Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I AM - A Prayer

I AM

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Our most gracious Father in Heaven, in whom we live and move and have our being.
Despite our desire to know Your will for our lives, we realize that You are essentially all we need.
You graciously give everything without measure.
You guide us and lead us on the paths that we so aimlessly try to pave ourselves.
As we seek You this day, reveal to us who You are to us; a people that are unique, individual and sometimes isolated from the world around us.
Who are you to us, Lord?
Who are You?

Now, in the silence of this moment, hear the words of God speak deep into to your inner-self:

I AM your love
I AM your passion
I AM your commitment
I AM your desire
I AM your need to be validated
I AM your success
I AM your failures
I AM you motivation
I AM your creativity
I AM your imagination
I AM your endurance and energy
I AM your perseverance
I AM your planning and preparations
I AM your satisfaction
I AM your contentment
I AM your serenity
I AM your confusion
I AM your dreams
I AM your future, present and past
I AM your confusion and uncertainty
I AM your guidance and wisdom
I AM your your times of silence
I AM your noises of every day life 
I AM growing you
I AM moving within you
I AM         

Let us pray:

Lord, if your are in fact all of these things, and more, all that we need is You. Today we seek Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. Keep our focus ever on You, the center of our lives. And when we take our eyes off You, blind us from those things that distract, confuse, frustrate and leave our lives out of balance. 

We ask these prayers through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Over There

It's easy for us to desensitize ourselves to death when it's "over there".  The memories of 9/11 are difficult for Americans because we saw it happen here. The people that suffered and died were familiar. They were like us. They were us.

But when we allows ourselves to move out of the insulated conditioning that most of us live with, we see the world differently. When we see life through the perspective of the Kingdom of God, we realize that "they", "those people", the ones "over there", are familiar as well. They are like us. They are us.

This is an email that I received this last year from a dear friend of mine, and fellow Franciscan brother. Feel the pain that he is feeling because he has chosen to see the world through this perspective. As I said in my previous blog, when we allow ourselves to mourn the loss of life anywhere in this world, the Kingdom of God is realized just a little more than it was before.

Hello All:  Asking for you to remember me in prayer today.  I believed I had made it through the 9/11 memorials without personal incident.  I avoided all references to the occasion.  But this morning as I read facebook and emails from yesterday I had a huge upwelling of anger and frustration.  I struggle with my friends and countrymen's obsession with our own losses, ignoring the massive loss of innocent life our acts of retribution have caused.  My mind flashed back to entering Baghdad in the first few days of "liberation" and seeing the city covered in small black mourning banners.    Individual families had made these banners to announce the death of a child, daughter, mother or some loved one. Estimates are 140,000 innocent civilians died in Iraq directly from warfare, the secondary death numbers are estimated at up to a million.  I have a banner I picked up from a ditch that I keep in a box in the back of my closet in memory of my complicity in the death of all the innocents.  I will carry that memory with me forever.  I try to see the experience as an uncomfortable blessing and guidance from God.  I thank you for your patience in allowing me to express my feelings this day.  Please pray for my anger to subside and that the love of Christ fills me today so that I can be a reflection of Gods love to all I encounter. 

Thank you. God Bless.

Shalom or Pax?

For me, the most memorable aspect of 9/11 is the expressions of anger and hatred. It's easy to be angry, and quite understandable considering what we all witnessed. But each year since, as we remember those who lost their lives, as well as those who have given their lives in war, I have found myself no longer choosing to feel anger. There is no one that I choose to hate. Instead, I feel a profound sense of sadness. Sadness because of how fallen and dark our world can be. Sadness that sometimes evil has it's way with us, overwhelms us and for a while, wins.   

Last year, a friend of mine offered some very wise words in how we can honor those who died on 9/11, those who have given their lives in war and those who have lost loved ones since. Rather than choosing anger and hatred toward those who choose to hate us, let us choose to follow the words of Christ and return that hate with love and prayer. As contrary as it is to our nature, this is the only way to truly honor them. Why? Because it's the only thing that will lead us to true peace: Shalom. And is that not what they would want for this world? 

