Alabama pastor to the suicidal: ‘Banish the thought of destruction. It’s not the answer’, ‘Many’ of us want to help


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

CELEBRITY SUICIDES: WHY WOULD THEY DO IT?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to an article out of World Magazine. Sad news as two well-known public figures, fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain, who both had successful careers and who both recently committed suicide.

The article goes on to say, the same week those suicides took place, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention released a distressing report that, over the last two decades, U.S. suicide rate has risen by 25 percent and, among people ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. In 2016, nearly 45,000 people in the United States ended their lives. That means there were more than twice as many suicides as homicides.

DR. REEDER: Here are these two celebrities — rich, famous, acclaimed yet empty in life. One of our issues today is we keep telling people that more money, more power, more applause, more fame will make your life fulfilled. Then why is it that celebrities have the highest rate of drug use? Why do they seek out therapists more than any other class in our society?

The answer is not found in more money, more possessions, more power and more fame; the answer’s found in your soul and the hope that transcends all of the challenges of life in a fallen world.

THE DOUBLE-EDGE SWORD OF SUICIDE IN TODAY’S CULTURE

At the same time that we cringe at the skyrocketing rate of suicide, we are attempting to normalize suicide as a therapeutic act through doctor-assisted suicide or medically-assisted suicide. If suicide is simply a therapeutic act that the medical profession now ought to engage in and embrace and make money off of, then why does the rise of suicide cause within us a revulsion? We know it’s not right.

There are not many things more difficult for me as a pastor than ministry in the lives of families in which suicide has taken place. As much as we would decry, rightly so, suicide as a usurpation of the divine prerogative — the Lord gives life and the Lord takes away life and blessed be the name of the Lord — and the landscape of suffering that suicide leaves behind in the lives of family and loved ones and friends, as we see all of that, the fact is the contributing factors to the act of suicide in our culture today are staggering.

TEMPORARY DESPAIR: WHAT IS IT AND WHAT CAN HELP?

I agree with the one pastor who said this is one of the most difficult things because people took an irreversible remedy to a temporary problem — the temporary problem of emotional distress or chemical imbalance. The fall and the sin not only affected us spiritually and emotionally, but it also affected us chemically and, therefore, it is appropriate to treat some things with chemical therapy.

Interestingly, the rise in chemical treatments of suicidal emotions has actually not reduced the number of suicides, but the number of suicides with the advancement of chemical and drug treatments has actually increased.

Now why? Any chemical treatment has to be repeated. Sometimes, we’re treating some suicidal tendencies as a chemical issue when, in reality, it’s a spiritual issue. That doesn’t mean we do away with those treatments because sometimes it is a physical issue. Sometimes, it’s a spiritual issue.

Now, in most of life, when I make wrong decisions, I can reverse that wrong decision but, in the case of suicide, once you’ve made that decision, you can’t turn it back around. Now, if I get depressed and think that a drunken spree will get me out of it as an answer to my depression, I’ll eventually sober up but if my answer to my depression is suicide, I can’t walk that one back

In ministry in families where there is suicide, it needs to be done very carefully because there are multiple factors at work, all the way from chemical issues, physical issues, wrong use of drugs, self-medicating with drugs and influences in the culture.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

Our culture is telling everybody that the whole goal of life is to be happy. I am grateful for happiness, but happiness is built upon happenstance, which is directly related to circumstances. What the Bible commends to us is joy, which transcends circumstances — circumstances of adversity and circumstances of prosperity and success.

What we have is joy in the Lord. You rejoice in the Lord in the midst of everything because you know He’s at work. The loss of the transcendent that comes through a relationship with Christ over the difficulties and challenges in a fallen world in relationships — in your physiology, in your body, your psychosomatic dynamics in your life — that sense of a joy that is there has now been replaced by a promise of happiness. And, if you don’t have happiness, then in despair, they sometimes are influenced just to end their life. Social media has also produced impact in the lives of people.

