Response to Your Responses RE: Revisiting the Depressies

So this post has been getting some good feedback.

In addition, I had a late night Twitter rant that served as the genesis of this post. Read that first, if you can stomach the foolish rambling and spelling mistakes.

More than a few of you have reached out to me, expressing feelings of solidarity and understanding. Encouraging words have been spoken. Attempts at understanding have been given.

There’s a two-fold issue here for me:

  1. It’s absolutely encouraging to hear that other people understand and have felt similar things. I’m not alone, and as much as I tell people to know that they are not alone, I easily forget to give myself the same reassurance.
  2. It’s absolutely heart-breaking to hear that other people understand and have felt similar things. They are not alone, yet they feel that they are, no matter how many people like me in their lives attempt to reassure them otherwise.

It’s #2 that reassures me I still know how to feel like a human. That I’m still capable of empathy and sympathy. That I’m actually able—for no matter how fleeting of a moment it might even be—to think outside of myself and consider another person. If that sounds like I’m tooting my own horn, you’re damn right. This is a victory for me, and for any of you who have struggled with depression, you know well how good it is to feel something that isn’t centered on yourself for once.

To be sure, understand that if anything I’ve said here has been encouraging to you, know I’ve only shared it because I’ve had to first scream it at myself in order to believe it. While I wish I could be altruistic and say I write so openly about these struggles solely for the fact that others like me might read them, the truth is there is another component that is just as satisfying. It helps me greatly to write them down. It gives me focus and a moment to center myself. To express what I otherwise have no other means of expressing. Those closest to me who are privy to (read: unfortunately touched by) these moments ask me what I’m feeling, and often I have no words I can share.

Here is where I seem to find those words. Here is where I gain the clarity and ability to look more clearly, even if I still don’t understand it. Here is where I attempt to help you understand while I attempt to understand myself, even if it results in you giving me a Side-eye Chloe.

Find your outlet. Seek your peace. Discover your zen. Do whatever it takes, but don’t let the darkness take over. And while it might be referencing a different circumstance, read some Dylan Thomas and rage.

If any of this sounds like hyperbole to you, then you don’t understand and I encourage you to seek understanding. Seek empathy.

Hell, forget seeking empathy; require it of yourself!


An Open Letter To My Conservative Evangelical Brethren

First of all, allow me to make the requisite statements of how much I dislike open letters and blah blah blah please think I’m humble while also listening to me as I stand on my soap box blah blah blah.

So, here’s the thing. We don’t really get along too well, do we? And by “we”, I mean Christians who identify—or are typically identified by others— as liberal (me) and conservative (you).

How do you know we’re liberal? Well, you know us primarily by our fruits (love for the gays—heyyyyyooo for puns), our vegan craft beer, the non-conflict wool beanies we wear, and our hesitancy in admitting that President Obama is the Antichrist (sound minds know that’s actually Paula Deen).

How do we know you’re conservative? Well, we know you primarily by your big ass trucks, the Truck Nuts on your big ass trucks, your adorable obsession with Glenn Beck (who, in a delicious bit of irony, is a devout Mormon), and underlying displeasure with having to pay taxes for anything (who needs hospitals, fire trucks, and police cruisers?).

As you can see, there are a number of differences between us, even if the ones mentioned above are obviously overly simplistic, yet hyperbolic, sensationalized, and more than a little patronizing (this is where I iterate that I don’t actually subscribe to these silly little stereotypes; except for the Truck Nuts, because I’ve never seen Truck Nuts next to an Obama campaign sticker, which would make one helluva subversive statement).

In spite of all these political and theological differences, there is certainly one thing we can all agree on, and it’s pretty significant.

God is Love, and that Love was personified through Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for all mankind.

I’d say that’s a pretty good place for us to remain grounded while we discuss our varying opinions and beliefs on just what it means to interact with and be moved by that God of Love we proclaim.

It’s from that ground I speak to you today, so please remember that as I move forward and attempt to make my point, which is this:

You’re tearing down the Church.

I’m sorry if that hurts or angers you to hear, but history backs this up. Look at any point of progress throughout history (Church or otherwise), and you’ll see the conservative factions of each time fighting and clawing for what once was to remain forever.

