Thursday, December 28, 2006

Biological Depression

I don't know anyone who has traveled through life without being depressed over some difficult circumstance in their life. It's only human and normal to respond in this way to trying times. The main factor which distinguishes this type of depression from others is its transient nature. Rarely does circumstantial depression last more than two weeks.

In contrast, clinical depression can last for weeks, months or even years. For that reason, it is the most dibilitating form of this disease. Its intensity is great enough to disrupt a person's ability to function in most areas of everyday living.

The scientific community concurs that major clinical depression is linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Most generally, there is a shortage of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine or dopamine in the brain. That's why this type of depression is beyond the control of the individual. A person may wait for circumstances to change or seek counseling or address spiritual issues, but none of that will help if the problem is primarily in the biochemistry of the brain.

The biological component is one of the things that I and others find most frustrating. It's not under our immediate control. We can't just "pull ourselves up by the boot straps." There are no straps. Even though there are many effective medications available to help, there is no guarantee that any of them will be adequate to treat the illness. Sometimes, it seems as though the proper blend of medications has been found, only for them to lose effectiveness over a period of time. Then you have to go back to searching for the "magic potion" that will effectively treat the depression.

The individual's response to a knowledge of the biological factor in major clinical depression is not predictable. People view things differently. In my case, there was an "aha" moment, when I was formally diagnosed with clinical depression. Finally, I could make sense of the years of life disruption that I had experienced. Now, I could understand why I felt and behaved as I did. There was good news. I might be able to find a remedy. Even the possibility was encouraging.

There are people, though, who view themselves as having a "defect." In their mind, there is something "wrong" with them. They would prefer to be able to attribute their depression to external factors. The truth is that you can "wish I may, wish I might" all you want to, and it will not change the biochemistry of your brain.

Every year there are advances made in the study and understanding of the workings of the brain. We are closer than ever before to remedies that may be able to treat formerly untreatable depressive illness. This hope is part of the reason that I keep plugging along, doing what I can to assist my medical professionals, and praying for God's help when everything seems to fail.

"The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:5f)."

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute freefall off the edge of a dime."]

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Greatest Gifts

Christmas is just two days away, and I've been thinking about people who have brought great gifts to this world. Not many people know it, but some of the most wonderful gifts have been passed on to us by men and women who have struggled with mental illness.

Think about how diminished this world would be if it had not been for Billy Joel, Abraham Lincoln, Agatha Christie, Mozart, Vincent Van Gogh, Florence Nightingale, Jane Pauley, Robin Williams, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Isaac Newton, Darryl Strawberry and many, many others. Do a Google search for a more complete list. You will be surprised. All of these people have brought their own personal gifts for the rest of us to enjoy, in spite of their mental health struggles.

My Most Memorable Christmas

It was the December of 1959, and I was 10 years old. That was the year that my Dad had a back operation and money was very tight at our house. Occasionally, my father and I would go to downtown Oklahoma City and walk the streets doing our style of "window-shopping." Probably my favorite store was Andy Andersons. They had all of the "toys" that any boy or man could want. Andersons had a jaw-dropping selection of knives. Even today, knives of all kinds capture my interest

As Dad and I looked at the many glass cases of knives, we were both drawn to the same one. It was a large pocket-knife with stag-horn handles. The two blades were about 4" long, and it was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. Evidently, my father felt the same way. We decided that we would both ask Santa for this one very special gift. Santa was my Mom.

Next week my mother and I went downtown to get that knife for my Dad. I was so excited that I could barely keep the "secret." I just knew that Dad would faint with surprise as he and I both got what we wanted.

That year, our family went to Grammer and Papa's house in the country. All of my aunts and uncles and cousins were gathering for the big celebration. On Christmas eve, we were all crammed into the little farm house living room. Everyone was about to burst from eating candy and cookies and fruit and nuts. Naturally, all of us kids wanted to open a present. After much begging, we were given permission to open only one present. I knew which one I wanted.

