Hope and Suicide

Tuesday was World Suicide Prevention Day, and September is suicide prevention month. In line with being a leading case of death in the US, over 1 million people die from suicide each year around the world. Yesterday on my other blog I shared about 9/11 and how I couldn’t really understand the hatred or dislike that would cause people to kill others in the types of terrorist attacks we remember happening 18 years ago today. I can however understand a small portion of what people struggle with when it comes to suicide.

Depression is something I’ve worked with and on for many years, never close to considering suicide, but I do have some understanding of what it feels like to feel hopeless and lost. Unlike hatred and anger towards others, I can imagine what it feels like when these feelings reach the extremes that drive some people to suicide. I don’t think we should ever give up hope, but there comes a time when it just doesn’t seem like the miracle will be showing up. The struggle of suicide is something very personal. As much as you think about the other people in your life while you’re struggling, the things that lead you to suicide don’t leave a lot of room left in your head to navigate your way out.

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m hopeful for the first time in a long time. I’m hopeful because people of all walks of life are finally talking about their mental health struggle, even publicly on TV. I’m hopeful because it’s easier than ever to reach out for support without fanfare or sharing your situation with the world through text, email, call and messages. I’m hopeful because of everyone who gives hope to those who are lost, who listens to them and helps them connect with people who will support and not judge them. I’m hopeful because of the number of organizations, public and private, who are stepping up to share about and support help for those considering suicide. I’m hopeful because there’s more openness and understanding that anyone in any walk of life can struggle with mental illness, depression and suicide, including first responders and celebrities.

Suicide may be a personal struggle, but that doesn’t mean we give up on each other and let anyone struggle alone. The more we share, the more we support, the more we accept, the more chances we’ll have to decrease the number of suicides each year, instead of seeing them increase. Everyone faces struggles in life, but no one should struggle alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help if you’re struggling, and if someone comes to you looking for help, support them or send them to someone who can help.

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Thoughts on Violence, Peace and Healing

Again in the past days and week we’re struggling with three shootings and people killed and injured. It’s still in early days to know the reasons behind shootings and if there was a specific target (and we rarely get the full story), but regardless of why it’s heartbreaking and hurtful to think about.

When it comes to topics of faith we talk a lot about peace and love, but what I really wanted to talk about today was the fact that there is another side to this. Ephesians 4:25-28a, 31 says: “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing….Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

These verses talk about the very real fact that we deal with anger, bitterness, and rage. Few if any people are truly immune to the darker emotions of life. Experiencing them from time to time doesn’t mean that we’re evil, it just means we’re human. The choice we have to make is how we deal with those emotions: do we respond to them by killing others or going to workout at the gym or talking through them with a counselor? Two of those are healthy ways of dealing with those emotions, the other isn’t.

God is the God of healing among many other things. He can heal our world, our hearts, our minds, our relationships and our emotions. But we have to be willing to let that happen and we have to invest in making that healing happening by avoiding our triggers, learning to take breaks before things escalate, doing what we know is good for us, and spending time with people who are good for us. This week I encourage you to pray for healing for our world, for people to continue to step up and admit the struggles they’ve faced and how they’ve gotten help for it or that they need help, and for everyone to be open and sensitive to the fact that what they see is likely only a small part of what’s going on in a person’s life. This is both an individual and a community battle, we can’t get it done alone but we have to start with ourselves.

This is an excerpt of my weekly devotional, learn more and subscribe here

Waste Not Want Not

I don’t know about you but I don’t like to be wasteful. Sure, sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, we get something we think we’ll like and that ends up not being the case and we can’t return it, sometimes we forget about something, or on the other side of things on rare occasions we may intentionally choose to pamper ourselves and go all out and splurge which to some would be wasteful. As far as splurging/pampering goes, I know plenty of people who have gone ahead and splurged in one way or another and felt it was an excellent use of resources. No, it wouldn’t be something they do on a regular basis, but every so often it’s nice to do something special. And when it comes to waste, we’re all human and these things happen.