Adulterers must be stoned, because that’s what the Old Testament tells us to do.

Gentile converts to Christianity must be circumcised, because that’s how we’ve always done it.

Only church leaders can read the Scriptures, because we can’t be trusted to interpret.

Africans (and a number of other races) work so good as slaves because God has blessed the white man with civility and intelligence.

Women? Stay out of the voting booth, and in the kitchen.

I don’t want openly gay and same sex married couples working at a Christian charity that does some of the hardest, most Christ-like work in the world because ewwwwww.

Ahh, yes. That last one. Surely you’ve heard of this whole World Vision fiasco. In fact, I know you have because so many of you voiced your concerns, and then more of you actually pulled your support from the organization (and subsequently a starving child, but that’s neither here nor there). Your voice was so loud and powerful that not even two days after World Vision announced it was opening up its employment to gays and same sex married individuals, it reversed course and took it all back. Nevermind the fact that World Vision’s CEO was very obvious in his original statement that this new hiring policy was not a condoning of the lifestyle, and that they still held a traditional view of marriage. You were upset that your openly gay Christian brothers and sisters could even be a part of this amazing ministry.

You think homosexuality is a sin? That’s honestly ok with me, because I used to think the same thing, and I totally understand why you think that. However, even though you’re quick to point out that you place no more emphasis on the sin of homosexuality than you do on the sins of lying, stealing, adultery, et al., your actions absolutely place more emphasis. Where’s the clamor against hiring divorced individuals? Or those who might have a history of lying? Well, then you say that homosexuality is an open acceptance of a sin, and is ongoing without repentance. To which I say I’m sure there are more than a couple gluttons who refuse to change their eating habits that work at World Vision (gluttony is a sin that’s far more corrosive to the American way of life, even if it sort of IS the American way of life).

Where’s the equal outrage for an equal sin?

I’m not going to keep focusing on the World Vision issue, because that’s not my overall point (although, it is what spurned this letter). My point is that your refusal to even be associated with the sinners of this world (and of our Church) is drastically diminishing our ability to even be effective in forcing out the darkness in this world. We have so many differing opinions, and you can’t stand that. Truth be told, neither can many of us liberals.

But the hard truth we have to deal with? That truth that’s so inexorably staring us right in the face? Neither of us are going anywhere.

I’m sure some of you are ready to pounce on my imbalanced shaping of this scenario; that I’m not paying credence to the number of you who have been harmed by liberal thinkers with unloving words and actions. In no way do I think the fault for this division lies in your hands alone, and I’m truly apologetic for the moments when my liberal posse members (we don’t ride horses; we drive Prius’) and I have done you harm.

However, let’s acknowledge the fact that the American church is predominantly identified as conservative. Effectively, you’ve won the position as kings (and queens, because I’m liberal and love that egalitarian stuff) of the hill. You’re pretty much in the driver’s seat of how the rest of the world is going to view the Church, and quite frankly, that makes me a little afraid.

Afraid because you’re missing out on us liberals, and we’re missing out on you. We NEED each other. We can HELP each other. The Church will not last as the cultural powerhouse that you wish it to be if it remains on its present course. You’ve forced out a large group of individuals, young and old, who love the ideas of thinking freely and openly, of trying new things and challenging old ways, of living a life so furiously loving that it causes a number of us to forsake the shackles of isolation and loneliness and dwell in communities so intimate it would make your heart burst with kale juice.

We aren’t perfect. We’re certainly really weird. But we’re your brothers and sisters, and you are ours. We want to come home. We long for home, but we feel we no longer have one. The last few days have only served to intensify that feeling, and that’s a perfect example of how the Church is being torn asunder.

I’m not asking you to agree with us. Hell, I certainly know we aren’t going to agree with you. But at least allow us to fight and bicker and love under the same roof, as siblings should.

We owe it to each other, we owe it to the world, and we owe it to our God.


Death visits

I found out this afternoon that a friend perished in a helicopter crash yesterday. Her name was Brynne, and she was 25 years old.