As the kids circled the Christmas tree, each of us selected the gift that we thought would have our most wished for item. I saw a small package and as I reached for it, my Dad said, "No, Stormy, take this one." Now that present wasn't shaped anything like a knife, but I did as my Dad suggested.

Each of the cousins opened their gift in from of everyone else. We took turns. It was so hard to wait. When I ripped the paper off, there was a!! Not a knife...a book!!

What made it worse was that I recognized this book. I had pulled it from our bookshelf and looked at it many times. Then it dawned on me that my parents didn't have enough money that year to buy me a present. I loved my Mom and Dad, so I didn't want to show my disappointment. I looked sadly at Dad and said, "Thank you, Daddy." Then I burst into tears and ran out of the house. I was so deeply disappointed.

In a minute, I heard my Dad's voice calling me. He had the book in his hand. "Stormy, did you look inside," he asked. "No." "Well, open it up." With tear-wet fingers I opened the book. There was a big hole cut out of the middle, and in the hole was my knife! I really cried then. My Dad hadn't let me down. I knew then that he really would give me the very best gift that he could. As proud as I was to put that beautiful knife in my pocket, it couldn't even come close to the excitement I felt the next morning. When we all opened the rest of our presents, my father held his most-wished-for knife in his hand. We looked at each other across the room, and we both had the silliest and happiest grin of anyone in the house.

The Very Best Gift Of My Life

It was a long time coming. I really wasn't ready for it until I had turned twenty-seven. This gift had been waiting for me for a long time. I probably wouldn't have appreciated it in my youth. Now, I could understand that it was to be more precious to me than my wonderful knife. It has truly been the gift that goes on giving.

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. ...God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (Romans 5:6, 8 and John 3:16)."

I don't know about you, my friends, but every day my heart celebrates that most wonderful gift. Sometimes there is even a silly and happy grin on my face.


Give Him thanks over and over again.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Taking Life Too Seriously

I've never been accused of taking life too seriously. My high school teachers thought that I didn't take it seriously enough. I DO have a sense of humor. Sometimes it's just buried under the depression.

I'm starting a new job today (more later), so I just wanted to share with you some of my favorite words of wisdom.

For Those Who Take Life Too Seriously

01-Save the whales. Collect the whole set.

02-On the other hand, you have different fingers.

03-A day without sunshine is like...night.

04-I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges?

05-Eagles may soar, but turtles don't sucked into jet engines.

06-I intend to life forever. So far, so good.

07-My mind is like a steel trap. Rusty and illegal in 37 states.

08-Support bacteria. They are the only culture some people have.

09-If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you even tried.

10-Experience is something that you don't get until just after you need it.

11-Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.

12-The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required on it.

13-A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

14-Get a new car for your spouse. It will be a great trade.

15-If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving isn't for you.

16-He who laughs last thinks slowest.

Have a wonderful day, and if you can't, have a day anyway.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute freefall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, December 15, 2006

Depression Support Groups

When you think about treatment of chronic (long-term) clinical depression, you would want to seek every avenue of help that's available. Not just medication. Not just counsel, but you want to take advantage of anything and everything that might help.

Believe me, when you have deep and debilitating depression, you become desperate. You'll try anything short of a witch doctor. I know. One source of help that is not always sought is support groups.

When I lived in Arizona, a woman at church urged me to join her support group. I was busy. I was a little skeptical. I didn't really think that they had anything to offer me. Oh, how wrong I was.

After I had moved to Arkansas, I saw an article in the newspaper about a depression support group meeting at the local hospital. I had been pretty severely depressed for several months, so I thought that I would attend a meeting and see what it was all about.

For the first time, I found a group of people who understood very well what I was going through. They had "been there, done that." The meeting was very informal. We took turns going around the room giving a little background on our own illness and experiences, but if someone wasn't comfortable speaking, they didn't have to. We shared knowledge about the illness, counselors, and medications and how well they worked. There was a discussion about the impact that depression had on the people who cared about us. Teresa, my wife, was really encouraged by the family and spouses of the patients. Finally, she had someone to talk about her experiences and frustrations. It was therapeutic for both of us.

