The First Guy Naked Wins

There’s an image I’ve played in my head for years.

It’s the most momentous event of my life, a vivid scene of reckoning that’s yet to come. But as sure as death and my entrance into the great hereafter, it will indeed come.

It’s that moment in time when, as the song “I Can Only Imagine” states, I meet Jesus face to face.

I have no clue what events will transpire besides the great judgement of my life — for the things I did, didn’t do, think or say.

Once that moment has passed (thank God), at some point in the hereafter my mind imagine’s I’ll have a chance to speak face to face with Jesus, and get the chance to ask a few questions.

The most important one I’ll ask is this…

During all the dark, painful, unfruitful times in my life, why didn’t you deliver me from my enemies…from the demons of my childhood, from crushing failure, from those who rejected me, from deception and stifling bouts of depression and anxiety?

Why?

My dear friend Mark helped prepare me for the answer, the explanation of the ”why?” of unanswered prayer.

In a brief conversation Mark paraphrased a passage of scripture that brought a whole new light to the “why?” and “what-for?” of unanswered prayer.

He paraphrased the story documented and scientifically validated in history, of a man whose son was possessed by an evil spirit.

The story goes that as the crowds were following Jesus from town to town, seeking for him to perform more miracles on the sick and diseased, a man in the crowd yelled “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by an evil spirit that throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes stiff. I asked your disciples to drive it out but they were unable.”

Jesus sternly replies “O you unbelieving generation! How long must I remain with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring me the boy.”

So they brought him, and seeing Jesus, the evil spirit immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus then asked the boy’s father “How long has this been with him?”

“From childhood, he said. “It often throws him into the fire or into the water, trying to kill him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

“If you can?” echoed Jesus. “All things are possible to him who believes!”

Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd had come running, he rebuked the unclean spirit, “You deaf and dumb evil spirit,” he commanded, “I command you to come out and never enter him again.”

After shrieking and convulsing him violently, the spirit came out. The boy became like a corpse, so that many said, “He’s dead. But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

Jesus answered, “This kind cannot come out, but by prayer and fasting.”

There’s so much meaning to this story I don’t know where to begin unraveling it.

But I’ll just say the thing that strikes me most is the notion that the disciples – whom Jesus was training to build his church upon his ascension after his resurrection – had no effect in attempting to cure this boy or cast out the vicious demon that crippled him so severely.

I’m convinced the disciples, after spending many months watching Jesus cast out evil spirits and healing the sick, saw a methodology that worked. So they tried to copy it, not knowing that the true power in the miracle of healing comes solely from the heart and mind, not a formulaic method or display of hubris or empty rhetoric.

I’m also convinced the other secret ingredient to miraculous healing and deliverance from our enemies, as with Jesus, lies in complete transparency of the person seeking the miracle.

The truly miraculous always finds its place in the hearts and minds men and women who — with transparency before God and others — pray early, often, and always. But that’s the problem, and the problem with the disciples’ feeble efforts — “the effectual prayer of a righteous man”, though it avails much, is nearly impossible to pull off. Because, unlike Jesus, we’re human and our distractions quickly take our focus off God and onto temporal things. The command to “pray often and always” is not for the faint of heart and mind, which is often why our prayers don’t get answered.

They say there’s healing in bearing one’s soul to another, to bear one another’s burdens – in all their ugly, ghoulish darkness – to a trusted friend.

This man trusted Jesus as a friend and healer, which boiled down to faith in the impossible.

In 2020 I’m hoping and praying for my own miracles – from deliverance from the enemies and obstacles of my soul that would like to bring my dreams to their knees.

But with simple, humble transparency and the plea of “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” I’m striving for greater transparency, to be a burden bearer for my friends, and to live in the naked truth in a miraculous life of faith.

(taken from Phil’s blog — www.ripple-effect-blog.com)

 

Taming the Black Dog of the Northwest

Scare crow and a yellow moon. Pretty soon a carnival on the edge of town. King Harvest has surely come (The Band)

A cool wind is blowing, smooth and soft this morning in the Pacific Northwest. Brown, yellow, red, and orange leaves have blanketed my front yard. Glancing through my bedroom window I awaken to a dark fog. But it’s peaceful. Suddenly, I realize it’s here – my favorite season — filled with the hope and promise of “glad tidings of comfort and joy”–gatherings with family and friends, fires in the fireplace and gobs of rich, buttery food.

But for those of us living here in the Northwest, a feint shadow crouches patiently in the corner of our minds. It’s a dark invasive spirit that will soon fill the air, daring to press against anyone without ample courage or fortitude to buffet its cold, biting headwinds – the menacing double threat of depression and anxiety.