While this post isn’t going to necessarily center on her (I’m not emotionally equipped to do that just yet), it will cover some thoughts and feelings as brought on by this tragic event.

I’ve been in a sort of emotional haze most of the day, going between feelings of intense sadness and self-preserving detachment. For the past two years I’ve crafted a narrative that indicated I was immune to most extreme emotions; that I was calm and strong enough to withstand the onslaught of unfortunate happenings and circumstances that life would inevitably visit upon us all. I’ve lived a relatively charmed life, but I’ve also experienced my fair share of pain; if you could call any experience of pain “fair”. The coping mechanism I’ve developed during my battle with depression is to not even feel pain. To avoid it at all costs, as if I wasn’t easily affected. What was once viewed as a cool aloofness by many of my friends has come to my attention to be a lonely state of denial. Sure, we all want to avoid pain. It’s just that some of us go to greater lengths to keep that pain at bay, locked away so as never to get too close.

I once had a conversation about death with an 89 year old man who was a member of a church I worked at. He stated that while he was grateful to have lived such a long life filled with joy and happiness, his most difficult truth to adjust to was that he was outliving those closest to him. One by one his friends and family passed, and he remained while death loomed like a schoolyard bully awaiting an opportune moment. Death visits us all on occasion, and will eventually take up permanent residence. For such a crucial, almost singular and scientifically proven fact about the human existence, death is still surprising. We know that it will come, but when it arrives we are shocked. The sudden pain numbs and dulls our senses, and we are left in a near catatonic state. Or we explode. Or both.

I have no words of encouragement for those experiencing a similar despair. No universal truth that will assuage the pain and transition it into acceptance, bypassing the stages of grief that we all experience.

Death is terrifying, but it’s not my own eventual death that keeps me up at night; it’s the death of those around me whom I care about. It’s the utter helpless feeling I have that there’s not a thing I can do to change it. That no matter how hard I ignore or wish it away, it will be as persistent as a pit bull with its jaws around a rope. (I have one of those; they don’t let go.)

In my sadness over Brynne’s passing, I wasn’t sure where I could turn to. Who I could talk to. You see, I’ve compartmentalized my entire life into segregated groups of people, rarely allowing for overlap because it’s so much easier to manage things that way. One group of friends can help me forget about a terrible situation with another group because nobody even knows about it, so it’s never brought up. This works great for when I don’t want to confront something terrible, but it works equally as bad for when I need the help and love of those closest to me. When you decentralize your relationships, you lose a stabilizing force that allows you to stumble with the protection of loved ones surrounding you. By allowing myself to get close with many groups of people—but not close enough—I’ve removed the risk of community, with community being something I’m utterly terrible at.

The risk of community is shared pain. A sharedness that allows for the lamenting of pain people other than just you feel and understand. Brynne’s passing has shown me how I’ve avoided such a safety net because while I was close with her, I wasn’t close with many other people that knew her. I don’t have anyone to share a story with that contains a mutual context of the type of person she was. This makes it difficult to grieve, as I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to be grieving in this moment. All I am left with are my own thoughts and emotions, and they are of little consolation.

Some nights I’m afraid to fall asleep because my worst fears play out in my dreams, as if my mind wanted to present a massive middle finger in my direction. This is one of those nights.


Corporate greed and consumeristic integiry…

There’s a coffee shop somewhere that I recently read about. I don’t have any more details than that, other than the unique way this coffee shop goes about its business. Instead of having electrical outlets strewn throughout the building—as most coffee shops are wont to do—this particular shop has none. You would have zero way of charging your laptop, phone, or other electrical device whilst sipping on your fair trade cup of joe.

At first glance, this sort of business practice seems incredibly silly. Why would you want to alienate potential customers that are looking for a place to shack up and get some things done? But that’s just the genius behind this plan. Nobody is telling someone they can’t shack up and do their work. They’re just relegated to however long their device lasts. Once your computer dies out, you’re going to have to go somewhere else with your freeloading. We’ve all seen (or in my case, been) that guy who spends hours in a coffee shop, using the WiFi, but only buying one drink. Not possible with this place.

In spite of this odd business practice—or perhaps because of it—this shop has seen business grow at a steady pace, keeping itself in business and able to offer its customers a stellar product and experience.