Shalom is a perfect peace not dependent on circumstances and a peace that God intended each of us to have from the beginning. We may not realize it, but we posses this deep in the recesses of our soul. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." We so often base our lives and rely on worldly peace: PAX, a peace as the world knows it. This is peace that is dependent on circumstances and as we all know, that peace can be blown away by a few planes and crumbling buildings.

The only way to for us to end violence, war and terror in this world is for us to choose shalom rather than pax. As it is each year on the anniversary of 9/11, my prayer is that we can find a way to release the anger that we cling to. Regardless of how vehemently our natural spirit fights in contrast to this, let us choose forgiveness and love. Let us lose ourselves and be consumed with prayer, not dreams of hatred and vengeance. Let us choose to promote true and lasting peace.    

Shalom 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Peace Be With You - My Contribution to Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depresion

 Available here on Amazon
The following is my chapter from the book, Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression. I have avoided posting it in completion because as with any writer, my hope is that everyone I know will buy the book in it's entirety. My hope still lies in your purchase or download, but in light of the recent suicide of Robin Williams and the vital discussions that have developed, I thought it critical that I share my experience with this debilitating disease. Although I encourage you to purchase the entire book, I hope that by sharing my contribution to this project, it will offer comfort to those who like me, live with and battle depression. I also hope that it will shed some light on what it means to suffer with depression for those on the outside. Not Alone is a collection of honest and raw stories from a community of writers that have all dealt with depression and learned how the light of faith can intertwine with darkness. The stories give a glimpse into the depressed existence, while revealing a rich and loving community of Christians . I hope that you enjoy my contribution and find encouragement. 




Chapter 19
Peace Be with You
By Jake Kampe

The stigma of depression in our culture makes it somewhat of a taboo to discuss. Christians who deal with depression are often ostracized, ignored or accused of having weak faith. I’ve even heard some imply that I cannot truly be a follower of Christ, let alone a pastor since I deal with depression. “You know, Jake, depression is a curse from God,”  has always been my favorite explanation. A very interesting concept, considering the depth of depression that King David suffered, and yet what was he called? Oh yeah, “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 NIV). I confess that I’ve felt abandoned by God, felt that I had pissed Him off, even felt that He was punishing me for one of my many screw ups in life. But I never felt that God had somehow divinely cursed me with the burden of depression.  


To say that I have lived with depression is an understatement. To say that I’ve seen glimpses of Hell is much more accurate. To say that fear is a companion emotion of depression is not quite the right description. Terror that has brought me to the brink of contemplating suicide is much more illustrative. When I meditate on the landscape that has been my journey through this world, depression has been right there with me, every step of the way. You might say that it’s been an unwelcome traveling companion. As far back as I can remember depression has made itself comfortable with almost every aspect of my life. During major life decisions, crossroads or milestones that have occurred in my life, depression has been there, reminding me that I have to engage in a consultation before proceeding. 
   

When I was very young, I vividly remember periods of unusual depression. I may not have realized the full magnitude of what was taking place in my psyche, but the seeds were being planted, the soil was being cultivated, and roots were beginning to form. The dark cloud of despair was beginning to form itself around my soul and would eventually contribute to molding me into the person I am today. Depression was introducing itself and settling into a comfortable place that would eventually develop into a long stay.  


I live with depression;  I also live with peace. The two go hand in hand, and although they do not live side by side in complete unity, they’ve learned to accept one another. Peace usually dominates the relationship these days, but occasionally depression takes the upper hand. Depression knows peace’s weaknesses and although peace is much stronger, wiser and rational, occasionally depression outsmarts peace and takes temporary control of the household. For a brief period of time, depression wreaks havoc and can quickly destroy a lot of what peace has built. The relationship between the two has not always been this way. Not so long ago, depression was the dominant force in the relationship. In fact, there were long periods of time when peace was forced to leave. Remaining in isolation and forced seclusion, I wondered if peace would ever return. 
  

Being part of a church always provided me with some much needed normality. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, and the traditions and rituals brought comfort and stability into the life that seemed to be becoming more unstable. Most people were always loving and caring, especially during the traditional greeting of “Peace be with you.”  I’m sure that in many instances it’s extended with a certain amount of ritual and habit, but to me it was warm and comforting, especially from those older than me. “Peace be with you, Jake”  they would say, warmly shaking my hand. “Yes!”, I thought to myself.  “Peace be with me.  Please, God”.
               