Later, I had the honor of becoming the leader of our group in Hot Springs. Actually, our meetings didn't really need a leader. Just someone to keep the ball rolling. Teresa and I would both say that we met some wonderful people, and we will never forget the friendship and encouragement that we were given.

I cannot overemphasize the blessing that you will receive if you become a member of a support group. "Try it, you'll like it." The two largest organizations that sponsor these groups are: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance ( and National Alliance for the Mentally Ill ( Their websites list local chapters in each state, and you can usually find one within easy driving distance.

I regret that I had not become involved with a group like this a long time ago. Don't make that one of your regrets.

"Two are better than one...If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up (Eccelisiastes 4:9f)!"

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute freefall off the edge of a dime."]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Circumstantial/Situational Depression

It was a very bad year. In fact, it may have been the worst year of my life. First, my mother died unexpectedly. I alone made all of the arrangements for her funeral. I remember having the unusual feeling of being an orphan, at the age of forty-eight. Now, I had no parents and no brothers or sisters, so I was the only surviving member of my family. Although I was married, I experienced loneliness like no other time in my life.

Three weeks later, a horse threw me and broke my hip. It was two days before my medical insurance kicked in. The hospital in the small Colorado town where I lived was unable to give me the type of operation that I would need to mend my hip. An ambulance had to transport me to Colorado Springs, 90 miles away. I was in extreme pain for several hours, before the surgeons could give me a sedative. The operation and other medical expenses came to a total of
$10,000, which I had to pay for myself.

Three weeks later, I lost my job. By this time, I was so depressed that I was unable to think clearly or to complete the continuing education requirements of my job. This was the first (only) time in my life that I had been fired. I was devastated, humiliated and ashamed.

So, in a six week period, I lost my mother, my health and my job. Consequently, I became deeply depressed.

Depression which is circumstantial is caused by the external events in your life. When someone experiences divorce, job loss, family problems, a car accident, homesickness, major surgery, or the end of an important relationship, they will most likely become depressed.

Situational depression is a normal response to abnormal events. A person will typically recover in a few days or weeks. Very seldom are medications recommended or needed for this type of depression. Usually, counsel by a minister, doctor or therapist will be the most effective method of treatment. Certainly this is a time to seek the comfort which can only be given by God.

In my opinion, King David was the most depressed individual in the Bible. At least, his depressions were chronicled in greater detail. Many of his Psalms reflect the inner turmoil of his emotions. Probably of all the difficult circumstances of his life, the constant problems that he had with his enemies, and the loss of important relationships created the circumstances that he found most difficult to deal with.

Here are two examples of his situational depression.

(1) Speaking to God, he says, "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and distress.....See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me (Psalm 25:16-19)!"

(2) "My heart is in anguish within me...Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me..If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship (Psalm 55:4, 12-14)."

David knew, as I do, that when we are flat on our back, we are looking up to God. "When he (a man of God) falls, he will not be hurled headlong; Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand (Psalm 37:24)." That's a beautiful picture for the Christian who is depressed.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Monday, December 11, 2006

Acceptance: A Reachable Goal

I'm afraid that I'm becoming depressed again. I've had two good months, but I can see the signs. Those of you who have ridden this roller-coaster again and again will understand the frustration and disappointment felt when this happens.

Last week, my father-in-law called and asked me for Teresa's phone number. I gave him a number and hung up. A few minutes later he called back and said, "That's the wrong number." I gave him another (a variation). He called back, "That's not it." Well, by that time I was completely confused myself. I told him, "When she calls me today, I'll get the right number."

