks of new or increasing neurologic symptoms. These attacks – also called relapses or exacerbations – are followed by periods of partial or complete recovery (remissions). During remissions, all symptoms may disappear, or some symptoms may continue and become permanent. However, there is no apparent progression of the disease during the periods of remission. At different points in time, RRMS can be further characterized as either active (with relapses and/or evidence of new MRI activity) or not active, as well as worsening (a confirmed increase in disability over a specified period of time following a relapse) or not worsening.”

So, there’s the update. On August 9th I go in for one more dye-injected MRI to see if any new lesions have formed. Of course I am staying positive and full of hope and faith but there comes a peace with knowing what you are dealing with so you know how to proceed. As always I appreciate your prayers. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Funeral Etiquette From A Pastor's Perspective.

Back a few years ago I posted a blog entitled "Wedding Etiquette From a Pastor's Perspective". This has and remains one of my most popular blogs (21,000+ reads). It addresses the fact that pastors, priests, etc. are very happy that you are getting married and most are happy to officiate it. However, a lot of time and energy goes into the planning process therefore the officiant ought to be compensated as such.

It would be my opinion that funerals are no different. I speak to both of these from the viewpoint of being a pastor that has officiated 30+ weddings and 20+ funerals. Perhaps this, like my last blog, can serve as a guideline on how to compensate a pastor officiating Aunt Ruth's funeral. 

It is never an easy time for a family when they lose that special someone. No one ought to take it lightly. In my experience it has been more difficult when someone passes suddenly versus a person that has been in a senior home or hospice. Still, not easy to cope with. It just happens that those who are struggling for weeks and months give us time to say our goodbyes and death is perhaps the ultimate healing for them. They no longer have to deal with their ailment and are united with their God in Heaven. 

During these times though we rely on clergy to officiate the funeral. Like the wedding, this is not something the officiant just does. It means homework and lots of it. Personally, when someone passes away, I meet with the family at the funeral home. Next I meet with the family at their home to hear the stories and take notes as they reminisce about the good memories. This leads to pages of note taking. Finally, I put the service together. Who is speaking when (eulogies)? What music do they want played at their funeral? Did they request a sermon/sermonette during their funeral service? All things the officiant must take into consideration. In many cases funerals don't happen at the most opportune time. This leads to moving schedules around. If the officiant has children, their is the expense of a babysitter. Perhaps multiple expenses for babysitters due to the meetings beforehand. I know in my experience it has meant pulling out of a few family weekend events leaving me at home while the family is encouraged to carry on without me. Funerals never have been and never will be a thing we just show up and talk at. It takes a lot of time. This is why I always am met with the compliment "I just love the personal touches you have put into the service." 

So how much do you pay clergy to officiate a funeral? I can tell you this should be considered. Most of the time the funeral home will roll the cost of the officiants cost into the final bill from the funeral home. This will usually be paid for out of the insurance that person had. If there was nothing set aside then it is out of pocket. I can tell you that a funeral I did, the honorarium was $50.00. With the amount of time I invested into this service, it came out to $4.00 per hour. Seems quite low for a person who had to bail on a family weekend to stay home and officiate. I suggest a minimum of $150.00. This is the minimum for anyone's time. If it is an officiant you have used over and over again, it would be suggested $200+. Again, this is for no other reason other than to show your appreciation for the officiant's time. Have you seen how much a Catholic priest charges let alone the usage of the building?! This is number I throw out is very conservative. 

I hope this serves as a guideline when it comes to the difficult question "what do I pay an officiant?". 

Friday, October 2, 2015

I am Done

I am officially ending this blog. Short of a big story that I must share...this blog will now remain dormant. Thanks to everyone that read and supported this means a lot.

I have begun a new blog since I have begun life with Multiple Sclerosis this past March. It will be more about physical fitness, what I am dealing and thoughts for others dealing with the same thing.

Feel free to visit for postings there.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Little Help From the LGBTQ Community Please!

No matter what walk of life one comes from, inevitably there is an introduction to the golden rule "Do unto others as you would have done unto you."  Not only is this a scripture verse found in Matthew chapter is just a solid moral teaching to live by. 

Unless you have been living under a rock or simply have no contact with the outer world, you will know that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) narrowly ruled in favor of same sex marriage for the entire country. It is not my desire to dive into personal opinions or biblical convictions with this blog. One does not have to Google very far to find those types of blogs. There is something that does baffle me however, please take a moment to read and let me explain. 

When the ruling came down from SCOTUS there was the typical upheaval in churches. This was happening even prior when individual states were legalizing same sex marriages. Some churches and Christians were up in arms about it back then. No doubt they are entitled to their opinion and interpretation of scripture. We have everything from "GOD HATES FAGS" protestors to those that simply will not talk to someone living an alternative lifestyle. This is sad as Jesus has called us to love one another. Again, I will not dive into any other deep discussion on that matter. 

There was, however, a large group of Christians who, though let down by the ruling, decided to say, "We are going to love our brothers and sisters regardless." These are people who truly live out the fact that if there is something needing to change in a persons life, the Holy Spirit is going to take care of it. This group of Christians, rather than protest, pray. Rather than trying to make enemies...they try to make friends. These people believe we are all entitled to our opinions. The bottom line is that there are those who are heterosexual but still look at the LGBTQ community as human beings just as deserving of God's love as the person next door. Many have even shown their support on social networking sites and with blogs. 