As the years passed, I became increasingly isolated and began to reject most attempts of friendship and expressions of love. Throughout junior high and high school, manifestations of depression resulted in bouts of anger and frustration. In my attempts to control the debilitating and helpless effects of depression, anger became my weapon of choice. Anger was more controllable. Anger was my decision to unleash and more controllable. It was mine, and in many ways it kept me warm from the chills of depression. 
             

As I grew older and settled into college life, depression became deeper and more real. I began to see that depression often distorts reality. Not only does it seem to affect the emotions of one’s internal make up, it also emotionally manipulates the external. There is no physical manifestation of the changes that depression initiates. No one else can see what the mind’s eye witnesses. But nonetheless, for the person dealing with the onslaught of severe depression, things just don’t seem the same. Reality becomes twisted, contorted and dreamlike. Nightmarish, unreal and even sometimes hallucinogenic was my reality.  


Toward the end of college, I felt as though my life was in full blown crisis. Regular cocktails of anti-depressants, downers, marijuana and alcohol only numbed the pain that was hiding just below the surface. The temporary alleviation of suffering created a false reality that only isolated me further. “Nothing seems real to me anymore” , I remember telling my therapist at the time.  He immediately said with a calm certainty, “Then Jake, you need to be in a place where things can feel real again.”  What was he saying? Did I need to be in a hospital? Institutionalized? Was I that bad off? I don’t remember much of those days, but I remember that moment very well. It was a sobering realization that my life had spiraled out of control. One question remained: Where was God in the midst of this downward journey into an unknown abyss?  


As I sought healing in my faith, even attending church, spending time in prayer or reading scripture became an uncomfortable experience. I suppose that even my image of God was distorted, but ironically my faith grew deeper. My convictions to know Him deeper and serve Him were growing as well. But like a car stuck in the mud, the more I spun the wheels of effort and faith, the deeper I seemed to sink. My prayers became mundane, spiritless and forced. I would frequently find it hard to focus on God and my anger and frustration soon became directed more toward Him. I began to envision God mockingly holding the key to my healing. Dangling it just beyond my reach, He would grin as I reached out.


If God loved me so much, why was He allowing me to suffer such a hellish existence? If He was real, why was He so apparently unwilling to lift me out of this despair. What possible good could my depression be accomplishing for Him and His Kingdom? Hebrews 13:5 & 6 says “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”  “Really, God? Then where are you? Are you hiding from me? Playing games?” “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 NASB). “Then what is this miserable pit in which I’m living?” “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning”? (Psalm 30:5 NLT). “Interesting, because the only morning visitors I ever had were fear and panic, God. Where is this joy you promised I am supposed to have?” “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you?” (John 14:27 NIV).  “Bullshit!”                   


But life continued on and I eventually met my wife who got to experience my ordeals first hand. In reality, I know that there were times when she contemplated leaving me to escape the nightmare that we now both shared. But by God’s grace, she remained by my side, as faithful and understanding as she could be. Ironically, in the long run depression strengthened our relationship, and we grew closer. My two sons came into the world and we began to build the family and life we had longed for. Despite the added stress and responsibility, becoming a father actually helped me deal with depression. Maybe it was because the focus shifted more from me and toward others that I loved. Maybe it was because I was learning and growing spiritually. Maybe it was because God was showing me that my life was actually blessed, rather than cursed. Either way, my children were a turning point for me. A much needed light in a long period of darkness.  
  

I awoke early on Easter Sunday of 2000 with a full blown, unexpected and unprovoked panic attack. In a cold sweat and with heart racing, I got out of bed and went for a walk just before the sun came up. As I walked, I began to pray. As I prayed, my pace increased to a run. As I ran, I began to scream at God in anger. As I screamed, I fell on the grass and broke down. I cried out to God, “Please, God! Stop this! Please! Free me from this hell that I’m in! I can’t do it anymore! What do I do? What have I done wrong? Please help me!”


