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Death of a Salesman

grave markerRobin Williams was a real salesman. As an actor he convinced us to feel what the characters he portrayed were feeling. As a comedian, his facial expressions, voices, dialects, accents and insanely funny interpretations of ordinary things were delivery genius. I checked on the word “salesman” in the online Free Dictionary by Farlex. One of the definitions was, “one who sells goods, services, etc.” As I said, Robin was a real salesman. He sold us laughter.

We laughed at him in the TV series Mork and Mindy (’78-’82), Mrs. Doub­­tfire, and Aladdin; agonized with him in such films as Awakenings, and perhaps felt his personal loneliness in Good Will Hunting. We’ll always remember his iconic radio sign-on as the disc jockey in Good Morning Viet Nam. These and other film roles, as well as public comedy appearances endeared him to the hearts of many Americans and many others around the globe.

Williams was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He also received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards.

However, despite his versatility and success as an actor, and his amazing comedic wizardry, Williams suffered from depression throughout his life, and also struggled with drug and alcohol addictions. Though he was gifted to make others laugh and outwardly laughed with them, there was little laughter on the inside; little internal joy to offset the dark shadow which hung over him most of his life. On August 11, 2014, Williams was found dead, after committing suicide by hanging, at his home in Paradise Cay, near Tiburon, California.

People can surmise as to why a man, who by most reports was a kind and sensitive human being, who seemed so intent on bringing laughter to others, would make the selfish decision to end the struggles of his personal life in such a grotesque way? Why not just take sleeping pills or some other quick acting drug? Why leave this horrible picture for his family and friends to grapple with? Was it to shock the sensibilities of the world so that they would take notice of those who are in such chronic depression as his life record seems to indicate? Or was it something else? In an earlier interview with Diane Sawyer, Robin said that through his life there was a voice that would pop into his head telling him to “jump”, “kill youself”. This time he listened to the voice.

What kinds of things unchained the “black dog”, as Winston Churchill used to call his own bouts with depression? Was it the pains of the world that Williams took on, or his own personal pains, disappointments, rejections, discouragements; or was it the exhaustion of human energy in his fight to survive? We do know that he had a short time ago received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.

Someone reported that Williams was a member of a Christian church. I wonder, had he heard in his church about the One who was called “man of sorrows”; the man who came to reveal to us the heart of God – to flesh-out our heavenly Father’s love for us?

This man, Jesus, also died a grotesque death – not at his own hands, but at the hands of those he came to save. He didn’t take his own life, but he did say, “I lay it down” (John 10:18). According to the Gospel of John, Jesus came to save us – the lost (Luke 19:10). To save us from what? From sin, from Satan, and from ourselves – our attitudes, our dilemmas, our perplexities, and concerns. He’s the one who said,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt. 11:28-30

I realize that there are Christians who suffer from depression; most often it is related to something specific: abuses, losses (the death of a loved one, loss of health or youth or a job) a divorce, other disappointments or discouragements. Some people get depressed out of discontentment with where life has dropped them with seemingly no way out. Others develop depression out of an unforgiving spirit and ensuing anger.

I’ve never heard of a baby being born with depression, though it can develop early on in life. From my personal observations of acquaintances who are currently or have been in depression, most have arrived there because of life trauma – sometimes a personal sin. I don’t believe that “mental illness” is an adequate explanation of depression, without tracking down the route the depressed person has traveled along the way to depression.  There are causes – often multiple causes. You can medicate the symptoms – but you can’t cure depression with medicine. However, I firmly believe it can be cured.

We are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual beings – all in one. That’s why we are taught in Scripture (Deut. 6:4-5, Mark 12:29-30) to love the Lord our God with our heart (emotional), soul (spiritual), mind (mental) and strength (physical). As we surrender our whole being to Christ and take proper care of those four parts of our human self, it will affect our state of mind.

If anyone had reason to be depressed by life circumstances, it was Jesus. He was poor all of His life. His life purpose precluded marriage. He was often hungry and tired. He wept, he got angry – He had emotions. He was misunderstood and accused of having demons. The crowds that applauded Him later turned away. He was betrayed by a “friend”. His closest followers abandoned Him in His greatest time of need. He suffered an unjust death of humiliation on a public cross. Yet, while hanging on the cross He asked the Father to forgive His enemies – He didn’t hold grudges, didn’t pledge vengeance.

Don’t think it was easier for Jesus because He was God’s Son: Heb. 4:15 says

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Though Jesus experienced human suffering, He was a joyful man – little children loved being around Him.

What a salesman Jesus was! His life convinces us to live as He did. His death paid the price for healing in every area of our lives. And His resurrection guarantees delivery on the product. He offers us a gift greater than laughter – He has promised us joy.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11

When we surrender to the presence of His Spirit within us, we find the ability to walk in that joy in spite of our life circumstances.

The Scriptures lay out a plan for a achieving and maintaining a healthy mind:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:4-8


©2014, Marcy Alves


Do You Want to Be Healed?