In the mental health profession this illness of chronic depression (often accompanied by cycles of anxiety) is referred to as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Winston Churchill called his depressive episodes the “Black Dog,” a gnawing predator that nipped at his ankles for most of his adult life. One famous journalist calls it “living in a cold, heavy rain-drenched suit.”

Whatever the medical community calls it — no matter how pervasive among populations of Seattle, Poulsbo, or Pittsburgh — it’s a menace that will threaten many of us this season, more likely around mid-December when the pressures, commitments and expectations of Christmas reach their peak.

My family doctor in Poulsbo – with whom I visit every 6 months to personally keep the Black Dog at bay — calls depression our society’s most pressing pandemic. He tells me that “70% of his patients suffer from one of these illnesses – or both at any given time.” Another doctor friend from Seattle confirms that “No fewer than 50% of Pacific Northwest adults are (or will be) on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs sometime between November and April.”

But rather than dispense dire warnings of personal meltdowns, suicidal ideation or crippling isolation, I’ve got good news – news about the ways we can not only cope with the onslaught of seasonal, chronic or clinical depression – but stand tall while leaning into its most blusterous mental headwinds. And to be an advocate and encourager for our loved ones who may soon be prime targets of these invading spirits.

In the next few weeks I’m going to share a range of tips and tools to optimize your mental health. Think of it as a modest insurance policy to help you experience a bright and cheery holiday season.

I won’t spend time educating or spewing pop psychology sound bytes or advice on medication, diet or exercise (even though they’re important for emotional wellness), or even share proven behavioral therapy practices. Those tools, I believe, are best offered by licensed professionals.

Rather, my tips and tools are intended to be simple and sensible, understandable, and relatively easy to apply, one at a time – which can offer the glimmer of hope to get your mojo back.

“50% of Pacific Northwest adults will be on anti-anxiety or anti-depressant drugs sometime between November and April.”

Before we start, please know this — that my audience is you – a fellow sojourner seeking a personal path of mental and emotional wholeness in our confused, frenzied culture. But the audience is also me, so I’m writing to remind myself of the proven ways I’ve used these tips to help me be my best during Seattle’s doldrums winter — so that my inner man can exercise good, wholesome judgement and behavior that’ll bless my family, friends, and colleagues.

Easy Success To Start Your Day

Make Your Bed – In the words of my friend Tim Ferriss, when you ‘win the morning, you win the day.’ Making your bed makes you an instant success — first thing. It’s a small task but has more emotional benefits than you can imagine. If you doubt the value of making your bed in the morning, watch this 2-minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgzLzbd-zT4

Make A Plan – Failing to plan your day is planning to fail your day. Take out a piece of paper, write a list of 5 or so things you’d like to accomplish today. Then rank them by priority or chronological order. If you spend more than 60 seconds on the list and prioritizing, it’s too much time. My list is always super simple, especially when I’m in a funk: some phone calls and emails, walk the dog, a meeting, preparing dinner, whatever. These small things may not seem like a big deal to accomplish, but when you’re in the clutches of a deep depression finishing even the most rudimentary task — like dusting your bedroom — seems akin to painting the next Mona Lisa.

Meditate – Connect with your Higher Power, whomever that is, in whatever way works for you. He/she is the One who will give you the strength, courage and mindfulness to make it through at least to the noon hour. Personally, my daily routine starts with 5 or 10 minutes of Bible reading (or similar spiritual content) followed by a few short minutes of prayer. Sometimes, when I have extra time, I’ll listen to soft classical music on King.FM or stream tunes from my favorite solo pianists Ed Kerr, Paul Cardall or David Lantz.

Remember the hilarious movie “What About Bob” that was so popular in the early 90s? In the movie Richard Dreyfuss’s character (a famous therapist) wrote a book called “Baby Steps.” Well, like the movie’s plot line, the concept of “baby steps” to begin your journey to emotional wellness is no laughing matter. To win the day you must begin engaging in simple, easy-repeat rituals. Baby steps. Once accomplished — first thing in the morning — you can tackle more arduous chores and responsibilities later in the day.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for more simple tips to tame depression including short daily walks, ongoing contact with your ESP (Emotional Support Partner) and doing a simple but profoundly fulfilling task…for a loved one.

I’ll leave you with a link to some great chill music I listened to this morning to start my day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0KulDJ09To

*Lead sentence phrase is taken from the poem “Christmas Eve”

This is the first blog post of Skipping Stones–The Personal Blog of Phil Herzog