God’s response? Clearly and almost audible, I heard Him say, “Be obedient, Jake.”  “What?” I thought to myself. Be obedient?”  At this point in my life, I had developed a regular prayer life, was involved in church, read my Bible and jumped through every freaking Christian hoop I could think of! How else could I be more obedient? “Be obedient to WHAT, God?” I cried out. He softly responded, “Just be obedient. You’re not being obedient.”  “I give up, God. You’re not going to help me. You’ve abandoned me. I guess I’m on my own!” I punched the ground and wept as the sun came up. “He is Risen!” I couldn’t have cared less on that Easter Sunday.             


Ironically, I look at this as my moment of healing, but there’s nothing magical that happened in me. No immediate change occurred in my soul, but as the days passed I meditated on what God meant. I realized that obedience had nothing to do with my feelings. It had nothing to do with my actions. And it really had nothing to do with me at all. What God revealed to me was that even though depression had taken over my life, it didn’t get me off the hook. He still wanted me to live as His child, free from darkness and fear. Depression and fear have no place in Kingdom of God, so I needed to show others just the opposite, even though I didn’t feel it. As I began to basically “fake it”, something interesting happened. I began to feel it. As others perceived me as being healed, I essentially was. As I became obedient, God did as well and peace found me again. That was over twelve years ago and although I still struggle with depression, it doesn’t control me. 


As bizarre as it may seem, I’ve found a way to thank God for depression. I see that it’s helped me become a better husband, father and even a better minister. I’m now able to not only sympathize with people, but I can also empathize. I feel the pain that others feel and it becomes real to me; so much so that I find myself wanting to avoid it. “God, please don’t make me go down this path with this person. The pain is too real. It’s too familiar.” But each time He reminds me that I’ll be OK. “Go with them. Feel their pain, Jake. This is not your life anymore, but you have to feel it with them now. It’s essential to your connection with them.”  So, I feel it. It hurts. My heart begins to race and I feel a cold sweat break out over my body. But I feel it with anyone who needs me to join them and I offer peace to be with them. As I feel their pain, I also feel peace rise inside of me, and as we share this common duality of emotions, the Kingdom of God becomes just a little more real for both of us. Peace be with you.        

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Love One Another - Part VI


Well, after a delay of several months, I'm finally completing the Love One Another series. To be honest, I haven't been writing much of anything these days, as words and thoughts are just not playing nice. What develops within my mind rarely reaches the page and that has been one of the most frustrating things that I've recently dealt with. But as I woke up this morning, and the effects of caffeine began to settle in, the words of 1 John 4:16 popped into my head for some reason. In this passage I was reminded that I am compelled and driven to write because of love. This is not always apparent to me because there are many reasons for why I write, but love is the driving force of why I write. As I began to think of completing this discussion on what it means to "love one another", I was consumed by the fact that I have not been doing a very good job at loving others. And that is a very convicting and sobering realization when you read 1 John 4:16.       

When we are confronted with the simple, essential and all encompassing theological fact that "God is love", we come to the realization that not only does God have love to express to each of us, He is the very essence and existence of love. Through Christ, we are surrounded by the love that emanates from all that He is. God immerses us in love so that we then have the ability to effortlessly reflect it to those around us. As we go about our day, we realize that all of nature reflects God's love. The air that we breath is being saturated with God's love. And the light that radiates from the sun is the very manifestation of the love of God as it illuminates our path and warms our soul. But there is a very critical catch to this concept.

"God is love" is not an isolated declaration. Just before this revealing divine attribute, John reminds us that "Whoever does not love does not know God," Therefore we see that love is somewhat conditional. Not conditional on what we do or do not do in this world. Not conditional on our circumstances or even those that we come in contact with. Love is not conditional on how we feel or act. In fact, love is really not conditional on anything that evolves from this natural world but is linked essentially to the supernatural. If God is love, then true love can only come from God, and when God is acknowledged as the source of our love we find ourselves linked to the divine. When God is placed at the center of our lives, loving one another is not an effort that we need to be reminded to do, but a reflection of Christ living and breathing through us. In reality, it is not we that express love, but love being expressed through us and God being made manifest in this world. Yes, God is love. But love can only truly be expressed and experienced by first recognizing that God is. Let us end our discussion by hearing what this final group of friends has to say about what it means to "love one another".  Thanks to all who participated in this project. If you missed the previous installations, check out parts 1 through 5 under the same name: Love One Another.


