The Boy

I watched a utube of a TV talent show where a young man was competing. His style was Goth, he was noticeably over weight, and had long black hair parted on the side and covering his face so he had to constantly flick it back. He reminded me of a kid that played video games all day, stopping only to stuff his face with junk food. He was painfully shy, effeminate, and acted girlish. When he opened his mouth to sing, out came an operatic woman’s voice. The audience cheered wildly and the judges gushed praise that he would be so brave to go on national TV in spite of his extreme shyness and obvious gender confusion.
Here was a very bound individual, who obviously never had a real father figure in his life. He was extremely handicapped in life’s most basic skills. His confidence and sexual identity were seriously compromised. Contrary to popular belief, shyness is not an attribute or a godly characteristic in a man, but part of his fallen nature. I can understand why God commends a blessing on anyone who shows kindness to the fatherless, and endeavors to save them from a fate such as this. The audiences response was so predictably politically correct.
Here was a disgusting display of everything gone wrong with manhood. How far have we strayed from the truth, that we would think it was ok. Where are the men who could have fathered a boy like him, and saved him from being so deceived. The fact that he ended up like this is a stinging inditement of the failure of the men who have allowed such a perversity to exist in our society.

Depression

Depression seems to be the big topic these days with the passing of Robin Williams. Why is it that comedians are often a depressed lot? I’m not a person given to depression. I tried it once for a few hours, and didn’t like it. So maybe there’s a connection here. I’m generally a very upbeat person, almost never depressed and guess what? I hate comedies. I eschew fantasy or unreality of any kind. Could it be that some people’s lives are so unbelievably torturous that they have to make lite of it to survive? Turn that one around. Perhaps fantasy and comedies foster depression. Maybe it’s because we know they’re unattainable …animals will never talk, warp speed is a lie, no amount of spinach will give you super human strength and time machines will not and cannot work …ever. Too much fantasy has to eventually lead to disillusion, disappointment then depression. Like it or not, the three D’s are bed partners. It’s no wonder there is so much depression in our society, we are obsessed with make believe.
I once had a friend who through some of life’s tough circumstances, had dealt with depression. I came along side of him and really said nothing or did anything out of the ordinary. I was just a listening ear with no agenda to fix him in any way. I think the most important ingredient was time, and lots of it. Well it seemed to work, at least temporarily. He still thanks me for that time we had.
My wife said that I shouldn’t write about depression because I’ve never been depressed and have no idea about how to help depressed people. I’ve never done drugs before but I know enough to stay away from the stuff. I see the results of addiction and know instinctively that it’s not at all healthy for you. Most marriage councilors have gone through a marriage breakup. The logic is that you need to have been there to council someone in their breakup. I totally disagree and see it as faulty logic. Would you trust a dentist that had rotten teeth? Would you take business advice from someone who’s never had a successful business? Why would you seek advice for a successful marriage from someone who was a failure in theirs? Why receive council about depression from a depressed person? Rather someone who has known victory over that area of their life, and doesn’t struggle with depression.
Depression is destructive. It is like cancer. The disease will destroy you from the inside out, eating away at everything healthy within you. We have a depressed customer who frequently comes into the store. Everything that comes out of his mouth is poisonous. His face is disfigured and tortured. His countenance reminds me of a cartoon where the rain cloud follows the guy around raining only on him. He’s so depressing to be around that I avoid him like the plague.
For an addict to get free of drugs, takes time, and a concerted effort to quit. It also helps to have friends to see you through the process. Going on methidone or other drugs that are to help ease you out of the addiction, just prolongs the inevitable. There is no easy way out.
I think it’s important that a depressed person take responsibility for their part in their demeanor. Rather than seeing themselves as victims of everything that they have no control over, do what they can do to have victory over their feelings. It’s not wrong to get depressed. Everyone gets depressed from time to time, but giving up, and giving in to depression needs to be viewed as the sin that it is. And we know that the answer to our sin is to repent of it.
Recently my wife was having a hard day. “I’m depressed” she said, going over in her mind all the negative things currently happening. About 7:00 pm she decided to go outside and weed the garden. An hour later she came inside and said she felt much better. I know this sounds trite, but there is a strong connection between physical work and mental well being. It’s a vicious circle when depression causes a person to stop working, and additional depression caused by not working, incapacitates them from ever going back to work.
I know this is not a definitive list, but I see 5 steps that can help with depression.
1./ Find a friend with a listening ear.
2./ See your capitulation to depression as a sin needing to be repented of.
3./ Make a concerted effort to get back to work. The harder and more physical the work is, the better.
4./ Recognize depression as a feeling, not a fact. Feelings are a good servant, but a poor master.
5./ Stop viewing life unrealistically with fantasies. Reality can be depressing, but at least it can be dealt with. Fantasies never come to pass, and we have no control over them.

