Month: September 2014

Self Inflicted Murder?

One of the battles that rages on suicide is the question of “self inflicted murder”.  I’m not going to go into the whole history and doctrine of capital sin and eternal punishment.  I want to get inside the pain element just for a moment – the “why” that we are all so burdened by.  Let’s start with an extreme case:  On September 11, 2001 terrorists flew planes into the world trade towers.  As the towers were engulfed in flames, people were trapped in the upper floors with no way out.  Here was their choice – stay in their office and burn to death or jump and have a fall to a sudden, and I assume, painless death.  As horrific a thought it is to jump from 100 stories up I cannot imagine standing idol while flames are eating at my flesh.  Personally, I would have jumped in a heart beat and would not have felt any quilt for choosing to end my life.  In my opinion those people were clearly victims of murder by the terrorists.

I talk with individuals who contemplate suicide.  Life for others is similar to 9/11 – it is a perfect day with the sun shining and perfect temperatures.  Inside the mind of these individuals however is a person trapped on the 100th floor with a fire licking at their flesh.  They are in pain and fear and they are facing a slow and horrible death.  Do they choose to stand and suffer or do they leap to a quick and painless death?  It’s not that they wish to die – they just want the pain to stop and they don’t see another way out.

Those of us enjoying the beautiful day cannot understand the fire that is raging.  We cannot understand the pain or the fear.  We cannot understand standing on the 100th floor dangling out the window and taking that frightful fall.  What is so awful in that person’s life that they want it to end?  Is it really a beautiful day or is it a day filled with true evil that causes healthy young vibrant people to end it all?

Approximately 85 people a day end their lives in America.  85 people who are engulfed in flames who choose a quick death.  85 people who cannot enjoy a bright sunny day and the countless number of family and friends who will now suffer for the loss they endure.  Unlike the people trapped in the world trade tower, we have the ability to stop the pain in these lives.

But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me.


Mourning or Morning

As you wake today, what are you facing . . . mourning or morning?

Are you facing defeat or victory?  Success or failure?

Love or hate?

Peace or violence?

Health or sickness?

Judgment or forgiveness?

Freedom or bondage?

Beauty or ugliness?

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.
flower pavement

Some practical help for those mourning

Our community is dealing with another horrific teen death.  Here are a couple pointers for friends who want to help but don’t know where to start:

Don’t just say “if there is anything I can do”, yes there are things you can do.  Just do them.  Mow their lawn.  Stop by and clean.  Run errands.  Don’t ask.  The answer will usually be “no”.  If you are a close enough friend just do it.

Give them food but be careful with perishables.  We threw out so much bread and other perishable food.  If it is frozen, make sure it is labeled and easy to prepare.  If you are good at organizing, plan meals with friends over internet sites like Take a Meal.

One of the BEST gifts that we received will sound really dumb.  Toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning wipes.  Seriously.  We had a lot of visitors and all of this came in very handy!  Don’t be embarrassed.  We all need it and when crowds come and go it is essential.

Give them money.  Seriously.  There are A LOT of bills to pay, time off work, and short term needs.  We really appreciated all the financial help we received.  Our church paid for our funeral expenses which was a huge help!  These expenses are never planned.

Give a lot of hugs.  Don’t overstay your visit.  Families are very tired during this time.  Don’t try to get into heavy discussions of “why” and “I wish I could have done something”.

One last item: Mourners are often overwhelmed during the first week.  Remember your friends a month later, 6 months later and a year later.  People forget that mourning goes on for a long time.  Anniversaries are hard (see my blog).  Don’t overwhelm them during the first week but overwhelm them later on when they really feel alone and sad.

Love your friends.  Love your family.  Most of all, love your children.  If they are hurting from this, stay close and love them more.009

Another Teen Suicide

When I started this blog, it was intended to be an uplifting devotional/spiritual thought page.  It turns out that the most read pages are sadly about teen suicide.