But I think there’s an important distinction to be made between habitual waste, an accident, and a mistake. A mistake is something that we really did have plans for and really did want/need, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out that way and it was an oops (not something we’ll do again or do often). An accident would be when the power goes out and you lose all the food in your fridge and freezer. You didn’t intentionally cut the power to your house so you could waste food, something totally out of your control happened. Habitual waste for example is when you go to the grocery store and buy more food than you can eat before your next trip, large quantities of foods you’re not sure you would like (and don’t end up liking), or just buying new and not making use of what you have in your closets on a regular basis.

I always try to be conscious of the resources I consume, how much I hold on to, the ways I live my life and how that’s impacting my productivity and victories, and how much I’m spending vs. earning. But I think we can all do (a little) better, and that’s one thing I’ve been working on lately, and so has my partner. It’s also a movement in the food world to accept not-so-pretty produce and be more conscious of where our food comes from and how it gets to our plates. It’s also a movement in the world to consider the packaging things come in and how well we’re recycling things and caring for the earth.

If you want to make a difference even in a very small way this week you can choose to use what you have, to maximize your resources, to pay attention to how you’re living, and make smart decisions and actions that would have a positive impact on your life and bottom line as well as the lives of others and this planet that we all share.

Are you being wasteful of what you’ve been blessed with, purchased, contributed to, or been given?  If we all were a little more careful about our usage, we’d be better off at the end of the month, better off when the next climate report comes out, and better off when it comes to being accountable for our treatment of the planet and each other.

Building Relationships with Respect

With yesterday being Mother’s Day here in the US, I’ve been reflecting on families and relationships. Every day in the news there are stories of relationships gone wrong, of people letting others down, of people hurting other people and ways that people are destroying our world. But at the same time you can’t ignore the fact that some of those people are bad people. They’re not people you want in your life or around your kids, and they can’t be “fixed” unless there’s an Act of God. But fortunately, there aren’t as many of those people as the news makes it out to be. Most of us just have issues, quirks and traits that may or may not mesh with the people around us.

I do believe that we can learn to get along with just about everyone, whether it’s having a civil conversation or actually developing a friendship with them. But that does take a lot of work, typically from both parties. For some reason some people choose to hold grudges or make snap judgments about some people, and aren’t open in the future to changing those opinions, despite how they or the other person may have changed over the years. And no matter how kind or polite you may be to them, they’re just nasty. I’m not suggesting that you need to be best friends with everyone, but I don’t think we need to have the poor interactions and relationships many people have.

Does it take superhuman effort in some cases to get to that point? Yes, but that’s part of what God can help you with. Yes, the Bible talks about loving everyone, but for some of us loving is a big stretch. So let’s start with two things that are a lot simpler: treating others as you want to be treated and respecting others. God made them just like He made you and I, and I haven’t known God to make anything that was wrong or without purpose. So if for no other reason, choose to respect and treat them based on how you want to be treated, because God loves them. Not all moms are perfect examples, but many moms can run circles around us when it comes to loving and accepting their kids in a way that we struggle to accept and understand others.

This week I encourage you to think about your attitude and how you treat and interact with others, and spend time in prayer with God asking for His strength and guidance in how you can build more relationships and have more interactions that will honor Him.

“Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17

Reality Reflection: Why All the Hate?

Many people are thinking about the topic of love this month, and sometimes that brings out the no-so-happy feelings. It’s not awesome to have your heart broken or for someone you trusted to break that trust, and sometimes people are nasty for no reason that we can figure out, which isn’t fun. I can understand the frustration regarding injustice and need to step up and fight that, but I can’t understand why people allow their opinions or experiences to become so tainted that ambivalence or personal opinions/preferences become hate.

To use a famous, historical example, it would be one thing to say you dislike Jewish food or don’t agree with what the religion of the Jewish people teaches, but for the Nazis to turn dislike into hatred and persecution, is an unnecessary escalation. It’s OK to not like or be passionate about everything, I’m not particularly passionate about spiders or snakes, but that doesn’t mean I hate them or want to kill them all.

Why can’t people accept that everyone and everything has their differences and that’s OK? It doesn’t mean you have to marry someone of a different race/culture/background or have kids or own a gun or love wild animals. It means that as long as what someone else is doing or believing doesn’t hurt someone else and isn’t detrimental to themselves, leave them to it.

