Tag Archives: hope

“Let other people say the hopeful stuff”

“Stuff” wasn’t really the word he used. “Let other people say the hopeful shit” was what he said. “You can leave that to them, and then sometimes you’ll probably want to shoot them between the eyes. Your task now is to feel what this feels like, to be troubled by it, and to get yourself into the meaning-making business. See, everyone wishes they didn’t have to go through something like this, they ask why did it have to happen to you. Well, it didn’t happen to you. You are standing upright and healthy. You didn’t get this. You’re son did, and he didn’t ask for it. This is his life now and you have to walk it alongside him and help him make meaning of it.”

Not even three weeks after learning of Brendan’s diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, I traveled to Ontario, Canada to attend the first session of the Orphan Wisdom School 2017. I didn’t go to get more information. I’m up to my eyeballs in information and I have more than enough to live out my days well-enough informed and able to talk like I know something about something. What I did go there for was to learn, and especially to learn from Stephen Jenkinson, an elder in the truest sense of the word. I have been lucky enough (or perhaps foolish enough) to have a keen nose for elders and to know one when I see one. I think it has something to do with the lines in their faces that come from something, or somewhere, more than age. There are those who carry enough intention, clarity, and wisdom that being in their presence is enough for me. Stephen is one of these such elders.

Stephen told us we were there to learn, which he defined as the unbidden and unsought encounter with unwelcome things… things we already know. This learning, he said, is expensive because it is incredibly costly. We were told that we were under no obligation to know anything. We don’t have to know anything in particular to learn. But there was an expectation that we would learn… though tracking with his stories and his roundabout way of getting to the point was an exercise in and of itself. Stephen said he doesn’t care about our inability to feel able. He cares about us, not our disability. The feeling of not being able is an assurance that nothing happens. 

So when I approached Stephen to talk to him about the trouble that I carry with me and the burden on my heart, I offered that it may not be a good time as he had just talked for three hours. But he paused with me and opened the door. I wept (it was the second time that day already). On my better days, or perhaps my worse days, I try to be a hopeful person. I tried to rally my emotions and said, “I know. We have a lot of life left to live. I will still teach him what it means to be a man, will still make many memories, will still introduce him to a village and to elders he can learn from. It’s not over yet.”

And I’m sure, knowing what he was seeing me do, he essentially told me to cut that shit out.

The lesson is that I don’t have to be hopeful. Hope takes me away from the present. It is not real. What is real is what is happening now and the only way to speak of trouble, to make it real and tangible and to allow it to form me, is to let it shake me to my bones. Sometimes our blood needs to run cold just to feel what it feels like and so we can know what it feels like to get warm again.


Medicating the symptoms

In an email conversation recently with a dear friend, we addressed the dilemma of pharmaceuticals and the epidemic of depression that so many are getting diagnosed with. What causes depression anyway and how revealing it is that many doctors are now saying their knowledge of these so quickly medicated “disorders” is more limited than they may have previously admitted. Here were my thoughts:

Thanks for all the thoughts. This is all so complicated, that’s for sure. I don’t obsess about this, and I won’t really take the time to go through all the videos. It does make me mad though, and I have some strong opinions, just from listening to many different people and also listening to my heart and soul. I suppose my thoughts come from A LOT of exposure to people’s thinking and ideas over time and their deep soul-searching and prayer with God. I have also seen a lot of people with effects from antidepressants and have observed their lifestyles.
You are right, in that most people are selling something. It’s the world we live in. But some people have a deep passion for helping people and the best way they know how is to market their research and sell products that are going to make a difference in people’s lives. We have to make a living, right? And it is much better to get paid doing something that helps people or that is our deep passion than something that rips people off or lies to them about what is going on. I think this is perhaps the case with pharmaceuticals. I think some people might need meds if they are seriously depressed, but as Kat just said (referencing something we heard on NPR), a lot of docs take advantage of anxiety and give meds rather than tools to help with the process. It seems to me that people then get entirely dependent on drugs to curb their anxiety (which our culture exacerbates!!) while at the same time having to deal with the side effects of those drugs leading to other drugs, or finding the “right cocktail” of meds for them.
Personal example/admission, I LOVE coffee. I love the taste of it, the routine of it, and my body loves the effect of it. Only at certain times of the day though. And while I am drinking half-caf now, sometimes I drink too much and get shaky. There is nothing that helps with coffee shakes like a couple sips of beer… even if it is at 10am in the morning (usually when those jitters hit me). So I take one drug for the other. Now, I am a conscious guy and I can do this intentionally without getting too locked into the pattern, but I think for the majority of the public, theirs practice is many times worse.
What I believe is that we live in a culture that is busy, hurried, anxious, loud, distracted, and selfish. We want what we want and we we want it now. We are too hooked on screens and television programming, which is geared to get us to watch more. We watch violence on tv which causes fear and keeps us indoors watching more violence. People are willfully ignorant because they are afraid of what it will mean to admit the truth. The whole thing with GMOs and maltreatment of animals makes me so incredibly sad and angry, but I know that people want chickens with fat breasts and apples that are big and resistant to all kinds of bugs. We don’t want to see the animals die, we just want to pop a tray in the microwave and pretend that its meat. Too much sugar and too much tv. Video games, cell phones… all of it willful ignorance. Oh yah, and debt.
I do think people can break out of it all though. Plotkin says we have nature deficit disorder, which is entirely true. If people would get out into the wild world, where they could not control things, they would find themselves healing. We also don’t have the tools to listen to our hearts or to God, however people want to refer to the divine mystery / Creator. I do not think the church is helping with this much AT ALL. Yes there are some, but there are so many who just want a community of people who have similar values, can feel good about affirming the same good news (that I am going to heaven), and who aren’t going to cause them to think to hard or change their lives THAT much. There are many people that talk also about being part of a meta-narrative, meaning a belonging to a bigger picture, or having a cosmic consciousness. Plotkin give some really good insight into this in the book I gave you. When people begin to see where they fit, and they really feel it, so much anxiety is GONE. But our society does not want us to feel this. So much control and influence is being paid for (billions of dollars) so that people stay small.
Because of all of this, I don’t think that “depression” is really being helped that much. The average person feels depressed and wishes they were better, but they don’t want to help support someone else get through that depression. They don’t know how. And they don’t want to work hard to get out of it either.
Don’t get anxious about all of this. I know you tend to. Don’t run away from it or try not to hear it. Anger is ok. Let it fuel you to be different. But don’t let your frustration, fear, anxiety, worry, or desire to be better be the things you talk about all the time either. Don’t be known for the things that you are against. Just be different and love people. Listen to them. Encourage them to be outside in nature or together with other people. Be the one who brings healthy food or doesn’t eat sugar or refuses soda. Sign off Facebook. Read things that help you, really help you, to increase your awareness and to grow.
This got long. I love you ,

Looking forward to Christmas… some thoughts on hope

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.

You wait and watch and work;

you don’t give up.”

~Anne Lamott

The Sunday night portion of our Gathering is, as we move closer and closer to Christmas, discussing hope, faith, peace, and love. Last night we talked about hope.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and from an emerging church perspective… from a Christian perspective… I guess from a human perspective, hope and the state of hope in our world is something to be very concerned about. I think it is clear to most that when it comes to hope, we are in short supply. More and more people are struggling with depression, and while that might be due to a greater acceptance of depression as a viable thing to struggle with, I think it is also due to a decreasing number of things to place our hope in. It really comes down to (and the stats confirm it) people really only able to hope in themselves. I just read an article from the Barna Institute confirming some of the same things. It really comes down to our own selves. But this, doesn’t really seem to satisfy what we need as individuals being geared to be in relationships.

So we can’t hope that the government is going to fix things. We don’t hope that war is going to bring peace. We have a difficult time hoping that the environment can be saved with our current way of living. We struggle with hoping that the “American dream” is all that it’s cracked up to be. And sadly, at least from where I am coming from, there is an even smaller hope in Christians being able to make a lasting, relevant difference in this world. This saddens me, as it seems to me that the message that Jesus lived out, even to his death and resurrection, was that there IS hope. People don’t get this from us Christians, though.

So in this world of diminishing hope, we have to ask ourselves the question: What can we do? How do we, in some very significant way, restore hope to this world? As an emerging community, seeking to follow God in the way of Jesus, this question is of incredible importance. As we look at the impact of our relationships, and the spread of influence through the relationships of those we are close to, it seems clear that perhaps things can spread quite quickly. It starts with being hopeful people. My first hope is that people might be able to place their hope in Christians again. Okay, maybe not all… but at least in this one. Maybe they might see me as someone whose way of living IS different, as someone who WILL love them where they are at. Maybe, in me first, they might see a way of living that really IS attractive.

And after they have hope in me, maybe they might have hope in my community… “Wow, you mean there are actually a group of you that I can have hope in? People… CHRISTIANS… can actually be open with each other and not judgmental of people like me?!?” We show them something different, welcome people… anyone… and they begin to see us as having something to offer. And then, as our hope is restored in Christian community (because, yes, all of us are growing and restoring our hope), perhaps we are then able to hope that the message of Jesus has something to offer as well.

But this is slow… it is done through relationships, through “doing life together,” through pain and waiting and long nights and early mornings. It is not done through my writing, or through books, or radio programs. Hope is spread one person at a time. Maybe, just maybe… hopefully… we might be able to give someone hope this holiday season. Even one person more hopeful, is a step in the direction of a hopeful world.