I was doing pretty good so far heading into our 2nd anniversary of Isaiah taking his life.  Today I heard one of his friends ended her life.  Another shockwave through our school.  Another gasp through our little town.  All the questions.  A million “why’s” with no answers.   There will be cries of “this has got to stop” and “we need to do something”.   Another family that is devastated and friends that will never forget.  So much pain.  So much sadness.  A permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Why?  I wish I had an answer.

The picture below is from the “safe room” after Isaiah died.  Juliet Benson’s name is signed on it.  I found it on her Facebook page.  I guess tomorrow there will be a “safe room” for her.  I wish there was a “safe room” for these kids before they took their lives. . . .  I didn’t know Juliet but I’m crying like I did.  The pain transfers from one suicide to another.  Hug your kids tonight.  They need it.

safe room


Bullying vs Teasing

There has been a lot of attention given to bullying and rightfully so.  Bullying is mean and can cause serious damage to an individual.

For parents, how do you discern if your child is being bullied or teased?  Do you know the difference?  Is there harm in being teased?  Where do you draw the line between protecting your child and helping them to “grow up?”

In one of my first jobs I was the only teenager on the site.  I was constantly “picked on”.  My co-workers called me funny names, glued my lunch box shut or put scraps of lumber in it to take home, played tricks on me and laughed when I messed up.  I went home and told my dad that my older co-workers were picking on me.  Dad quickly responded, “they are teasing you because they like you.  If they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t clown around with you.”  I didn’t understand at first.  They weren’t being mean and they weren’t bothering me.  I just wanted to fit in.  Later in the summer, one of the boss’s sons came to work with the crew.  We were about the same age but this kid didn’t get it.  He wandered around and didn’t pull his weight.  He had an attitude and it was clear the other workers didn’t want him around.  They never teased him.  They avoided him.  I finally understood what my dad was talking about.  I was part of the crew and I learned to dish out the teasing like they gave it to me.

I am still a teaser.  I love to tease children by calling them funny names.  I’m surprised how many children and young people don’t have a sense of humor anymore.  Maybe it’s all the politically correctness.  Maybe its all the fear that is instilled in this generation to watch out of bad people.  Maybe its the lack of people skills brought on by electronic media.  Life is just a little too serious for this generation.  They have been raised without enough “play” time and too much organized events.

But back to the issue: how and when do we protect our children?  In short: teasing is funny/light hearted, bullying is mean and negative.  Teasing comes and goes, bullying is focused and relentless.  Teasing affirms a relationship, bullying enforces weakness and tries to enforce power and intimidation.   In either case, a parent should take the opportunity to teach their children to grow through the experience.  If your child is having a serious issue, step up and protect them.  No child should be forced to live under constant harassment.

Here are a couple of sources if you are interested in reading more:

Click to access A%20Brief%20Look%20at%20the%20Differences%20Between%20Teasing%20and%20Bullyin3.pdf

Matthew 25:40

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
guate children


Re-posted from January 2013

When I began studying martial arts, my instructor would yell at me “Breathe!”  He would remind us all to remember to breathe.  At first it seemed a little silly “remember to breathe?”  The point, however, was simple.  When we would practice a form, we would tighten our body and concentrate so hard that we would forget to breathe.   We would tire and weaken from the lack of oxygen.  As I moved up the ranks and began teaching, I would notice the same thing over and over again with the new students.

Relax people.  Breathe!  We often hear that we should take a break  and relax (which is true) but we also need to relax and breathe while we’re in motion.  We can’t go all day without breathing in the natural and we can’t go all day in the spiritual without breathing either.

Take a breath.  Relax.  Calm yourself and remember who is in charge.  Allow the Holy Spirit to enter in.