And now we’re in a society that belittles the hope that addresses the difficulties of life and that is the victory and triumph of Christ in all of the arena of life. Without the message of hope, all of that is contributing, I believe, to this rise in suicide.

CHRISTIAN HOPE — AND ACTION — CAN COMBAT DESPAIR AND SUICIDE

That world and life view is the answer to reversing this rise in suicide. We do not commit suicide — what we do is commit life. We don’t commit murder against others, nor against ourselves. There is hope through the power of the Gospel to address spiritual and emotional issues and we want to speak the truth in love to one another. By God’s redeeming grace, we can do it and, in God’s common grace, we would pray that that would pervade society.

CULTURE OF DEATH COMES FROM THE FATHER OF DEATH AND LIES

TOM LAMPRECHT:  John 8:44 — we ended yesterday’s program with this verse but let me take you back here again. Christ, speaking of the devil, he said, “He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth because there is no truth in him. He lies; it is consistent with his character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Harry, is there a lie from the lips of Satan into the ear of these people who are contemplating suicide?

DR. REEDER: Tom, I am not able to be there at the moment when the person makes this decision to end their life. I don’t know whether it’s a chemical misfire, or an emotional despair or spiritually deceived, but I do know this. The propagation of a death culture throughout our culture that impacts this statistic of suicide, that is what Satan has brought.

Whether it’s the destruction of life in the womb, destruction of life at the end of life in active euthanasia, or whether it is the normalizing of suicide, I do know the death culture is the product of the lie of Satan.

LET’S WORK ON PROMOTING LIFE — NOW AND ETERNAL

What we want to do is be about life: life that is in Christ, a life that promotes life in the lives of others. If you know someone whose loved one committed suicide or if you know a family where someone committed suicide, don’t step in with just pat answers. You need to step into the lives of survivors with thoughtfulness.

It may have been a medical issue, it may have been confusion that came from self-medication, it may have come off a period of time of abandonment — with all of those contributing factors, there may be a singular answer or they may be multiple answers. And what we need to do is to step in with hope that is found in Christ to those who are the survivors of loved ones who committed suicide and minister to them.

THOSE WHO ARE ON THE BRINK, WE CAN HELP

I also want to say to all who are considering suicide, there may be physical and medical reasons that you are contemplating this and there are doctors who will thoughtfully help you. It may be a spiritual issue in your life. There are many of us as pastors and friends and Christians who want to minister to you.

At this moment, right now, banish the thought of destruction. It’s not the answer. Pursue the reality that there is an answer and pursue that reality in the right direction. Is it a spiritual issue in your soul? Then we want to bring the hope of the Gospel. Is it a chemical issue or a medical issue that’s taking place in your body and brain? Then there are people who are wise who can help you there — medical doctors who are thoughtful and will minister to you.

There is hope and the hope is in life, not death, because there is One who died for you that you can have life everlasting. Ultimately, your best days can be ahead of you in Christ as Lord and Savior.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

Ledbetter: Alabama’s teachers are standing tall with return to classroom instruction

All of the personality traits, values and life lessons that we carry with us as adults were shaped and instilled in us by the people we encountered in childhood. For many, the strongest influences came from our schoolteachers, who opened new worlds of knowledge and taught us skills that remain with us today.

Consider for a moment the music teacher who taught you to play an instrument, the math teacher who led you to a love of numbers, the history teacher who brought to life the stories of our nation’s past, or the English teacher who inspired you to love great literature.

Teaching is one of the few professions whose impact continues to last for decades after the individual who does the job retires.

As many children across Alabama are preparing to return to school even while the coronavirus pandemic continues, teachers have never been more important or vital or deserving of our deepest appreciation.

513

Returning to brick-and-mortar school instruction will, hopefully, restore a sense of normalcy to our children’s lives in these decidedly abnormal times.