That's often the way my depressive cycle starts. I start forgetting things that I know quite well. I have (and did) difficulty finding the right words to express myself. I also noticed that I was tired all of the time, my eyes were squinting, I wasn't laughing as much, and I wanted to go to bed early. When Sunday came around, I was quiet during Bible class and I resumed my afternoon naps. It's such a familiar pattern. Maybe, it will be a short cycle. That sometimes happens.

Today, I'm including an article I wrote about a year ago. Please note: Most of the time, I will be speaking about biological depression and/or Bipolar Disorder. I will address the other types of depression more fully in the future.


Let's start with the naked truth. If you have a biological mood disorder, it will never go away (with rare exceptions). It will be your lifelong companion. It will be like having a fat old messy elephant in your living room. You can deny that it exists, but it will still be the biggest thing in your life.

I know from personal experience that wishing upon a star that this disorder will go away won't work. Turning your back and a blind eye to the problem won't work. Praying for healing may not work. Complaining that it's unfair won't work. So if nothing works, then how can we cope with this unwelcome companion?

Acceptance. According to Webster, to accept something is to "endure without protest; to regard as proper, normal or inevitable." It sounds simple, but it is hard to accomplish. Before we can make any progress in coping with our disorder (illness), we have to learn to accept the inevitable. Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer begins with these words, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change: courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

The first step in our survival is to accept the inevitable, the unchangeable. We cannot change the fact that we have a lifelong illness. It can be treated and stabilized, but not cured. There are things that can be changed, and the most important change needed is the way that we think.

If we think that denial is an effective coping mechanism, then we will be angry and frustrated when it fails. If we think that refusing to take medication will make the truth of our illness go away, then we will be bitterly disappointed. If we believe that acknowledging our disorder will reveal a personal weakness, then we will suffer injury to our pride and sense of worth. If we don't think right, then we won't do right. We do what we do, because we think what we think. Wrong thinking equals (=) wrong coping.

Often, acceptance only comes after the painful process of grieving our loss of mental healthiness. The five commonly accepted stages of grief are:
(1) Shock ("I can't believe it!")

(2) Denial (("I won't believe it!")

(3) Anger ("This shouldn't be happening to me. It's just not fair!")

(4) Depression ("I can't deal with this."]

(5) Acceptance ("I can now get on with my life.")

You can easily see how we might get "stuck" at one of the first four stages, without ever arriving at acceptance.

Getting on with life is a reachable goal, but it is not easily reached. It takes hard work and patience to attain this goal, but it is definitely worth the effort. To deny and defy the problem is no more productive than it is to scream at the Sun for interrupting your sleep. In order to learn to live with your illness/disorder, you will need to make a declaration to yourself and then to others who are a part of your life.

"I accept it. I don't like it, but I accept it."

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:8f)."

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, December 08, 2006

Don't Rain On My Parade

Bobby Darin and Barbara Streisand both sang a song titled "Don't Rain On My Parade." A sampling of the lyrics are: "Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade. Don't tell me not to fly, I simply got to. If someone takes a spill, it's me and not you. Who told you that you're allowed to rain on my parade?"

I'm a dreamer. I always think that life is going to get better. I see the possibilities, not the improbabilities. Many would call me an optimist. My glass is always half full. So-called "realists" think that optimists are fools. All I know is that I'm more optimistic when I'm depressed, than some people are when they are not depressed. I call them pessimists. "A pessimist is someone who feels bad when he feels good, for fear that he will feel even worse when he feels better (Anonymous)." These people are always trying to rain on someone's parade.

For example, an avid duck hunter was in the market for a new bird dog. His search ended when he found a dog that could actually walk on water to retrieve a duck. Shocked by his find, he was sure none of his friends would ever believe him. He decided to try to break the news to a friend of his, a pessimist by nature, and invited him to hunt with him and his new dog. As they waited by the shore, a flock of ducks flew by. They fired, and a duck fell. The dog responded and jumped into the water. The dog, however, did not sink but instead walked across the water to retrieve the bird, never getting more than his paws wet. This continued all day long; each time a duck fell, the dog walked across the surface of the water to retrieve it. The pessimist watched carefully, saw everything, but didn't say a single word. On the drive home the hunter asked his friend, "Did you notice anything unusual about my new dog?" "I sure did," responded the pessimist. "Your dog can't swim!"