It was a time of celebration in Jerusalem, a day of feasting for the Jewish people. Jesus went up to participate. He stopped by a public pool called Bethesda, which is near the Sheep Gate entrance into the city. There were five covered colonnades that surrounded the pool providing shade in which a large number of invalids lay on pallets.

There was a folk-belief at that time that an angel would occasionally come down and stir up the water in the pool and that the first person into the pool would be healed.

Several of the Scripture translations say in the Gospel of John, chapter 5, that there was a multitude of blind, lame and paralyzed lying there in the portico. Among them was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. We aren’t told why Jesus noticed that man among the large number of disabled people.

Jesus asked the man a strange question. At least I think it’s strange. He learned that the man had been in this condition for a long time and asked him: “Do you want to be healed?”

Why would Jesus ask that question? If Jesus were to ask me, “Do you want to be healed?” I would say, “Duh, of course. Why would I not want to be healed? Wouldn’t anyone who is ill or invalid want to be healed?”

Not necessarily. But why not?

Some sick people have learned to live with the illness and are used to others taking care of them. They may not be able to imagine a life of wellness with all the responsibilities that go with being well.

Perhaps their illness is used to get attention or to manipulate and control others.

Maybe it’s pay-back for some grievance or wound in their spirit from a spouse or family member or some other person.

Or the invalid may be full of self-doubt and insecurity. It’s easier just to be this way, depending on others to provide personal care and make decisions that seem impossible for them to handle.

Even asking God for healing is untenable for some who are ill. They are be too proud to ask God to heal them, or uncertain that He is capable of healing them, or doubt that He would even want to.

Others believe it is humble to accept illness as God’s will.

Or as we learn later about the man Jesus confronts, their illness may be due to personal sin and they feel unworthy of God’s attention.

It’s obvious that the man at the Pool of Bethesda does not know who Jesus is, perhaps because his public ministry had just begun. The man does not directly answer Jesus’ question; he tells Jesus that he has no one to put him into the pool when the angel supposedly stirs the water.

Even with his indirect answer, Jesus has compassion on the man. Jesus has already gotten His assignment from His Father, God. Remember Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing? (John 5:19)  And He only spoke what His Father commanded Him to say? (John 12:49)

The passage says nothing about the invalid’s faith, or the faith of anyone near him. The man does not even ask to be healed – he just expresses his need and his position of helplessness.

Jesus does not say, “You are healed.” He says, ”Get up. Take up your sleeping bag and walk”. What confidence His presence must have radiated! The man did not argue “What do you mean walk? Didn’t you hear me say that I can’t walk? Can’t you tell that I’m an invalid?”

I believe the lame man read compassion in Jesus’ eyes and sensed authority in His words. Power was released as he obeyed Jesus’ command. He was healed in obeying that voice. He stands and rolls up his bed and walks.

It was only later that Jesus finds the man again and warns him: “See, you are well. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” This leads us to consider that the man’s invalid condition may have been brought on by his own sinful actions. But even so, Jesus heals him and gives him a second chance.

This passage in John 5 also points out that even invalids sin – sickness does not cure the human nature of sin. But the Son of God heals both sin and sickness.

What a Savior we have!! Even if the mess our life gets into is our own fault, God forgives, heals, sets us straight and warns us away from further danger.

So how about you? Do you want to be healed? Of sickness, of sin, of bad character, of anger, of addictions, of self-righteousness, or selfishness and self-centeredness? Let’s dialogue.

©2011, Marcy Alves

Real Faith

Part 1 of 2

Do you sometimes wonder what “faith” is? Do you often wish you had more faith?

The Bible has much to say about faith.  There are more than 360 verses in the NT alone that speak of faith or being faithful. A key faith verse is Heb. 11:6  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

So, what is faith? I think it’s best to start with what faith is not, because I believe that what we think is faith often isn’t faith.

My personal journey requires faith. I want to make sure I have the real thing. Join me on my “what is faith?” exploration. Following are some of my conclusions so far:

Faith is not belief.

Belief is something you can come up with on your own.  We can believe things that aren’t true – about God or people or situations. We can believe the right things, but not act on them – faith seems to have an active component.

Believing the right things can lead us into faith, but it’s not the same as faith.

In Mark 16:14 the resurrected Jesus appears to the eleven disciples and “rebuked them” for two things: 1. “their lack of faith and 2. their stubborn refusal to believe” those who reported they had seen Him after He had risen from the dead.

When we mistake “prayers of belief” for “prayers of faith”, we may pray for things that God is not leading us to pray for.

And when we do not get what we pray for, then we feel that prayer doesn’t work, or God doesn’t love us; that God is powerless, or just not interested in our plight, that God has more important things to attend to than responding to our requests. Or, that God can’t be trusted.

The struggle we have with faith is often not a struggle with faith at all, but with trust.  Many people who believe in God do not trust God.

If we trusted God, we would not be so easily disappointed when we don’t get our prayers answered in our timing – or when God says, “No.” when we want Him to say, “Yes”.

Faith is not feelings.

We can feel good about something we want to happen, but that’s not the same as faith. Because we can feel good about the wrong things if we’re not walking in a current relationship with our heavenly Father.

Faith is not desire.

We can want the wrong things.  Or we can want the right things at the wrong time. Though the Scriptures say God will give us the desires of our heart – there is a condition to it. The Scripture says if we “delight in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart.” Are you delighting in the Lord, enjoying fellowship with Him?

Faith is not something we can get by struggling for it, something we can earn, manufacture, or create by professing we have it. It is not a magic formula. So, what is faith?

What faith is:

Heb. 11:1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (KJV)

Faith is assurance, knowing you have something that does not yet appear.

We have often made faith a condition of the mind – but it is really a condition of the spirit. It is a grace of the heart.

There’s spiritual faith (which I call “real faith”) and there’s human faith.

John’s Gospel refers to people putting “their faith in Him” (Jesus)– yet most of his early followers later turned away from Him. They had human faith, not spiritual faith.

If the faith you operate under results in your turning away from Jesus and not trusting God, you need a different kind of faith – it’s not REAL FAITH.

What kind of faith do you operate under? Human faith, or spiritual faith? Next installment we’ll look at “spiritual faith”: what it is and where it comes from.

Take me to “Real Faith” part 2

When God’s Voice is “Indistinct” part 1

Part 1 of 2

What has the Lord been saying to you recently? Or, does it seem like our Father is not saying anything to you?

Let me encourage you to hold on to what you already have heard from God, until He speaks something else. If you need confirmation about what you believe He has already spoken, ask Him for it.

I want to share something from a recent personal experience. It will have to be shared in several parts, because as I was writing it down, it became a little lengthy. Also, part of the “experience” has not yet happened, so the conclusion will have to wait. Do I have your attention?

Many of the Lord’s people, nationally and internationally, have been praying for my total healing from breast cancer. My husband, David, and I have kept this matter before the Lord. Our church has prayed very specifically regarding the cancer.

Lest you think that I am not aware that even Christians die from cancer, I inform you that I know this. So you need not feel compelled to argue the case with me. This is my journey, not to be compared with anyone else’s. I am not a special person, but my journey is specifically mine – it is a journey fitted to me by what I believe are hands other than my own.

Please don’t say, “Well, Christians have to die of something.” As if that explains why they die of dreadful diseases. When God is ready for someone to “come home”, He could just as easily take away their life force, just as He first gave it. I will not make excuses for what I consider cruel deaths. It’s one of the reasons some in the unbelieving world don’t believe that God exists; or if He does, they don’t believe He’s a God of love.

I don’t see anything in the Bible about God’s children dying prolonged, painful deaths, at least not from disease. The Roman lions and other forms of martyrdom are a different story. I believe that God’s grace for such deaths was there in a way we will never understand. Diseases like cancer are not martyrdom.

Cancer is an attack from the pit of hell and a result of Adam’s surrender of his God-given authority to Satan through his disobedience to God; his betrayal of the love of his Creator. It’s part of the plethora of ills that accompanied the fall in Genesis. And humans have contributed to the onslaught by  all sorts of contamination of God’s created world: food, water, soil, and air.

But, through the shed blood, death, and resurrection of Jesus, He took back the authority that Adam handed over to the devil. And then He delegated that authority to His Spirit-born followers. Christ gave authority back to people who are surrendered to God. They have authority to displace disease and the powers of darkness. None other than Jesus said, that our authority extends over “ALL the power of the enemy . . . ” (Lk. 10.19- emphasis mine). In my mind, “ALL” the power of the enemy would include disease.

Some books that have challenged my thinking in this area of the authority of the sons and daughters of God are: We’re the ‘sons of God’ . . . So What? by my husband, Dr. David C. Alves; and,  two of Bill Johnson’s books: When Heaven Invades Earth and Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a Life of Miracles.

Anyhow, three years ago when I was first diagnosed with cancer and was about to go the traditional medical route – surgery, radiation and possibly chemo, the Lord stopped us with a word from several different sources. The word was to “wait” and strengthen my body’s immune system. We have been doing that ever since, though we may have slacked off from the very strict regimen we first started in 2008. I say “we” because David has been with me in this all the way – supporting and encouraging.

Still, I am not yet physically clear of cancer and this has caused us to question from time to time what God is doing or wanting to do through this disease experience. That’s the way I view the cancer – as a human experience, not a death sentence. And even up to this time, I have not been afraid. That’s God, not denial.

I have been patiently waiting (mostly) for God to heal me totally–or to specifically direct my steps to some other form of natural healing. After all, when He created the human body, He also planned what would be needed to keep it in good running order.

Anyway, I occasionally have those days when the question “When, Father?” prefaces or ends my prayers. “You who says to the ocean waves, ‘Stop here and go no further.’ or who says to the storm on the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’ and whom the wind and waves obey – when will you speak those words into my life?”

“Have I really heard from you? Was it my wishful thinking or my imagination that spoke those early words I thought were from you, my Father?”

Let this be background for the future installments of my recent experience in a personal journey into faith.

Are you in a “waiting time” with the Lord right now? Let His fruit of patience fully develop in you.

What do you do when you’re unsure of what you’ve heard  from the Lord?

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