A return to the classroom and even resuming the online instruction that some are adopting will also help our students maintain their education progress and continue the important social and emotional development that interaction with their peers and instructors allows.

Our English second language learners will receive the communication skills they need in order to better assimilate, and many low-income students will receive the healthy nourishment from the school lunch program that might be denied them at home.

Given the current circumstances and environment, I recognize that some of our public school employees may have a sense of trepidation about returning to school, and that is certainly understandable. Wearing a face mask to do something as simple as shopping for groceries, paying for gas or walking into a restaurant offers all of us a constant reminder that COVID-19 is a very contagious virus.

But our teachers and educators are setting their concerns aside and answering the call to duty.

I know that Gov. Kay Ivey, State Superintendent Eric Mackey and the staff of the Alabama Department of Education took great care in developing the “Roadmap to Reopening Alabama Schools,” and local school boards are being equally diligent in creating and implementing their own safety guidelines.

The importance of sanitization will be stressed more than ever before, and billions of dollars made available to Alabama through the federal CARES Act will help ensure that any resources that are needed to reopen schools safely will be readily available.

As the majority leader of the Alabama House, I can also offer assurances that the legislature stands ready to pass legislation or make appropriations that are necessary to ease the return to classroom instruction once we are in session.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted an even deeper appreciation of the frontline heroes who have remained on the job and provided the most essential services throughout the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in our hospitals and health clinics; grocery store and other retail employees; law enforcement officers, emergency workers and firefighters; postal workers; sanitation workers; restaurant personnel; and those in dozens of other professions are among those who continued working even when times were their toughest.

I am proud to say that the teachers, school nurses, administrators and support personnel in Alabama’s schools also rank high upon the list of those who have stood tall, and their already invaluable service to our state is even more important to students and parents in each of our cities, towns and crossroads today.

Helen Keller, one of Alabama’s most inspirational figures, once said, “It was my teacher’s genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me.”

As I close by wishing everyone a safe, happy and healthy school year, we would all do well to keep Helen Keller’s words in mind.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) serves as majority leader in the Alabama House of Representatives

5 hours ago

Alabama Ag Commissioner Pate gives update on unsolicited seed packages from China, urges public to stay ‘vigilant’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) Commissioner Rick Pate gave an update Monday afternoon on the spate of seed packets from China that people across Alabama have received in recent weeks despite never having ordered anything.

Pate said that after the state seed labs had performed tests on the packets they had collected from individuals across Alabama, and none of them proved to be dangerous.

“Right at 50% of them proved be some kind of weed flower … 41% were vegetables, and 9% were herbs … we found no noxious compounds, no dangerous compounds,” said Pate at the event.

However, he warned, “They might send out the first seeds that weren’t treated with anything, have a sense of security come about, and then later send something out that could be harmful.”

285

The commissioner further urged members of the public to refrain from planting any unsolicited seeds and continue to report them to the Department.

“At the very least something criminal has gone on here,” stated Pate, referencing laws that prevent seeds from being moved across state lines without being inspected by the relevant agencies.

Pate said his department had collected 252 seed samples as of Monday morning.

A total of 385 individuals in all but 11 of Alabama’s 67 counties have received one of the packets, according to information relayed at the press conference. State workers will be collecting the remaining samples soon.

(AL. Dept. of Ag/Contributed)

“Because we’ve got such a good food and drug lab, because we’ve got such a good seed lab, we knew this was inside of our comfort zone,” Pate said of the decision to conduct the seed tests in-house as opposed to shipping them to the federal government.

Andy Tipton, division director of Food Safety and Ag Compliance, said that 25 states had reported similar seed packets showing up at consumers’ doorsteps. He added that the ADAI was turning over all relevant info to the FBI, who were monitoring the situation.

Pate further told Yellowhammer News that one of the prevailing theories remained that the cause was an internet seller running a scam to artificially inflate their customer numbers and create opportunities for fake reviews.