Ezekiel 37:5

This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.
800px-Sandylion near Burnley


When I was 20, I drove across the country alone trying to find where God wanted me to be.  I was driving a 1973 Gremlin without a/c and it only had an am radio.  For those of you lucky enough not to ever drive a Gremlin, it was basically a Jeep with an ugly car body over it!  On part of the journey I drove from Utah to Los Angeles.  At around 10:00 p.m. I stopped on the edge of LA to call my friend who I was staying with.  I was overjoyed to finally make it!  His response, however, was not exuberant like mine.  He commented, “you have about 2 more hours to get to where I am.”  I said, “how can that be, I’m IN LOS ANGELES!”  Being from Lancaster PA, I had no idea how BIG LA was!  Of course, he was right.  I had about 2 more hours to drive on my very sore rear end.

That’s how life is sometimes.  We don’t know where the journey will lead.  We don’t know how long it will be and we don’t know what we will encounter along the way.  Sometimes the journey is full of joy and sometimes it is broken down in the rain along side of the road.  Sometimes our rear ends are so sore we feel like we can’t go another mile.   I drove about 7,000 miles on that trek.  I wore off all 4 tires.  I had great visions along the way, saw many friends and relatives, saw beautiful country and ate really good Mexican food for the first time!  I met wonderful people and stayed at Mennonite Your Way homes.  I visited little churches and large churches and waved to people along the road that I never saw again.

I thought I was going to move to sunny California.  Instead I returned to a dreary November Pennsylvania.  I returned to a career that I didn’t think I wanted and a life that I didn’t think I wanted in a city that I didn’t think I wanted.  There have been broken down moments along the way.  Tires have been worn off.  The hair on my head has been worn off!  My rear end now hurts some days from being kicked so often.  But there has been joy and friends and relatives and wonderful people.  There have been little churches and big churches and some really good Mexican food.  I have waved to a lot of people I don’t know.

Enjoy the journey.  You never know where it will lead you.

John 4:5-7New International Version (NIV)

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”


800,000 a year

Suicide called ‘large public health problem’ by WHO

UN health agency calls for action to reduce global suicide rate of 800,000 a year

Thomson Reuters Posted: Sep 04, 2014 10:04 AM ET Last Updated: Sep 04, 2014 10:09 AM ET


More than 800,000 people each year worldwide commit suicide — around one person every 40 seconds — with many using poisoning, hanging or shooting to end their own lives, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

In its first global report on suicide prevention, the United Nations health agency said some 75 per cent of suicides are among people from poor or middle-income countries and called for more to be done to reduce access to common means of suicide.

WHO Dr. Margaret Chan

World Health Organization Director Margaret Chan says the agency’s first report on suicide prevention is a “call for action to address a large public health problem which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long.” (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

The report found that suicides take place all over the world and at almost any age. Globally, suicide rates are highest in people aged 70 and over, but in some countries, the highest rates are found among the young.

In the 15 to 29-year age group, suicide is the second leading cause of death globally.

The WHO’s director general Margaret Chan said the report was a “call for action to address a large public health problem which has been shrouded in taboo for far too long.”

Pesticide poisoning, hanging and firearms are among the most common methods of suicide globally, the report said, and evidence from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and Europe shows that restricting access to these means can help to stop people from committing suicide.

Governments should also set up national prevention plans, the report said, noting that currently only 28 countries are known to have such strategies.

The report found that in general, more men die by suicide than women. In richer countries, three times as many men kill themselves as women, and men aged 50 and over are particularly vulnerable.

In poor and middle-income countries, young people and elderly women have higher rates of suicide than their counterparts in wealthy nations, the report found. And women over 70 are more than twice as likely to commit suicide than women aged between 15 and 29.

“No matter where a country currently stands in suicide prevention, effective measures can be taken, even just starting at local level and on a small scale,” said Alexandra Fleischmann, a scientist at the WHO’s department of mental health and substance abuse.

Other preventative measures include encouraging responsible reporting of suicide in the media, such as avoiding language that sensationalizes suicide.

Early identification and management of people with mental illness and drug and other substance abusers is also important.

“Follow-up care by health workers through regular contact, including by phone or home visits, for people who have attempted suicide, together with provision of community support, are essential, because people who have already attempted suicide are at the greatest risk of trying again,” the report said.

The WHO report was published ahead of world suicide prevention day on September 10.