If it’s as simple as hating something because you truly don’t understand it (or think you understand it when you may not) and you don’t want to just come out and ask your questions, you can reach out to a relevant organization anonymously online and talk with them to try to understand (create a new email address, in the message give them a little background on why you’re reaching out, promise to do your best to keep it respectful, and ask some questions), or even just do some research in your favorite search engine to learn more about something you might have an unfair or biased opinion of.

Hating something or someone takes a ton of effort and energy. Yes, over time it may feel like it’s second nature and just part of who you are, but it’s still can drain you of energy that would be much better used in other ways. For example, just because you don’t like salad there’s hundreds and maybe thousands of other ways to get greens without launching an all-out hate campaign on salad. There’s really no reason for the hate, just move on to something better.

This week ahead I encourage you to take a look and see if there are hatreds or building hate in your life, and if so choose at least one to work on moving past. Why focus on the bad when you could move forward with the bigger and better?

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” Coretta Scott King

Spreading Peace

Our verse this week is Psalm 29:11: “May the Lord make his people strong. May the Lord bless his people with peace.”

You can flip on any TV channel or open any newspaper or magazine and see that there’s a serious lack of peace in this world right now. If I asked you about work, your relationships and your family, at least one of those 3 topics would bring up a situation that lacks peace. I totally understand, after all there are some seriously messed up people in the world. It doesn’t really matter how they got to be that way, but they sure challenge those of us who normally are pretty decent people (no one is perfect, right?).

First, let’s talk about those difficult people. Some are totally oblivious to the damage they cause, others are fully aware of the destruction they leave in their wake. I don’t believe that they should have our sympathy or sorrow, somewhere along the line they chose to live and act the ways that they do. The best thing we can do is understand that just because they’re miserable people we don’t have to let them make our lives miserable too. Given the sheer number, it’s almost impossible to avoid them, which is why it’s important to understand them. But just because we understand that they are who they are, it doesn’t mean we should spend tons of time with them.

Second, let’s talk about spreading peace around the world. Peace spreads through peaceful people. If you want to spread peace, you can’t overreact to miserable people (including drivers). You have to remain calm and collected. You can impact people by being peaceful yourself. And, there will always be opportunities that pop up that will allow you to spread the message of hope and peace with others verbally and through actions, like going on missions trips or when friends ask about your positive attitude in the face of challenges.

Third, looking back at Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were people who didn’t like Him, and He was a really likable guy. You can’t make everyone happy nor can you know the right thing to do every time. Jesus set the example of spending time with people who wanted to spend time with Him and were good for Him. While Jesus couldn’t avoid the teachers of the law, He didn’t make a point of spending a lot of time where He wasn’t wanted.

This week I encourage you to spend time with people who lift you up and encourage you to be the best version of yourself (including Jesus). You’ll feel better about your relationships and be able to find peace and satisfaction with your life.

Helping Others

This month the topic we’re talking about is one that’s become more appropriate with the events of the past few weeks, the topic is helping. It’s something we’re seeing in a major way in Texas and other southern states following Hurricane Harvey. It’s something we see and do as a regular part of our daily lives. We also make choices not to help those who need it, sometimes for reasonable reasons, other times because we’re lazy, selfish, or just plain mean.

There are countless ways you can be a help. You can start a business and sell something someone needs. You can raise dogs as part of a seeing eye, mobility or veteran organization. You can hold the door for someone. You can donate to a cause. You can recognize the good work someone did. You can add boxes and cans to a food drive. You can volunteer with a home building organization. You can babysit for a family who just lost a grandparent. You can plant a garden. You can offer to drive a coworker whose car is in the office to work. You can help paint a neighbor’s fence. You can do your least favorite chore to help a family member who is sick or injured out. You can tutor kids. You can run a support group.

I could probably come up with hundreds of ways someone can be a help. There are plenty of excuses that we put out about why we’re not doing something to help, but the fact is with all the technology today, something even as simple as sending out a Tweet or Facebook post can be a help to someone. The biggest thing to remember about being a help is the attitude and willingness behind it. No, you don’t have to help everyone or in every situation, but when a situation comes along that you can be a help with, you should. How will you help someone today?