"To love one another means to do unto others as Christ has done unto us. Living God's love is not the strain of 'doing'. Living God's love is relaxing into the grace of our baptismal identities, where the Calvary-shaped love that has saved us starts to become the shape of our lives. That's why Jesus calls us his friends, cause mates get the inside joke, they know what's going on, and what's going on is as Christ has loved us, we are empowered to love one another.”

- Jarod Saul McKenna

Jarrod is World Vision Australia’s National Advisor on Youth, Faith & Activism in a full-time capacity at the invitation of Tim Costello. In the last year alone, Jarrod has run his peace award winning social change training on 3 continents, in 12 counties, to over 10,000 young people. Jarrod, with his wife Teresa and son Tyson, are three of 17 people living at First Home Project; an innovative community modeling how is a real alternative to detention.You can connect with Jarrod of Facebook or World Vision Australia.



“To see the people through the eyes of Jesus. Let the attitudes and desires revealed in scripture so richly dwell in us that they exude to "one another." To inhale mercy, and breath out promise. 

- Frank Aragon  

Frank has been in the music ministry since 1994. A song writer and recording artist in Texas that also serves on staff at Heritage Park Baptist church south of Houston. Frank and his wife Sara met at Texas A&M, and have four children and foster infants. Connect with Frank on Facebook and Twitter @aragon_tunes



“Loving one another is about entering into the suffering, broken parts of other's lives and offering a listening ear as a place of healing. It's about gathering together with the outcasts and weather worn travelers and be redeemed through a sacred space called community.”

- Beth Orchard

Beth is a lifestyle, relationship and wellness coach living in the
western suburbs of Chicago. She has written several small pieces published yearly in the DuPage Writer’s Group (DWG) *Possibilities* journal and a few other independent publications. Beth has a deep love for working with the homeless, mentally ill and in issues of social justice such as human trafficking. She has a passion for writing short stories, plays and loves to travel overseas. Connect with Beth at http://www.tricorehealth.com.



“To love one another means giving up our needs in order to help someone get what they need most. The best example of this is when Jesus said, "Not my will be done, but your will be done." That means that love is primarily a choice rather than of a feeling or mere emotion.”

– Mike Bauer

Mike is Lead Pastor of Oak Creek Bible Church in League City, Texas. He is married to his wife Shawn and they have four children: three boys and one girl. Mike has 18 years of ministry experience and has served as an associate pastor, youth pastor and children's pastor. He has a deep love for Christ and the Church and has a strong vision for transforming the culture for the Kingdom of God.


 
“What does it mean to love one another? I've come upon few definitions better than the one Rex Andrews gives for mercy. He writes, "Mercy is God's supply system for every need everywhere. Mercy is that kindness, compassion and tenderness which is the passion to suffer with, or participate in another's ills or evils in order to relieve, heal, and restore. It accepts another freely and gladly as he is and supplies the needed good of life to build up and to bring to peace and keep in peace. It is to take another into one's heart JUST AS HE IS and cherish and nourish him there. Mercy takes another's sins and evils and faults as its own, and frees the other by bearing them to God. This is the Glow-of-love." Jesus embodied this perfectly and calls us to do the same.”

– Chad Holtz

Chad is the fortunate husband to Amy and proud father to 5 kids. He pastors at Mountain View UMC in Dayton, TN and is most passionate about seeing people lives changed by Jesus. He and his wife blog about their freedom from addiction and brokenness at www.desiremercy.wordpress.com


 
“I think loving one another is summed up by Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." There is never a time when God says it's OK to be selfish, so we are called to constantly put the needs of others above our own and trust God to provide for our needs (Matt. 6:25-33). We we're also told in multiple places that if we don't have love for one another, then the love of the Father can't possibly be in us.” 

– Chris Lanig

Chris has been playing music and leading worship in the Houston/Galveston area since 1998. He has a passion for the good news of Jesus Christ and to see the Bride of Christ passionately worshiping and serving God in unity. Chris has been married to his beautiful bride Courtney since 2007, and they have 3 children, Granger, Adilynn, and Christopher. Connect with Chris on Facebook.