The Forgotten Emmanuel

[originally posted on LutheranLogomaniac.com]

December 21st is the anniversary of when Kathryn and I lost our son, Emmanuel. It was 2009. And, of course, right before Christmas. Who has time to grieve when there is so much stuff to do?

While the death of Nadia always makes me wish others would remember such days, Emmanuel’s death always reminds me how quickly I myself can forget. Some grief we bury. Some pain is too close, too much to bear at the time.

For pastors, of course, the Christmas season is always a busy time of year. Sermons, bulletins, calls, Christmas programs, caroling, there are always a thousand things to pull us away from our Lord, and from anything else. Pastors don’t have a monopology on this time, either. Mothers, it seems to me, are always full of things that need doing. And holidays or Christmas breaks and the like, well, they may actually be more work for mom, not less. But the list could go on.

How do we allow the business of our lives to interfere from what the point of our lives is in the first place? I forget what is important. I forget even big things, like life and death. I get distracted or I distract myself. I run and hide. I flee from such all encompasing realities.

How many of us hide ourselves from our pain? How many walk around, hurting and wounded, in fear of being found out? How many flee at the thought of being weak?

I think that is why a name like Emmanuel is such an important one for Christians. God is with us. There is no “if” behind the name. God is with us IF we behave. God is with us IF we are good. God is with us UNTIL we die. No. It is a statement of fact. God is with us. Period. The words from Exodus come to mind:

“During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” (Exodus 2:23–25 ESV)

God heard. God remembered. God saw. God knew.

That is the God of the Bible. That is the God who comforts me, even in the face of my forgetfulness and death. That is the God who would come as a little child.

-Pastor Todd Peperkorn

 

Nativity Giorgione 1507

A Day

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday was a day of great darkness and paranoia.  Anxiety, fear, anger even were the watchwords of today.  Today, it was completely different.  Yesterday I was embraced by my family and my congregation, and most especially by the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I don’t mean this in an abstract “think about Jesus” sort of way.  I mean by the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper.  Our Lord binds Himself to me, forgives all my uncleanness, and draws me into His loving embrace.

One of the strangest changes of my move to California has been the shift in my view toward shut-ins.  I had wonderful shut-ins in Kenosha.  But visiting always created great anxiety in me.  Here, I look forward to them in a way I never did before.  This is a gift I did not expect.  The Eucharist is the lifeblood of the church.  God continues to teach me this.

“O Taste and see how gracious the Lord is; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Psalm 34:8

Be at peace, brothers and sisters.

-DMR

Paranoia

This was a new one for me. Today I had some remarkable highs and lows. Highs of super productivity, and lows of not being able to get my head off of my desk.

But what was new today was paranoia.

I don’t remember experiencing this kind of paranoia before. It was as if everything and everyone was out to get me. I was looking into people’s eyes and saw anger and resentment. Closed doors meant plotting against me. Every look, every turned shoulder, every voice spoken that wasn’t abject praise I heard as loathing. And praise was manipulation.

I am a pariah. I am a leper who is unworthy to be in the presence of anyone. My touch is death, and so one and all plot to destroy me.

Paranoia.

I can’t really say I’m a fan of this twist.

I know that this is not true. I know that I am surrounded by people who love me and care for me. I know that God is merciful and that He will never abandon me to such depths, but that He travels with me through the valley of the shadow of death.

But it feels so real. So terribly, terribly real.

The hand of a friend is peace. A hug from one who cares is comfort. The love of my beloved is hope.

Even in paranoia, we are all incarnational. It is only in flesh and blood, real humanity that does not shrink from the chaos, only in that flesh and blood can healing begin.

Never underestimate the power of your humanity. It may not seem like much, but that moment of contact with the sufferer may be all that is between them and the abyss.

Time to go pray Psalm 46 and go to sleep.

Be at peace, dear brothers and sisters.

-DMR

Hello, Old Friend

How I have missed you so. It has been so boring around here, without your chill wind that leaves me cold and empty. What would I do without your amazing way to turn everything good into evil? What would life be like without second guessing every decision, and turning everything I say and do against me.?

Do you remember that time when you almost had me convinced that you were all there is? Depression, you are really sneaky that way. It’s almost as if you want to be my god. I’m afraid that position has already been filled, but you’re welcome to root around for a while and see what dirt you can dig up. You are good at that, I’ll grant you.

I also really appreciate how you take all of those people closest to me and twist everything around. You have a real skill at making me question everything I hold to be true. That is just awesome.

So, welcome back. Please don’t take this wrong if I say I hope you don’t stay long.

-DMR

PS you know I’m being sarcastic, right? I want you to go away, now.

