Wednesday, September 24, 2014

WHEN ARE WE GOING TO ADDRESS THIS?

Once again, a mid-40's man has gone off the deep end, and killed others.

And himself.

The picture on the right was the scene yesterday morning, outside one of UPS' facilities in the Birmingham area. Shortly before, an employee who had been recently terminated returned to the building, in his uniform, entered it, and shot & killed two people who seem to have been instrumental in his termination.

He then killed himself.

He was 45, married, the father of two children, and a loyal member of a local Baptist Church. Church members were "as surprised as anybody" when reports came in as to what he'd done. "He loved his family, he loved his girls, and he loved his church", a good friend said. "He had a servant heart".

First, let me say I am not a medical or psychological professional. Or any other professional, since I'm retired. But I know real well what I went through when I was 45, when things were going well for me, from all appearances. I'll tell you what I remember about my situation, and from a book I read at the time.

Neither do I know what his church did nor did not do in response to his plight, or the plight of middle-aged men in general. But see if it makes sense that what I'm going to describe might be what happened to the man who killed himself and 2 others, just yesterday.

First of all, men are driven by testosterone. It's what makes us hunter-killers. Think of the family going somewhere on vacation; mom wants to stop and smell the roses, but dad wants to keep on killing miles. And it spills over into all we do .. we want to win souls, and are disappointed by what we see as failure. We want to make sales and win arguments and win at card games and bowling and all the rest.

But the male body also produces a bit of estrogen, the female hormone. That's no problem until the production of testosterone declines seriously, generally by the early 40's.

It's like we "tip over an edge". Something changes. Winning no longer delivers the thrills it did. Making that next sale produces no internal "high". We sense something's wrong, and particularly for Christians, we think it shouldn't be so. We shouldn't be moody or depressed.

And we don't want to tell anybody, either, Don't want to ask for help, any more than we like asking for directions on a road trip.

It can also induce depression, when we feel changes we cannot describe.

Stress does a couple things, one of which can be to depress testosterone production. And if that produces depression in us, the depression in itself reduces the hormone production.

It becomes a self-feeding spiral. In my case, a change in management at my employer, and the knowledge that I was going to be a grandfather, pushed me over that "edge", bigtime. Sometimes I'd just lie with my head in Peg's lap, crying.

Until I found out what it was, by reading "Passages", by Gail Sheehy. Once I found out I was supposed to feel like I did, it robbed the feelings of all their power. I found out feelings could neither force me to, nor keep me from, doing anything.

That, and getting fired ... with 18 months' pay in one lump sum ... ended the ordeal.

It's called "male andropause". Look it up. See if it doesn't make sense that the shooter at UPS may have been driven by depression, and by feelings he couldn't explain. And ask yourself why his church, of which he was so loyal a member, didn't tell him all about this before he ran aground and ended 3 lives.

Perhaps they did. Perhaps his pastor had told the men of the church, or better yet the men and the women, what to expect at his age. But I know I've never heard any church broach this subject in over half a century of regular church participation.

Except to deny that the "mid-life crisis" was real.

Well, it is. It's time we dealt with it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

OK. I'm Done. Soapbox Put Away.

If you haven't read this Blog Post yet, please do so. The rest of this one is about what I did about that one.

Thank you.

It might also help if you read this one, too. It'll explain why I may seem, to some, to be sticking my nose into things where it's odd for a 76 year old "guy in a pew" to be doing so.

Now, if you've a mind to read even more, about what I've been up to lately, please proceed.

I got to thinking about the numbers I'd previously cited, and about why we of the SBC seem to be settling for mediocrity. Or worse. Folks around the area seem to hold FBC of Pelham in high regard, and even say really nice things about us, despite the fact that we've declined in attendance about 20% over the last 14 years. Which is also the time we've been in the nice new red brick building on the highway.

That is also the same time period in which Church of the Highlands, mentioned in one of those posts, has grown from zero to 20,000+.

As a result of my feeling of obligation to speak up when I see things, and having had a couple Experiences With God in past years, in which He made it plain He didn't show me things to sit down and be quiet, I decided I'd do what I could. Of course, that has involved teaching along these same lines, but that didn't seem enough. So I decided to plop myself down in front of the biggest voices I could get to in the SBC, and tell them in person.