People who don't have depressive mood disorders don't understand how toxic pessimism can be. If you are chronically depressed, those who surround you need to be people who will feed your hope. They should be people who are optimistic about your life and your chances of survival. They should help you dream. Hopes and dreams prevent suicides. They sustain people during rough times.

I can't think of a more miserable way to live, than to live as a "rainmaker." I will take a dream unfulfilled over "realism" fulfilled any day. I don't even demand that my glass be half full. Just a drop will do me. The crumbs off the table will fill my belly. Of course, I'll be dreaming about shakes and steaks.

But please....please...don't rain on my parade!!


"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:4f)."

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Depressed Christians

In some people's minds, "depressed" and "Christian" is an oxymoron. Their belief is often that a Christian with depression should pray their way out of it. Some think that it is a problem with sin, and that the real need is for repentance. Others hold that depression is an expression of weak (or no) faith. There is no telling how many times suffering Christians have been abused by their brothers and sisters in Christ who speak out of lack of knowledge, fear, or mean-spiritedness. One woman wrote, "...My children and I have a mental disorder that is genetically passed on called Bipolar Disorder. I had a fellow church member tell me that she hopes we ask for forgiveness every night, because we never truly repent with this illness..."

There may have been some people of my acquaintance who felt the same way, but were afraid to confront me with their erroneous ideas. They may have thought that I might give them a Biblical "rebuking." I admit that I am sometimes impatient with people who have this attitude.

I want to strongly urge you to read my prior post and others that will come, about this subject.

The question arises, have people of faith ever become depressed? If they did, and God didn't condemn them for their state of mind, then it is obvious that they continued to have a good relationship with the Lord.

My Fellow Sufferers

01-Samson-listed among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11-"...Let me die with the Philistines (Judges 4:3).'

02-Jonah the prophet-"O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life (Jonah 4:3)."

03-King David, called a "man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22)."-"My soul is in anguish...The troubles of my heart have multiplied...My eyes grow weak with sorrow...My life is consumed with anguish...My soul is downcast within me...My heart is wounded within me...I was overcome by trouble and sorrow...My spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed (Various Psalms)."

04-Moses-a hero of faith (Heb.11:23-28) and "more humble than any man on earth (Numbers 12:13)."-"I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once...(Numbers 11:15)."

05-Elijah, the prophet-after he had won a great victory against the prophets of Baal(1 Kings 18:20-40)-"...It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers (1 Kings 19:4)."

06-Jeremiah, the prophet-who was so esteemed that people thought Jesus must be him (Matthew 16:14)-"My sorrow is beyond healing, My heart is faint within me (Jer.8:18)." AND-"Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow (Jer.20:18)?"

07-Job-who was "blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil (Job 1:1)."-"Why did I not die at birth...(3:11)?" "..My soul would choose suffocation, Death rather than my pains (7:15)."

Here, we see evidence that these wonderful men of faith and commitment were so depressed that they even would welcome death. You can't get much more "blue" than that. Yet, they were loved and praised by God.

Doctor Dowell Flatt (Th.D.), a faithful gospel preacher, has written a wonderful tract on this subject. He suffered many years from depression, even needing to be hospitalized. Hugo McCord gave him these encouraging words, "Brother Dowell, this will make you a better man. You will be able to do a far better job in helping others."

That is my prayer also. But if not... then I say, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as You will (Matthew 26:39)."

Don't be a stumbling block to others. Educate and enlighten yourself. Be humble.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Monday, December 04, 2006

Four Primary Types of Depression

I believe that one of the obstacles to an understanding of depression is the idea that depression is only what happens when life takes a turn for the worse. Occasionally, someone will say, "I know how you feel. I was depressed once for three days." Clinical depression is defined as that which lasts longer than two weeks.