Delivered

Once again, it is the day.  The anniversary of when I was ready to end my life in the pit of despair and depression.  Last year I wrote about it HERE.  You can follow the links there if you’re interested.

Somehow this day has kind of become a day of self-evaulation for me.  I suppose that makes sense, it being Good Friday and all.  It is sort of a “take stock” day for me, as I reflect on God’s richest mercies in giving His Son and in giving me life.

Things are pretty dramatically different today than they were a year ago.  We now live in California.  I am the senior pastor at a small to mid sized confessional congregation near Sacramento.  There are lots of great people here, who love me and my family.  It is a great blessing, to be sure.

But it is also really strange.  I still feel like they don’t know my story, our history, and our life.  I don’t like talking about myself (ok, not that much), but I do occasionally want to stand up in bible class and say something like,

“Are you people crazy!  I am wounded and broken.  I’m a mess, barely hanging on by a thread.  Why would you want us here?  Surely you could find someone cheaper that isn’t always on the edge?”

Then I remember people like Paul, or Elijah, or Augustine, or Luther, or Herberger, Gergardt, and the many thousands of shepherds God has provided His sheep with over the millennia.  If there is one thing that this history should teach, it is that the Ministry is about God’s service to us in His Son, not about the man.  They are a strange and messed up lot.  In that regard I guess I fit right in.

All things are new, yet all things are the same.  Wounded and broken, but healed by the blood of Christ, we go on despite what our heart and mind might say to us (Psalm 73:26).

We rest in Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith.  So, friends, do not despair.  Christ cares for you with an everlasting love.  From Bach’s St. John’s Passion:

Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine,
Rest in peace, you sacred limbs,
Die ich nun weiter nicht beweine,
I shall weep for you no more,
Ruht wohl und bringt auch mich zur Ruh!
rest in peace, and bring me also to rest.
Das Grab, so euch bestimmet ist
The grave that is allotted to you
Und ferner keine Not umschließt,
and contains no further suffering,
Macht mir den Himmel auf und schließt die Hölle zu.
opens heaven for me and shuts off hell.

pieta.jpeg

Presentation in Escondido, California

Hi friends!

I know it’s been months since I have written here. I am sorry for that. But I recently accepted a call to a congregation in northern California.  It has been rather all consuming.

Anywho, last weekend I gave a presentation at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Escondido, California.  I had a few people ask me for a copy of the slides for the presentation.  Here they are in PDF format.  If you need them in Keynote or Powerpoint (ugh) or something else, let me know via the comments and I will try to oblige.

-DMR

DarkMyRoad-Escondido

Book online

It has come to my attention that with the upgrade/changes made to the lcms.org web site, that the link for ordering the book online for a free download has broken.  I will find out where it went and will correct the links, and let y’all know where it is as soon as I figure it out.

Thanks!

-DMR

Renew

It’s been five years since my life took a strange sideways turn. I’ve written about it before (HERE, and HERE for example).  It has made Good Friday a very strange day for me, personally.

This year I’m in a better place personally and emotionally than I usually am by this time in Lent.  Sermons are done (I think).  Family is coming.  Everything is okay.  Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes, that’s all you have, and it is enough.

I pray for all my fellow sufferers that Christ’s death and resurrection would sustain you in the true faith to life everlasting.  Your labor is not in vain.  Your suffering will come to an end.  There will be peace for you.

Grant peace, we pray, In mercy, Lord;

Peace in our time, oh send us.

For there is none on earth but You, None other to defend us.

You only, Lord, can fight for us.  Amen.  (LSB 778)

 

NewImage

Speaking at the mother ship

I just returned from speaking at the Fort Wayne seminary.  The topic, of course, was clinical depression.  It was really a two part visit.  The first part was speaking to a deaconess practicum class, and the second part was doing a “fireside” chat in the Commons with about fifty students and (if they had one) their wives.

I always feel like it is returning to the mother ship when I go home.  No matter how much I like (or dislike) what is going on at the place, it is home in many respects for me.  I feel the same way about Seward.  I don’t really have many ties to Seward anymore, but it is still my school.

The visit itself was good.  I got to catch up with some friends, etc. More importantly, I was able to speak to about fifty members of the student body (and their wives) about depression.  It was basically the same schtick I have done elsewhere (if you want to order the talk, CLICK HERE).

What do you say to a group of men who are studying to be pastors about mental illness and depression?  There’s a lot to say but I tried to keep it to a description of depression, why pastors are at risk, and ways to address it (either preventatively or in the midst of it).  I don’t know if they liked it.  Can you “like” a talk about clinical depression?  But I believe it was and is important for them to hear, and pray that there are more opportunities to do the same.

What would you tell a soon-to-be-pastor about clinical depression?  Why?

 

 

A Lutheran View of Depression