As a little background, this all started with Jimmy Swaggart. Many years ago, when he "fell from grace", so to speak, I wrote him a personal letter. Had to go to the library to find a Baton Rouge phone book, but that was a small price to pay to follow through on my convictions. As you may recall, upon his confession of wrongdoing, the Assemblies of God put together a very prudent and Spiritually-sound program of repentance, reconciliation and restoration for him, and the church as a whole, to follow. Unfortunately, his response was to take the Family Worship Center out of the Assemblies of God, rather than submit to their program.

So I wrote him a personal letter. I told him that he would likely get a lot of letters saying something like "You show'em, by golly...", and an equal number of letters calling him dirty names, but I wanted to do neither. What I said was that the Bible said we were to show respect for those in authority over us, as they were put there for our good, but he and his church were not doing that. They were rebelling against authority, and I could forecast no good coming from his, and their, defiant actions.

I never heard back, of course, just as I never heard back from another well-known evangelist to whom I wrote a similar letter after what I thought a big offense on one of his radio broadcasts.

Well, I don't do those things to bring about change. I do them out of obedience, so I will know at least someone told them, and my hands can thus be clean in that respect.

So ... my little venture had me sitting in Dr. Frank Page's office six weeks ago this past Monday, and subsequently in Dr. Thom Rainer's office this past Monday. And I showed them the spreadsheets, and told them of the discipleship that goes on at Church of the Highlands, and reiterated that we can hardly be called disciple-makers for the 2/3 of our members who don't come to church. I must say I do not recall meeting with more gracious, genial people than those two men. In light of the advance time it took to get an appointment to see them, I know they're busy beyond anything I ever experienced in my career, and I was blessed beyond my ability to describe, by their spending time with me.

I also, locally, spent time with Rick Lance, who has a huge long title but is basically the Exec for the State Convention in Alabama. He was good enough to meet me at a local coffee shop here .. in fact, it's located in my subdivision here in Pelham ... and we spent about an hour and a half talking about these issues. I really appreciated the time with him.

I left word some weeks ago for Ronnie Floyd to call, as he was out of the office the day I called. To date, he's not returned my call. And it's OK ... I know he's busy like everybody else ... at least you folks that still work, for which I thank you as it's apparent you're the ones paying my Social Security ... and I'm finished with overt action on my little project, anyway.

And, with that, I am. I've had my say. If anything good comes from it, it'll have to be God Who does it.

Come to think of it, He's told us that's how it works in His service, anyway. That's sure good enough for me.
More, even.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Just Because I Remember It Fondly

Back in the infancy of the internet, when I was electronically prowling the chat rooms on Prodigy, one of the ladies I chatted with mentioned she had lost her husband and her brother in a relatively short period of time. Think weeks, not years.

I told her I wrote poems from time to time, and she asked if I could write one in memory of her brother. She told of their childhood in Orlando, and how he'd sneak into her room before sunrise, wake her up and sneak out to a nearby lake. There, he'd show her how the nocturnal animals would settle in for the daytime, and how the other animals would go about rousing up and feeding their young, etc. She said she had years of fond memories of those times, and looked forward to seeing him again in Heaven.

After pondering for a day or two, I finally caught some sort of inspiration and wrote the following poem. I'm posting it here only because I just now remembered it, with fondness, written at a time when people were just beginning to explore their new-found ability to reach out electronically to people half a world away.


WHEN MORNING'S BROKEN....

In the stillness of the birth of day
I'm led to watch .. I'm led to pray
I watch the sun disturb the still
And pray that God will make my will

Into his own, as I start once more
In the first day of forevermore
To serve a God who's done so much
Through friends and family, church and such

And a brother dear who's no longer near
To show me God and wipe my tear
Yet most of what he meant to me
Comes back to life whene'er I see

The robin tend her young in nest
And I realize God’s plan was best
Not only when the birds He feeds
But also when He tends my needs.

I realize that my heavenly home
Will know no night, yet as I roam
Earth's sod I cannot help but feel
That morning there is just as real

As when I sat with brother dear
And first felt God was real and near
But until I’m there, and mine eyes shall see
I'll hold his love most dear to me

And cling to love's most precious token
'Til, with him, I’ll see morning broken...