My studies and the writings of medical professionals suggest 4 major types of depression.

(1) Circumstantial-This is the most commonly experienced type. Most everyone can remember feeling down when a loved one dies, or they get a divorce, or they lose their job, or their house burns down, etc.. Not everyone reponds to difficult circumstances the same way, but there will most likely be something for each of us that brings on the "blues." When circumstances change or improve, we will begin to feel better. This type of depression is nearly always resolved in less than two weeks.

(2) Biological-This is primarily what my blog is addressing. Maybe this is an oversimplification, but this type of depression is believed by leading scientists to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. There are chemical messengers between brain cells which are sometimes found in some individuals to be in deficit. A shortage of these neurotransmitters, i.e. serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, will upset the chemistry of the brain and cause depression which is out of the individual's control.

(3) Psychological-Sometimes the negative pattern of someone's thinking affects their moods to the extent that they become depressed. You might be surprised to know how many people experience this particular type of mood disturbance. Perhaps all of us to some degree. Sometimes this pattern of thought is described as "Stinkin' Thinkin.' When our self-talk is negative, then we may become depressed. The pioneering and revolutionary psychologist, Albert Ellis, believed that people's irrational ideas about themselves cripple their emotional lives.

(4) Spiritual-Although I've discussed this subject with many doctors, the idea that people could become depressed because of a poor relationship with God was novel to them. My study of the Bible has led me to believe that children of God can experience this type of depression due to unrepented sin. King David expressed it this way, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.'--and you forgave the guilt of my sin (Psalm 32:3-5)."

It is extremely important to know that a person might be experiencing one or more of these types of depression at the same time. For instance, you may depressed for biological reasons and also be depressed because of your "Stinkin' Thinkin'." If you only treat the biological depression and do not treat the psychological, then you will not become well.

"...Woe to the one who falls and there is not another to lift him up (Ecclesiastes 4:10)." Be a "lifter" this week.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, December 01, 2006

Cry Like A Baby????

Last night, the tears flowed like rain at my house. I knew that it was going to happen. My wife had taped the Hallmark movie Candles On Bay Street, so we watched that together in the evening. We might be the only marriage in America where the man is more emotive than the woman. I admit to being a "softie." I'm so glad that Little House On The Prairie has finally gone off the air, because I couldn't watch an episode without being moved to tears.

Yes, crying can sometimes be an indicator of depression, but I'm feeling fine (right now), so I can't offer that as an explanation of my behavior. Maybe I'm just not tough enough. Frankly, I'm not sure what it means to be tough. Does it mean that you never cry? Are you tough if you are hard-fisted? I know the foolishness and futility of that. Do you measure it by whether or not you have been to a war zone and back? You know, like John Wayne. If you are tough, do you have a strong tolerance for pain? I've had more broken bones that Bayer has aspirins, but never a whimper. Of course, my teeth have been ground down to the gums. Do you keep a "stiff upper lip" at funerals? Come on now, tell me. Do the tough ever cry?

Typically, little boys start hearing "Crying is for babies" when they are in their diapers. My Dad was different. The best advice I ever received from my father was when he told me, "Stormy, don't ever be ashamed of an honest emotion." That's not easy to do in our culture.

There's one man who comes to my mind when I think about "toughness." That man is the apostle Paul. He wrote, "I have prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger from false brothers. I...have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)." In spite of all that, he kept right on preaching and serving the Lord.

That sounds like toughness to me. Yet, he admits that "I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears...(2 Corinthians 2:4)." He could have been too tough to shed "many tears," but he wasn't. Paul never allowed manliness to get in the way of an honest emotion.

Now that I think about it, I believe I could have watched Candles On Bay Street in a room full of men, and still have been comfortable with my honest tears. Of course, if anybody laughed...I might have been so weak as to punch him.