All over the world, we are seeing businesses take to strange and extreme methodologies. Well, strange and extreme in the context of the lens we’ve been given to look at how a business should be operating. If you know anything about the recent history of our culture and the economy it has operated within, you know the following:

1) The 1980s were a time filled with corporate greed and self-aggrandized posturing. Status was huge, and it was a good thing to seek material wealth in a way like never before.

2) The 1990s were more or less the twilight years of consumerism and materialistic thinking. The internet was just taking off, and so was our economy. With little foresight to the eventual problems to come, we had set ourselves up rather nicely to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

3) Then the 2000s happened and it all went to shit. Our proverbial chickens had come home to roost, as a once seemingly healthy and robust economy was destroyed by the corporate greed that helped build it.

We are in the rebuilding process in a lot of ways. The world is smaller due to communications options never afforded to humanity before, and the goodness of people is starting to shine through a little brighter. Yes, there is still greed, as there always will be. But no, we’re not going to take it anymore.

A little less than a year ago, I began the process of starting up a business with a former coworker of mine. We wanted to build an urban farm in the heart of our community, and provide the residents with a healthy and sustainable option for their food, as well as foster an environment that encouraged interaction and ownership. While that farm eventually did not work out, the response we got from the community in the beginning stages was phenomenal. There is a massive desire from consumers to not just consume, but to take part in the process and story of what they’re consuming. There’s no getting around the fact that much of what we do is material, and that’s ok. However, we have a moral obligation to not only ourselves, but to the rest of humanity to operate in a smarter, more intelligent fashion. We have seen the negative long-term effects of choices made in the past, and we don’t wish to repeat them, lest we leave the coming generations with little to nothing.

Because of this—and back to my original point—businesses are beginning to employ tactics never before considered, because compared to what we know about business, they wouldn’t necessarily help the company’s bottom line. One of my favorite companies, Patagonia, offers up a perfect example of this. They provide ethically made outdoor clothing that is built to outlast and outlive the actual person using it. Because of this immense high quality, their products are rather expensive. In the run up to the Christmas shopping season, the company ran a brilliant—and savvy—campaign encouraging consumers to consider their purchases, and get only what they needed. (All I have is the mobile link for that, sorry.)

The tagline for the campaign?

“Don’t buy this jacket.”

The whole point was to foster this idea of smart consumerism and ethical business practices. Most of what we buy is built to fade and diminish over a short period of time, so as to force the purchaser to get the next product coming out of the pipeline. This is called “planned obsolescence”, and it’s at the very foundation of almost everything we consume; be it clothing, computers, etc.

We live in a culture that once would have responded to this with, “So what? That’s what capitalism is all about.”

I’m proud to say that our culture, for the most part, is beginning to remove such a short-sighted and selfish perspective from itself, and push for a more wholistic approach to providing an experience to its consumers that in turn makes them a community. It’s an exciting time; one filled with opportunity. Don’t let any politician or naysayer tell you otherwise. We have the tools and options at our disposal to disrupt so much more in this world than ever before. One of the greatest ways we can continue to fight against the unregulated corporate greed that pervades our society is to be smarter consumers, choosing more ethically and letting our purchasing habits reflect a greater trend in our culture; a trend that is moving toward community and sustainability. No greedy corporation can withstand a community of smart, savvy consumers.

To do your part, find those businesses in your community and within your lifestyle that reflect these values. Find the ones that do things so differently, that you almost tilt your head in wonder at how they’re still in business. And then give them your business.


On Worry and Insecurity

The giving of oneself over to another person, though an incredibly difficult and sometimes painful experience, is a daily occurrence for each of us.

We all long for those connections which affirm us as human beings, and lift us up as sons, daughters, and lovers. Each of us has a need for security in our relationships that will take on differing forms. The young girl may resort to the giving of herself physically in order to appease the pressure of her boyfriend, while the older man might seek to control the actions of those around him through bullying, coercion, or manipulation. No matter the format, when our goal is to extract affirmation from another person by any means other than their freely giving of it, we tread dangerously upon a line of sin.