I am wondering when the support from the LGBTQ community is going to go to bat for the heterosexual person/couple and their strong convictions? For the heterosexual person living out the truths of the Golden Rule, it would be great to be treated by the LGBTQ community the same way they would want to be treated. There are many MANY defending the choice of people living an alternative lifestyle, where is the vocal support from the LGBTQ community defending the choice of those choosing a straight lifestyle? This seems like a fair question. We have many people respecting one another's choices and am simply wondering where those outspoken ones from the LGBTQ community are to show support for those choosing to live a heterosexual lifestyle. I think one has to respect someone who, despite what popular majority is, still strives to live out their own personal conviction. I just have not seen blogs, posts, etc. supporting this crowd.

I must admit that it is never very appealing to support someone who is coming across in a very crass way, it does not matter which walk of life you are coming from. If you are treated with a low level of respect, it is understood that you will not be the most zealous to pay that person back. However, I can show you a lot of well deserving heterosexual Christians that ought to be supported by the homosexual community. It only seems fair. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Blog Hiatus: Please Stand By

Did you know that I have written and published two books? I’ve had a great experience with both of them. The first book entitled, “My Life in a Blog: Real Thoughts from a Real Pastor in the Real World” was just a book of random thoughts through the eyes of a pastor. My next book, “Mutiny Aboard The Good Old Gospel Ship,” talked about the dysfunctions I have seen inside the institutional church. Both books are available for purchase today on Amazon and have lead to some great speaking engagements at large Christian music festivals and churches. On occasion I even receive a random deposit from Amazon for book sales! With all that said, I have been inspired to write again and will be focusing my attention on this new book for the rest of the summer.

Unfortunately, that means I won’t be blogging for the next few months so I can be totally focused on this project. This book is coming from my deep and seemingly contradictory inner feelings of blessing and feeling like God has deserted me all-together. Sounds crazy doesn't it? Well, I’ve come to find out that I am in good company with many people found in Scripture. It is a book of transparent feelings and I hope it will prove to be a blessing to all who read it. No doubt it will be available in paperback and Kindle as well. 

It is humbling to know that this blog receives over 2,000 reads per month. That alone is great motivation for me to keep going once the book is done. People from all around the world read and comment on my ramblings. Believe it or not, but the most viewed blog is one I wrote recently regarding how much a pastor should charge to officiate a wedding. What is even more impressive is that most comments are not from pastors but rather from couples who are getting married and don't know what to pay the minister. 

My blog is undoubtedly a menagerie of thoughts that cover a wide range of topics. I look forward to getting back to it after this book project is done. Please stand by...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Ministry is Better Than Your Ministry!

This week, I witnessed some Christians doing some things that got me a bit disgruntled. I didn't say anything to them about it because I don't really like it when people offer unsolicited opinions in social networking land. However, upon further reflection I think this is something that should be discussed. The situation in question involved a person who posted a picture of a Christian event they were attending. The caption read, "This is what I did...what did you do?" This rubbed me the wrong way because I believe there is an underlying pride and snootiness amongst some Christians in regards to what they do or which church they attend. Perhaps it is one Christian talking about what their church did only to be met by another saying, "That's so nice! This is what we did..." While it would be great if believers could simply share the good things they are a part of, things like this usually turn into a contest over who's steeple is bigger. 

This can also happen in regards to Christian rallies. I have even dealt with this first hand when working with missionaries. Somehow holding a dodgeball tournament for teens in Istanbul is better than offering the same tournament for teens in the gym down the road. World missions is fantastic and very much needed, but not at the expense of reaching out to our own communities. One isn't better than the other. Telling everyone about your group's rallies can be a good thing and really fire up a community, but it's all about the heart and motivation behind it. All too often the message being sent is: "Because we prayed louder and with a larger crowd we are better than you and doing more for God." Honestly, I have always wondered how large prayer events in public places reconcile themselves to Matthew 6:5 which states, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." But, I digress. My concern is that when we, as churches or individuals, make these kind of boastful statements, we minimize what other believers are doing. 

I love Christian music...or should I say "did" love Christian music. Over the last decade and especially over the past few years there has been a heavy and unspoken competition between Christian singers and bands. I believe this has been brought on by the Christian music scene having a "Top 20 Countdown" each week on the radio and is further encouraged by the Christian publications that promote this as well. This kind of competition within the body of Christ can be very harmful and may even discourage some people from ever trying anything at all. People are left feeling like they could never measure up to the supposed greatness they see around them. To them, their efforts seem worthless. This is not the case at all! 

Colossians 3:23 states, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." Churches should never compare or compete with each other. This is also true on an individual level. What you do for God should never be used as a weapon against someone else. You not only diminish what you are doing but also discourage other believers from stepping out as well. Turning living a life that is pleasing to a God into a means of placing yourself above other people is not only foolish, it stops you from doing the very thing you set out to do in the first place. So what had I been doing that day the person posted a picture of themselves at a big church event? I spent one-on-one time with my spouse. I suppose it's not something people would usually brag about, but I think the Lord smiled on that just as much.