Jun 082018

Suicide

I had started writing this week’s blog post when a notification popped up on my phone. My stomach sank as I read that Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. This after reading earlier in the week that fashion designer Kate Spade had also committed suicide.

So I threw away what I had written and decided to try again.

Many people say that these people had so much going for them. They were rich, famous, well-liked, and had many friends to support them. Why did they kill themselves? Others will claim that if only they had more faith, more love, more strength, more courage, they would not have killed themselves. And then there will be those who will say they took the cowards way out or that they were only being selfish.

All of that is crap.

I tried to kill myself as a teen. I have had thoughts of suicide throughout my life. And I can tell you that it was not because I lacked faith. It was not because I was not strong or courageous. It was because I had come to the end of my strength. I had come to the end of courage. And I believed that I would see God and that maybe, just maybe he would be merciful to me and let me into heaven.

I was tired of being abused. Rape and sexual assault had left me a shell of who I had been. I had no hope that life would improve. And when I dared to speak up, no one would listen or believe me. I was strong, but even that strength had its limits.

And to those who say I was being selfish, I was not. I believed that others would be better if I was not around. Society had convinced me that my struggles were a burden to others. I was left feeling like I had caused the abuse, rape, sexual molestation, and that everyone would be better off if I was not here. I was not suicidal because I was being selfish, I felt it was the ultimate sacrifice for others.

It is not being selfish, but it is also not going to help others either. Having to help families cope with the loss of a loved one who killed themselves has shown me the other side of those situations. Families are left in despair. They realize, all too late, that they missed the warning signs. Guilt consumes them. And then there are the questions about how they could let their loved one die. There are the condemning looks.

And even that is not fair.

That is why more and more people need to speak up about their struggles. That is why, as pastors, we share our brokenness with others. And yes, you may get tired of hearing us talk about how broken we are. But if it helps one person find the help they need, if it saves one person from killing themselves, then I will speak about my brokenness night and day!

After all, that is what I am called to do. That is what you are called to do.

My struggle is not over. And the struggles of my brothers and sisters who wear the collar are not over. Our struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of worthlessness may never end. It is my commitment  to do whatever I can to help others through their struggles and to find the help they need. And in a way, helping them helps me. It helps me find peace with my lot in life.

So, what can you do to help those of us who struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, and feelings of worthlessness?

BE THERE. Be present to us. You don’t have to say a word. Just listen. Be a shoulder to cry on. Invite us to dinner. Ask us to join you for lunch. See if we want to go to the mall.

BE PREPARED. There are many resources that you can find to help those who need it. Carry the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number in your phone. Have business cards printed up with the help line numbers on them. I am planning (when I can afford to) to have new business cards made for the parish. On the back, I will have the Lifelines listed.

BE LOVING. Be ready to give them a hug. Just pick up the phone and call someone for no reason. Send them a message on Facebook or via their phone that just says you love them. And understand that sometimes they may not respond right away. Your message of love, your call, just knowing you are there and you care, could mean the difference between life and death.

AND DO NOT BE AFRAID. If you feel someone is in immediate danger of committing suicide, DO NOT hesitate to call the police or EMS. They may be angry at you for calling for help, but in the long run, they will thank you for caring enough to reach out for help. They may not be able to reach out, you might have to reach out for them.

At the end of the day, a person may still end their life. As a Bishop, as a Christian, let me make this very clear: Suicide is NOT a guaranteed ticket to Hell. NO WHERE in the Bible does it say that if you kill yourself you will go to Hell. The church for many centuries was wrong and caused so many people hurt and pain when they needed love and compassion. But if your loved one has committed suicide, God understands what they were going through and in his mercy, he will grant them peace and joy in his kingdom.

If you need help, please do not hesitate to ask. We have a new page here at our website that give you resources that can help you through your struggles.

Please know that God loves you and so do we!

Mar 032018

The reminder of the grave

grave

One of the traditions I have during Lent many people find to be rather morbid. I go every year to the cemetery to look at my grave. Yes, I have already purchased my final resting place.

Going to my grave reminds me that life is fragile. It reminds me that I should live every moment as though it is my last. This is one of the lessons of Lent. It may seem morbid, but it helps to keep me humble.

Looking at my final resting place also puts my life in perspective. I am forced to ask myself hard questions about the direction my life is going and what I should be doing as a clergy person. It gives me a moment to reflect on what will be said of me when my life is over.

We should live our lives so that when our time is up we will hear the words, “Welcome home, my good and faithful servant.” Lent is a time when we can reflect on the path we have walked and plan a different course should we desire to. And Lent does not have to end with Easter. The changes we make in our lives should continue throughout the year.

Let us continue our journey with peace, love, and hope. Take time to be kind to everyone around you, to show the love of Christ to everyone you meet.

Come experience this journey and find a different way to be Catholic!

Jan 262018
eternal life

And Yeshua said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to leave?” Shimeon Kaypha answered and said, “My Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and know that you are The Messiah, The Son of THE LIVING GOD.” (John 6:67-69. Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

As I contemplated my sermon for last Sunday, I could not get this verse out of my mind. I ended up preaching something entirely different, but I felt that I neglected what the Spirit really wanted me to say. So I am going to say it now.

I have had many people who have encouraged me over the years to leave the ministry. Some say that I need to focus on taking care of the financial needs of my family. Others claim that being a minister is not a real job. But when it is all said and done, they just want to see me leave the ministry altogether.

I will not lie; over the years I have considered quitting many times. It is tempting to leave the work and responsibility of shepherding souls for a less stressful and less demanding job. But I come back to the same place each time I consider it. “To who shall we go?”

I realize that being a minister is not the most glamorous job in the world. A dear friend and fellow cleric told me that when he announced to his parents that he was seeking ordination they exclaimed that he had found a way to scam people out of their money. This so upset me that for the first several years of my ministry I did not ask for donations, nor did I even accept offerings.

This, of course, led me to bankruptcy. That is when my extended family started working to get me to get “a real job”. They said I needed to put away this foolishness and start living in the real world. But in the back of my mind I could hear the word of Peter, “To whom shall we go?”

That is the question each of us needs to ask ourselves on a daily basis. “To whom shall we go?” And why should we ask that question; because “You have the words of eternal life.” If we turn our backs on the call of Christ in our lives, we are ultimately turning our backs on the words of eternal life!

To follow Jesus is considered by some to be a fool’s errand. But for me, it is about finding the path to eternal life. It is about a reward that last forever. It is about spending eternity with the ones I love in everlasting paradise.

So I am willing to accept some temporary hardships and trials if it means I can spend eternity with Christ.

After all, “To whom shall we go?”