He ended his press conference saying, “We have no idea the reason for this happening, but it doesn’t mean we can stop being vigilant.”

Any Alabamian still receiving one of the packets can report it here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

6 hours ago

Alabama basketball star John Petty returning for senior season

University of Alabama star forward John Petty, Jr. will return for his senior season, the player announced on Monday.

The Huntsville native was a second-team All-SEC honoree this past season, after leading the Southeastern Conference in three-point percentage.

Petty was considering entering the 2020 NBA Draft, however he decided to return for a final season in Tuscaloosa after evaluating his prospects. Another college season could see Petty lock down his chance at being a first-round pick.

118

Tide head coach Nate Oats released a statement on Monday afternoon celebrating Petty’s return.

“It’s great to have John back for his senior year,” Oats said. “He is certainly one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country which is extremely important to us with how we play.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal. Let’s get to work!” the coach concluded.

Follow along with the Bama men’s basketball program here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

State of Alabama, University of Alabama System officials unveil GuideSafe app aiming to keep schools virus-free

Key figures from Alabama’s government and university systems joined to announced the new GuideSafe platform that bills itself as the key for students to safely return to college campuses amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The GuideSafe platform will help the state fulfill its promise to test every single college student before they return to campus, and the platform will provide a space for ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester.

The unveiling took place over videoconference, where State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John and other key players detailed the importance of GuideSafe to the upcoming semester.

GuideSafe was developed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and tech company MotionMobs. It will be provided to any educational institution in the state that wishes to use it.

267

Governor Kay Ivey apportioned some of Alabama’s CARES Act funds for the development of GuideSafe and the universal free testing for college students.

St. John on Monday praised Ivey’s “decisive action to provide funding” for the testing initiative and other campus reopening measures.

(Click for higher resolution version that will open in new tab)

GuideSafe will be accessible via app on smartphones and tablets and via web browser on any computer. Students will be invited to join the platform in the coming weeks.

One of the key features of the GuideSafe app is that it will track the location of students via smartphone and then inform them if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“This new app – using Google- and Apple-led technology and created by UAB faculty, staff and MotionMobs for the people of Alabama – is a necessary tool in our effort to return to college campuses safely this fall,” said UAB President Ray Watts.

The app also allows students and faculty to report symptoms as they experience them, and get directed to a nearby testing site if necessary.

“The combination of these tools enables every participating college, university and K-12 school to engage faculty, students and staff regarding on-going monitoring of symptoms, exposure and risks of acquiring COVID-19,” said Sue Feldman, professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB.

A general factsheet on GuideSafe is available here.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

6 hours ago

Trump fires TVA board chair after outsourcing uproar

President Donald Trump on Monday announced that he was removing the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board chairman, Skip Thompson, an Alabamian.

Thompson, a resident of Decatur, is the president and CEO of Corporate Billing, a subsidiary of Birmingham-based National Bank of Commerce. He previously served as the president and CEO of both First American Bank in Decatur and First Commercial Bank in Huntsville, as well as serving on the board of Decatur Utilities.

Trump appointed Thompson to the TVA board in 2018. He was elected chairman of the board last year.

239

The president on Monday cited TVA’s plan to outsource information technology jobs overseas as the reason for firing Thompson and one other board member. Trump warned the other board members that they would be next if the outsourcing continued. The president also called on them to replace the organization’s CEO, who Trump said was making far too much money.

The president added, “Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: ‘You’re fired.’”

The TVA is the electricity provider for much of North Alabama. Self-described as “a corporate agency of the United States,” it is regulated at the federal level and not under the jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) applauded Trump’s move on Monday.

“TVA fires AMERICANS & hires cheap foreign labor,” the North Alabama congressman tweeted. “TVA executive salaries EXORBITANT. TVA=NO competition, unlike private sector execs who compete to earn profits to earn pay… WAY TO GO [President Trump]!”

RELATED: Doug Jones: ‘The TVA has lost its way’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn