Dealing with Depression


In the Bible, the apostle Paul wrote something amazing — something I need to hear everyday:

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 (Phil. 4:6-7).

Anxiety is like an avalanche, and my own mind is an expert at burying me. I’m a recovering hypochondriac, so my thoughts spiral downward like this: “There’s a pink mark on my skin. It’ll probably get infected. I’ll need antibiotics, but they probably won’t work. I may go septic and end up in the hospital. I’m as good as dead.” Maybe the anxiety avalanche in your mind is a little different: “Why hasn’t he called back yet? He hates me. I’m going to die alone with a small army of cats as my only friends.”

I don’t know about you, but my mind can go 0 to 100 real quick. Thankfully, Scripture gives us a way to stop the avalanche, and it’s called prayer – talking to God. I know, I know. Maybe you were expecting something more earth shattering. But think about it: What could be more earth shattering than presenting your thoughts and worries to the God of the whole universe?

Paul uses two absolutes in Philippians 4 – “anything” and “everything.” He says we shouldn’t worry about anything. In other words, nothing is too big for God to handle. And we should pray about everything. Nothing is too small for God to care about. Every topic andevery need is fair game in prayer.

Prayer digs us out of the avalanche because it connects us with the one who is in control of all things, and it reminds us that we were never really in control in the first place. We give our burdens to someone who knows our situation better than we do, someone who has more power than we do, and someone who actually loves us and knows us better than we know ourselves. When we settle into the rhythm of regular prayer, we begin to breathe easier, and our heartbeat calms. We climb out of the snow, inch by inch. And then a silent miracle happens. Peace.

This is my prayer today: “Father God, nothing happens without you knowing it and willing it. The Bible promises that everything that happens in my life happens for a reason. Help me trust in you, even when I don’t know that reason. Help me unload every single worry I have on you today, knowing nothing is too big for you, and nothing is to small for you. And in exchange, would you give me peace? Peace that goes beyond anything I’ve experienced before. Peace that is strange, alien, foreign. Peace that I cannot understand or put words around. A peace that I know comes only from you. Guard my heart and mind today. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

P.S. Recently, I had the chance to preach about another passage that really has helped me deal with anxiety and depression, Psalm 43:5.  Check it out below:

Miami Open

What’s it like to be a few feet from Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, John Isner, Stan Wawrinka, Gael Monfils and other top tennis players? In one word — awesome!!! This year was my first year going to the Miami Open, but it won’t be my last.  We had such a great time!  If you’re a fan of tennis at all, you should definitely check it out!

2016: Year of Harmonics

Have you seen this viral video?  This kid is amazing!  Play a note?  He can name it.  Play a chord?  He can name every note in it.  Even if you play two conflicting chords at once, he can tell you what both are!  He has trained his ear to clearly hear what is deep inside, while most of us skim along the surface, sensing vaguely that there must be something interesting below.

I’m training my ear in a different but similar way.  As a sound engineer, I take sonic ingredients and try to bake them into a pleasing cake each week.  A solid foundation of kick drum and bass guitar.  A meaty electric guitar and piano in the middle.  Sparkling acoustic guitar and cymbals on top.  A dash of violin and pad to glue it all together.

The more I learn about audio, the more I learn there is to learn.  I hear new things.  I sense things deep under the surface.  On Coldplay’s new album (which I rate 1,000,000,000 stars), I note how the kick and bass trade places on various songs, one slightly above the other.  And I hear not just the primary bass frequency but all the harmonics that make it up.

Harmonics are fascinating!  Harmonics are the overtones you hear in music.  They accompany the fundamental tone at a fixed interval, and they’re what make a piano sound like a piano and a guitar sound like a guitar.  If not for harmonics, a piano’s middle C would sound like an acoustic guitar’s C, which would sound like a violin’s C.  (There are other factors, but for the sake of argument, hear me out.)  What gives an instrument its timbre and character is its harmonics!  Music is more than a sine wave, you know.  My OCD would try to squeeze everything into mathematical precision, but thank God I’m not in charge of the laws of physics.  If I were music would be very boring.  OK, confused yet?  Just look at this:


Check out this frequency spectrum.  This is me playing one note on my piano (a middle C, by the way).  There is not just one hump as if it were a “perfect” sine wave at 261.6 Hz.  No, there are all sorts of odd and even harmonics that come off that one string.  Beyond that, there is also “sympathetic resonance,” which happens when other strings begin vibrating when I play middle C.  Picking apart all of this is “deep” hearing, and I love it!  Try it for yourself.  Spend $.99 on the FrequenSee app, and carry it with you.  You won’t believe what you’ll find!!!

I have begun to notice that there are harmonics all around if you just stop to notice them.  In a ceiling fan, there’s the fundamental tone, but there are 4-5 others you can pick out if you listen, and that is in addition to the low hum of the motor and the sound of the blades creaking as they wobble.  Going deep like this is a way I calm my busy mind and.  Listening is meditation for me.  Deep listening forces you to be present.

I wonder sometimes what it would be like if I could live all of life like this.  One morning, I was in the shower, and I noticed a different type of “harmonic.”  It wasn’t in sound, though.  It was in touch.  Impatient for the water to warm up, I jumped in the cold shower, and what surprised me was that there were a few hot “harmonic” sensations — maybe the equivalent of static noise in my nervous system.  If I focused on these microseconds of warmth, I could enjoy the cold shower much more.  Where else are harmonics?

Are there harmonics even in our life experiences?  Tragedy in our lives are always be in a minor key.  But what if we “listened deep”?  What would we could sense what is beneath the surface?  I have a good idea that there are harmonics of not just ambivalence but of joy and even bliss hidden in pain and suffering.  The same God who caused my piano to sound like it does did not leave tragedy just with its fundamental tone.  Sadness is not a sine wave.  And that gives me hope.

In 2016, I want more than just my hearing to be deeper.  I want my whole life to be deeper.  I want to be fully present in whatever I’m doing.  The heart of creating art is in fully experiencing life, and I’m afraid I’ve been a surface dweller too long.  I’m let my OCD turn everything into mathematically perfect sine waves.  I want 2016 to be the year of harmonics.

God’s Greatest Masterpiece

Sunset on Whitt Lake

God is an incredible artist, and I love capturing his work in photos, as you can see on this site.  Whether it’s vibrant streaks of orange and purple that paint the night sky or white crystals of ice forming an intricate lace blanket for a leaf, I often look to nature when I want to see God’s creativity on display.

But God’s glory is found in many other places too, and one of them is right in front of you — in the mirror, actually.  Recently, I had the opportunity to teach at my church’s college Bible study, and I shared a message from Psalm 139, one of my favorite psalms.  It is a song by David that is meant to be sung.  (We know that because he gives instructions to the director of music.)  It starts off like many other worship songs we’re familiar with — first, praising God that he is all-knowing and then praising God that he is present everywhere.

David’s song takes a strange turn in verses 13 and 14, when he praises God for… are you ready for it… himself!  He says, “I praise you God because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14a).  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never written a praise song like that: “I praise you God, for me.  Just look at me!  What a masterpiece you have made!”  But David did.

Unlike David, when I look in the mirror, I tend to only see what is wrong — all the things I don’t like about myself.  My nose.  My eyes.  My teeth.  How annoyingly shy and introverted I can be.  How easily I can slide into depressive or anxious thoughts.  There is so much “wrong” I see about me that I often forget that I’m a creation of God, a person whose DNA was stitched together by God himself in my mother’s womb.  Every last adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine is right where God planned for it to be.  My hair color.  My body type.  My personality.  My passions.  My life.  It was also handcrafted by the Master Artist.  I’ve got designer genes!

You and I are wonderfully made because we have a wonderful Maker, but don’t we forget that all the time?  This week’s newspaper contained some shocking statistics.  Over the past three years, more than 320 people have taken their own lives on the Treasure Coast.  Every 17 minutes, someone commits suicide in our country.  It’s one of the leading causes of death among young people like the ones I spoke to at our church’s Bible study.  And that breaks my heart — God’s masterpieces hating themselves to the point of death.

This video clip breaks my heart too.  What you see below is a clip from the documentary, “Thin.”  It profiles several women as they struggle with eating disorders.

When I think of Psalm 139, I think of this person.  I think of people at war with eating disorders.  I think of people who are contemplating suicide.  I think about normal, everyday students trying to navigate life while starving for love, sitting in the dark, staring into the sterile white light of their phones, waiting on someone, anyone, to like their latest Instagram picture or send them a Snap.  Waiting on someone to notice them, to give them hope that they’re worth something, to teach them that they’re lovable and loved.

To that person, please read Psalm 139 today.  Hear God speak truth to you.  You are loved intensely and passionately every second of every day by a perfect Father.  Your life is no accident.  You may have been a surprise to your parents, but you were no surprise to God.  You may have been unwanted, but the God of the Universe wants you. Your birth may have been unplanned, but God planned for you — not  just your birth but every single day of your life.  David says in Psalm 139:16-19 that all his days were written in God’s book.  Your entire journey is laid out by God too, and when you need strength, he is there to walk the path with you.

You’re wonderfully made because you have a wonderful Maker, and you display that Maker’s glory even more than the autumn leaves or snow-covered mountains.  You are made in the image of God — something no other part of creation can claim.  And God sent his Son to die for you, displaying the riches of the glory of his grace through you.  What a masterpiece God is creating in you and me!

Next time you hear a praise song, remember David’s praise song in Psalm 139: “I praise you God for… me.”  Thank you, God, for the masterpiece of your creation.  Thank you for the beauty you’ve placed all around us.  Let us not miss the beauty in ourselves as well.

The Lost Art of Being Real

Hello, my name is Bill, and I am an approval addict.

Every picture you see of me on here has been handpicked so you never have to see my bad side.  Hours in Photoshop means you won’t get to see my acne either.  Maybe you’ll like what you see.

That sour note I played in worship on Sunday?  I edited it out before the video hit YouTube.  Maybe no one will remember it wasn’t a perfect performance.

Not long ago, only movie stars could have their photos airbrushed, and only the biggest recording artists could be forced to sing on key by a rack full of magic gear.  Now, all of us curate our lives to present “perfect” selves to each other.  It doesn’t even require Photoshop.  With a free iPhone app and the swipe of a finger, you can airbrush a photo.  Heck, I hear that Samsung phones even turn on a “beauty face” feature by default for selflies.  Enlarge eyes?  Check.  Slim face?  Check.  Smooth skin tone?  Check.  The real me?  Never has to be seen!

The number of people treated for depression continues to increase, and no wonder why!  We’re comparing our real lives to our friends’ fake lives — their carefully curated perfect social media selves.  To keep up with them, I airbrush my online life too, perpetuating the pattern.  It’s a vicious cycle as my friends now compare themselves to a fake me.

Here’s the funny thing:  People actually like it when you’re real.  Surprising, I know!  Sometimes life forces you to be real, and guess what, the world doesn’t stop spinning.  I found this out recently while on stage at church during the biggest service of the year, Easter Sunday.  It was a packed house, and I put pressure on myself to deliver a perfect performance.  Unfortunately, I cracked under the pressure.  We were playing with a video for “Happy Day,” and I started singing the first verse four bars too early.  None of the lyrics were going to line up with the song at all if I didn’t stop and start over.  Wow, talk about embarrassing!

But you know what?  My moment of humility and humanity and honesty was like a breath of fresh air through the church.  I said something along the lines of, “That was my bad.  I messed that up. You all are doing great.”  And we started the song over, as everyone in the crowd cheered.  It was the weirdest thing.  People clapping for a human moment and the reminder that no one is perfect.  In the end, God used it to remind people who hadn’t been to church in a long time that not even the people on stage are perfect.  Church isn’t for perfect people (because there are none).  It’s for people who realize they mess up and need forgiveness!

I’d like to say there’s a video where you can see all this go down, but true to form, I edited all of that out.  All that’s left is the thunderous applause of people cheering my screwup, edited to make it look like I did something good.  When will I learn?

Here’s another reason to turn off the filter.  Imagine you spent 15 minutes getting the lighting just right for a selfie, touching up the skin tone, cropping out the parts of yourself that you hate, thinking up an unrelated caption you know will get some likes.  You sit back and wait a few minutes until your phone blows up like a Vegas slot machine that just hit the jackpot.  All those likes!  But it still feels hollow.  When it’s not the real you they’re liking, does it really even mean anything at all?

Now imagine a different scenario:  You get real.  You post authentically.  You post your bad side.  You post something that’s important to you, whether or not it will guarantee a jackpot of likes.  If you get a handful of likes, at least those people are liking you and not some made up character.

More important than all of that, though, is the idea that we should not be slaves to public opinion anyway.  What matters most is what God thinks.  I’ve been learning a lot lately about rooting my self-esteem not in what I do, but in who I am.  Thanks to Jesus, I am a beloved child, a forgiven saint, a servant-messenger entrusted with the most important news of all time!

I have to accept that even if I mess up, God can still work through me.  We saw that in the Easter video above.  Here’s another example.  In the video below, you’ll see our carefully crafted Good Friday service.  I spent so much time programming lighting cues, editing videos, setting up sound scenes, etc.  But God had other plans.  The power went off in our second song and took all of our systems online.  What happened next was the highlight of the night.  Sometimes God shines brightest in our darkness.  Truly, in our weakness, He is strong!

(Fast forward to 8:20 to see the power outage.)

I Love Waiting Rooms!

Waiting Room

I’m sitting in a comfy chair at one of my favorite places in the whole wide world today! Disney World? Outback Steakhouse? Nope, a waiting room!

Waiting is a lost art. Stillness doesn’t come naturally, but somewhere deep down, I thirst for it.

So here I sit, all alone in the waiting area of Total Auto Care, while around the corner, a man is draining the old oil out of my car and putting in new. It’s nearly silent, and for the first time in two weeks, I’ve somehow carved out some time to read, to reflect and to write — things that are good for the soul.

I guess I should get my car’s oil changed more often because apparently that’s what it takes for me to be still. Why is it that I feel guilty when I sit quietly on my own couch in my own home to read a good book or listen to a new worship album? Pesky Protestant work ethic, always pushing me toward busyness, chronic overscheduling, constant motion, ceaseless activity.

Ironic, because the Bible itself has a lot to say about rest. I mean, God even made taking a day off one of this top ten commandments! He designed us in a way that we need to spend a full 1/3 of our lives unconscious — recharging. We are like cars. Our oil gets worn out, and sometimes we need to go to the shop.

Another client has come in and taken a seat beside me.  He alternates pacing and sitting, pacing and sitting.  I can tell he wants out of here, but I’m secretly hoping my simple oil change takes a little while longer. I love waiting rooms and the little slice of solace they bring to my life.

I love church sanctuaries and Publixes too.  Everywhere I go, I have this weird compulsion to see what the inside of a particular city’s Publix looks like.  It’s kind of disappointing because they always look the same, but I still do it.  And I love seeing church sanctuaries too.  I opening the door and taking a seat in the pews or chairs, smelling the old wood or the remnants of concert haze in the air, listening for sound, searching for sight.

Sometimes, I’ll disappear into my own church’s sanctuary in the middle of the day and sit all alone in the complete darkness — and it is complete darkness.  I look up, and all I can see are distant stars on a field of inky black sky — actually blue lights from WiFi access points, red lights from projectors and green lights from exit signs, but still beautiful galaxies in my imagination.  My ears come alive to hear subtle sounds of silence.  And most importantly, my soul opens up to Gods spirit speaking.

Strip away the world’s noise, and you’ll be surprised how loudly God is talking.  It doesn’t have to be in a sanctuary.  It can be on a long car ride.  It can be in a hot tub.  It can even be in a waiting room while your oil is changed.  Soon enough, they’ll call my name and I’ll be back in the real world where there is no time for these simple pleasures. Or is there?  Maybe I’ll take the long way back home.

Pass It On!

Jake and Nicholas

I want to introduce you to two of the coolest people in the entire world!  Meet Jake Motisi and Nicholas Scerbo, guys I’ve really come to trust and respect in ministry very much.


Our 2015 VBS Set

Pulling off this year’s VBS took more than 100 staff members, interns and volunteers, and Jake and Nicholas were among those who helped me bring a pretty complex sound, light and video show to life!  They did great, and I couldn’t have done it without them.  Jake helped put together our amazing stage, which you can see in the video at the end of this post, and Nicholas helped by taking truly awesome pictures, such as these!

With just a little bit of training and investment from me, these two took what I showed them and just went crazy.  They brought so much energy and enthusiasm to VBS.  I want to continue in that spirit all year!

I listen to Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast when I’m the car alone (a great time to connect with God, as I mentioned in this post).  One thing Andy talks about a lot is the importance of “replacing yourself.”  He says there will always be a place for you if you replace yourself.  In other words, whatever God has given us or taught us — it’s our responsibility to pass that on.  He says it’s not our responsibility to fill everyone else’s cups, but it is our responsibility to empty our own.  In other words, while I’m not responsible for making Jake into a perfect audio engineer, I am responsible for sharing what I know with him.

I have a birthday coming up (Aug. 10 if you are looking for gift ideas), and as I enter another year of ministry, I think it’s time I take the concept of “passing it on” to heart.  All I’ll end up doing is wearing myself out if I try to do everything by myself.  I can do so much more by investing in others.

What does that look like?  Well, my task list used to be just that — a list of tasks for me to do.  Now, I’m beginning to transition it instead into a list of names like “Nicholas” and “Jake.”  My task is them.  My calling as a pastor is to equip them for ministry (Eph. 4:12).  Moving forward, Nicholas will be taking over our Instagram and Flickr accounts, as well as taping our worship services.  Jake will help with video editing and pre-production.  Cory will helping with worship planning.  Others are leading choirs, greeting teams, design efforts, etc.  I’m surrounding myself with creative people who bring new life and energy into our ministries.  And they love getting to use their gifts in ministry!

“Passing it on” is something all of us can do.  No matter what you’ve been given by God, it is something you should think about giving away.  When you empty your cup, somehow it always stays full!



The Wall Street Journal recently broke the news that there will be no fabled Apple TV.  After years of research and development, apparently Apple has decided not to enter the television market.

Some are disappointed at this news, but I, for one, love it.  One of the reasons Apple has such a great reputation for quality products is that they don’t have that many of them.  When they choose to pursue something, they go all in.  Doing that means saying “no” to a lot of other ideas.

Apple is the master of focus.  Steve Jobs said focus “means saying ‘no’ to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

I know in my personal life, if I chase down too many “good” ideas at once, none of them have the opportunity to become great.  For example, right now I’m trying to learn about Logic software, singing technique and relative pitch (so far I know all my perfect fifths by heart and by ear), among other things.  I’m also pursing blogging, photography and audio businesses, songwriting, etc.  I classify all these as hobbies, which is why I’m not distraught that none are terribly lucrative right now.  But imagine if I had the disciple to just focus on one!

How about ministries?  Sometimes I wonder if there is some correlation between the success of a church and its ability to focus.  It’s so tough to say “no” to good ideas, but sometimes that’s what you have to do in order to have a few great ones!

The Church of Apple


The Best Buy employee asked if he could help me.  I assume that was his polite way of saying that I needed to wipe the drool off the brand new MacBook in front of me.  “No, just looking,” I said, trying desperately to avoid his sales pitch.  If BestBuy employees are cheetahs, people like me are tasty wildebeests, so we have to work overtime not to trigger their prey instincts.

“No, I’m just looking,” was also my way of telling my own brain I didn’t need that impossibly thin and beautiful laptop.  “Walk away, Whitt, just walk away.”  But man, it was beautiful.  Apple founder Steve Jobs often talked about how important good design was to him.  As an example, he pointed to his father, Paul Jobs, who never used lower quality wood on the back of cabinets and painted the back of fences with as much gusto as the front.  “For you to sleep well at night,” Jobs said, “the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through” (NPR).  He even said the back of their machines was more beautiful than the front of their competitors’ machines.  And it worked — Apple’s Mac sales are up 10%, while the overall PC market is down 7%.

What Apple has mastered is attention to detail.  For example, try this!  With the MacBook sitting on the table, open the lid with just one finger.  The design team engineered a system whereby the resistance the lid offers changes over the course of the opening.  The result is that the base always stays in place on your desk and the lid always stays angled right where you leave it.  They make it look easy and intuitive, but someone spent a lot of time figuring that detail out!

Another secret to their success has been willingness to rock the boat.  Bulky VGA ports?  Optical drives?  SD card slots?  One by one, Apple has stripped away excess in the name of simplicity and, more importantly, has pushed technology forward.  Each time they did so, there was huge backlash, but look how far we’ve come!

Earlier, I wrote that church leaders should learn from the demise of Radio Shack; today I add that there are also lessons for churches in the success of Apple!  Do we paint the “back of the fence” of our ministries with as much care for quality as the front?  Do we give attention to detail?  Are we willing to fight for progress, even if it means rocking the boat?

Church leaders, let’s be proud of our work.  Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”  God deserves the very best, and because we’re working for him, we have even greater motivation than Apple to strive for excellence!