Dementia

A few months ago I had breakfast with 3 men that have become close friends over the last 45 years. For many years we met for breakfast once a week and discussed our common interests as Christian business owners. We would pray for and support each other through many of life’s trials. I have developed a deep respect for the opinions and integrity of these three men. It’s been many years since we’ve met regularly, but I still think fondly of our times together.
Recently, one of them had a stroke and developed dementia, sometimes forgetting one end of the conversation from the other. We were able to minister encouragement to him in a way that no one else could. I was overwhelmed by the the degree of care God has for him as he openly shared about his struggles.
I have another friend who has dementia but is in denial about his condition, even though his illness is obvious to everyone around him. What a difference it makes, when we are transparent and open with others about the difficulties we face. Being vulnerable is a lifetime learned skill. It’s like opening a covered wound to the sunlight for healing.
A close fellowship between men where you can be vulnerable, is a gift of God that few share in. It is far more valuable than a multitude of casual relationships.

Evangelistic Chili

Not unlike the proverbial story of stone soup, a pot of chili takes a long list of mundane ingredients, and voila, a masterpiece of culinary delight. Proper chili takes about 3 days to prepare, culminating with friends with beers and leftovers in the fridge.
To begin, you must rinse about 4 cups of beans. Any kind of beans are fine, as long as they are kidney shaped. I like to have an assortment, black eyed, mung, brown beans, whatever the grocer happens to have will do. Add about 50% more water than beans. Put a lid on it, then leave it overnight. The water will magically disappear, but the beans will look pregnant and guilty. My favorite is a cast iron camp cook pot over an open fire. My last pot of chili was cooked in a cheap 2nd hand stainless steel pot, with a tight fitting lid, on a barbecue. Oil the pot to help keep stuff from sticking, add the ingredients then bring to a simmering boil.
4 cups assorted beans
500 ml water
2 diced onions
4 diced garlic
1 diced red or yellow pepper
A handful of chopped hot peppers
some diced celery
500 ml can of crushed tomatoes
A liberal amount of Franks, tabasco, or whatever hot sauce you have on hand. I use a small amount of Montreal steak spice, but there’s already enough natural spices in the peppers and garlic that you don’t need to add a lot of powdered stuff. Fry up some hamburger meat. Break it up into small pieces with the spatula as its cooking. Toss in whatever leftover meat you have, as long as you can dice it.
Here’s the tricky part, you have to let it simmer for about 6 hours. Stir it frequently to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom, and to ensure there’s enough liquid so it doesn’t burn. Sample it constantly to see if the beans are soft enough. When they are, it’s done cooking. Let it sit for an hour with the lid on and no heat before serving. Good luck waiting an hour because by then everyone’s starving.
Cooking shouldn’t be a utilitarian exercise, but a social event. It’s a travesty that a person should ever have to eat alone. I like to involve people in the process so they feel part of it. When you eat with someone, you’re saying you like them. When Jesus wanted to show His love and acceptance to Zacheas, He ate with him. When you invite a person into your home, and eat with them, it’s a powerful evangelistic tool. Their defenses are down, they feel accepted and open to whatever you want to tell them. I’ve yet to have anyone refuse to hear the gospel after I’ve fed them.
Anyhow, the reason I’m writing this blog is because it’s 3:08 AM and my stomach doesn’t feel too good after 3 large plates of chili.