In the case of the aforementioned examples, sin against ourselves (the young girl) and sin against others (the older man).

At the root of this matter is security, but it could more easily be stated as worry. In and of itself, worry is not a bad thing, notwithstanding that many reference Matthew 6:25-34 as a proper rebuttal against it, though it is often misunderstood or taken to a certain extreme.

The worry of a mother concerning her son who has recently been shipped off to war VS the worry of a husband who is certain his wife has been cheating, despite all evidence to the contrary.

One is grounded in good reason while the other is borne out of a deep-rooted insecurity that has not been properly addressed. Though we should never wish worry upon anyone for any reason, it is only natural to become preoccupied with certain thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and all things natural we must accept, though we are not to give ourselves over to.

The trouble comes when we allow our worry to dictate our interactions with others. Since community is essential to our human “being-ness”, anything that serves as a detriment to the forging of a communal experience is, I believe, in direct violation to what our spirit and nature craves.

And therein lies the rub; for in community and relationships, there is no room for insecurity/worry, yet we must create that space for the other person to express their insecurities in order to build truly authentic community. This is a complex mechanism, to be sure!

As with nearly all things in the life of the Christian, there is a deeply profound paradox to be navigated. Freely address your insecurities while allowing others to freely express theirs, yet try your damnedest to dispel all notions of fear, for this is what perfect love does.

And as always, there is hope.


Your feedback is greatly appreciated…

The following verses have been bouncing around my head for quite some time now, and we discussed them in one of my classes this morning, which is a bit too coincidental for me.  Read over them and if you’re open to it, please share your responses to the questions that follow.

1 John 3:4-10

4Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.7Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

1 John 3:16-18

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

1 John 4:20

20If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.

In what ways do these verses radically change how we interact with one another?  More importantly, the way in which we interact with God?

Would this be a total paradigm shift for you, like it would be for me?

Please, feel free to comment on any of the 18* or so blogs I have.

*I really need to simplify the way in which I do things.


Sometimes, we all need that little reminder…

If there’s one thing I can tell you for certain about this world, it’s that you will not get very far on your own.

Though I’m someone who is fairly independant, it’s becoming increasingly evident to me that I can not, and should not, try to do it all on my own.

What is “it”, you may ask?

“It” is life.  Living.  Doing things like work, friendships, family, and love.

All of these things take other people, whether we like it or not.

I often wonder why God made it so we would have to rely on others, but then I end up smacking myself in the head when I realize that wasn’t it at all.

He has set it up so that we have nothing truly great to rely on besides Himself.

I wrestle with that.  I’ll admit it, I struggle with believing, living like, and convincing myself that God is really all that I need in this world.

Unfortunately even more so, I will sometimes find myself relying too much on people.  This isn’t to say that I think it’s a bad thing to rely on someone else; obviously if you read the beginning of this post, you’d see that’s not what I’m trying to say here at all. (Forgive the unwarranted defensiveness.  It’s late, and I’m tired.)

But when my relationships with other people become the center of my universe, it is the Creator of that universe that gets shoved aside.  How sad of a thought is that, that I would do such a thing to the One who loves me more than I can even imagine?

For me, I think the biggest reason is that I yearn so much to be loved.  Affection, whether it is of the physical nature (i.e. hugs, kisses, a pat on the back, high fives, etc.) or of the verbal nature (i.e. words of affirmation, encouragement, etc.), is how I tend to gauge my worth.  As a result, those things that are tangible to me, people, as opposed to the One I can not see with human eyes, have been my primary source of comfort and love.

Writing this out makes me realize more and more how tragically flawed I am.

I was created to find my sole joy and purpose in God, while everything else, including relationships and community, was just meant to be a bonus. But I instead search to quench my hunger in the icing, while I let the cake just sit in the open air, getting all stale and dry.  (Figure that analogy out and you win something special.)

I realize that I am making generalized statements here, and that there is immense value to be found in our earthly relationships.  But I have to keep reminding myself, and allowing myself to be reminded by others, that if all I hold dear to me were to crumble to pieces in one night, God would still be there to help me pick them up in the morning.

I can rest easy knowing this, and my prayer is that you can too.


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