Monthly Archives: August 2014

Letters to a Pilgrim Pt 2

As we continue to see the correspondence of our friends, one seeking one discipling, we find our friend has safely arrived at the beginning of his journey.

Dear Bear Necessities,

I am pleased to hear that you arrived in Georgia safely and promptly. I am also happy to hear you have found a group and have already acquired a trail name, the story behind the name was most amusing, alas it’s all apart of the process. You must loose your name to find one, in the same way you must loose you’re life to find it. This pilgrimage will give you a new meaning of carrying your cross daily. For ‘he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.’

Though you may be backpacking, do not neglect spending time with God, even a little bit of time in the morning, sitting in silence in the Word, before you hit the trail will do. Although, I highly suggest using your time at night to spend time in the Word, maybe over a nice bowl of Virginia Tobacco, I assume you brought your pipe with you.

Although this portion of your hike will not be as strenuous as it will soon be, it will still seem burdensome as your body becomes accustomed to your knew daily ritual. All that can be done is to push on and run your race. However, I do not suggest you push on in so much as you do not take time to slow down and smell the coffee. You will be surprised at how much will pass you by if you are not paying attention. The beauty of the Appalachian Trail could not possibly be taken in and fully grasped if all you are thinking about is your next meal. Take time to look around, it’s not just the vistas that have things to see. The creation of the Lord God is all around you, soak it in, look upon the world as if you will no longer be able to do so tomorrow. Look around you, see the place in which you stand, a place unaffected by man and has grown, grown wild and free, and beautifully. It has grown as it should. But more than this, use all of your senses; smell the forest around you, it is unlike any smell and you will soon realize that this smell is the one you desire more than anything else. Feel the breeze, whether welcomed or not, on your face, for it is the wind of the mountain beaconing you to join her. Feel the earth beneath your feet, for it is a feeling unlike another, you are standing on natural earth, my friend, not concrete, nor carpet, nor tile. The earth beneath your feet is a precious thing my dear friend.

With Love
Rufio

P.S. Next time don’t put your food in your tent, hang it in the tree, that is unless you would like to continue feeding the bears.

Letters to a Pilgrim Pt. 1

I was recently reminded as to why I am seminary in the form of a paper I wrote for the CS Lewis class I took last fall. It was an application paper that took the form of Lewisian style fiction. So, because I have a little bit of time to kill before the fall term starts I thought I would try my hand at non-academic purposed fiction in several parts.

Letters to a Pilgrim

The following is a set of letters written to a dear friend attempting to find himself and his God through pilgrimage.  Solvitur ambulando.

My dear friend,
I was very excited to receive your letter, handwritten letters are an unfortunate rarity these days. I would be beyond thrilled to assist you in this matter. I would consider it an honor to help you. This pilgrimage you are proposing is no small feat. This is something that you must remember as you prepare for you journey. If you underestimate this trail you will most certainly not succeed. That being said, your desires are admirable, but I believe on the Appalachian Trail you will find more than you expect; I find this to be a normal occurrence whilst on the trail. Whether it be the solitude, constantly being in the presence of His creation, or having to rely on Him on a constant basis, I feel one is closer to God while on the trail. When you begin your pilgrimage, this will become immediately apparent to you, although the reason, though not important, may still elude you as it has me.
In regards to this Sehnsucht you mentioned, the Appalachian Trail is a perfect place to search, in this instance it will be the journey itself, and not the destination, that will benefit you the most. If you approach this pilgrimage as a means to an end, as a means to check off a box on a list, as a means to find it, you will surely not find that which you are seeking. This longing, this yearning you are experiencing has been placed in your heart for a reason, but once again, as reasons sometimes do, it eludes you. However, I feel this reason may be made apparent to you by your journey’s end.
My experience on the Appalachian Trail was a spiritual one, one both beautiful and sublime. Though at times the weather, the trek ahead, and the temperature terrified me, I had never before felt closer to God than while on that trail. The stars at night alone where enough to bring a man to tears. Thousands of stars arranged as a swirling vortex of white juxtaposed with the black canvas of space around them; artfully placed in the sky in shapes named by a people long ago; paint strokes placed on a canvas for the sole purpose to glorify Him who placed them. The art points to the artist.
Please include where you intend to send your food for resupply stops and I will send my next letter there. We will have to carefully choreograph this, but I think it will be possible for us to keep correspondence during your pilgrimage.

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Yours sincerely,
Devin McGinnis

I am the Face of Depression and This is My Story.

The other day, the world lost a truly amazing human being and artist, a man that has impacted the world in ways most can only dream of doing. His death has hit us hard. It has hit me hard. Robin Williams was my childhood hero, as he was to so many others. It was through stories that this man taught us so much. He taught us that being weird was not a bad thing, in fact it is something amazing. “You are only given a spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” He taught us to love and help others. “Now, I want you to take care of everything that is smaller than you.” Most importantly he taught us to live passionately. “Carpe….Hear it boys? Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys. MAKE YOUR LIVES EXTRAORDINARY!”

We are told that, tragically, Mr. Williams took his own life after suffering from major depression. I think this is ultimately why it has hit us so hard.  Society as a whole stigmatizes depression, they sweep it under the rug and make it even harder for those that are suffering. People as a whole do not understand truly what depression is. I think Mr. Sean McGuire would agree with me that you can not truly understand depression unless you have experienced it. To suggest otherwise is insulting and asinine.

So then, if we can not fully understand it how do we recognize it, what does it look like? In short, it looks like you and me. We are not strange.  We are not simply, “sad folks that need a good cheering up.” We are people, pure and simple. We are people with a story that needs to be told.

Friends, I write to you this moment to tell you I am the face of depression. And this is my story.

It was the summer of 2011. I had just finished going to Tidewater Community College and was interning at my current church with the student ministry. That fall I would be starting at Christopher Newport University to finish my BS in psychology. It would seem that I had so much to be happy about, but I was not. You see, that is not how it works. I was depressed. Some days I would wake up and find the simple act of getting out of bed to be a Herculean feat.  All I wanted to do was separate myself from my community, my church, and the world. I wanted to create my own little world within the confines of my cotton-polyester blend blanket, were I was the only living thing.  Any social act, as small as texting someone back, or as big as a church picnic, became something of an abomination to me.  I found myself questioning who I am and the purpose of myself, of my existence. I could no longer remember what it was like to be happy.  This existential problem would just lead to further morose and, what now seem like, abominable feelings.

By only the grace of God I finally got the courage to tell someone how I was feeling. If it was not for my mother knowing exactly what to do, I fear the worst would have happened and I am eternally grateful.  As I was getting the help i needed I went on to tell my pastor and, whether it was from ignorance or apathy, consciously or unconsciously, the church turned it’s back on me.  Ultimately, it was the friends I told my story to that saved me. At the time a startup ministry was being put on by a few of my close friends and it was the encouragement to help and stay involved that brought me back.  It was a slow recovery. One night a dear friend, Jeff Riggs, spoke at this ministry about a song he had written called “In the Absence of Applause,”  a song of heart ache and pain but the hope we have in our God and his new mercies every morning.

“When it all just falls apart, broken lives and broken hearts, where redemption has its start, its where you found me. And then the morning comes, the sun had shown its face and I’m no longer afraid because You’re beautiful. And, in your warming light, the shame I hold inside because I’m not stronger, it melts away, it melts away.”  [Please forgive me if this is not exactly correct]

I went home that day and weeped. I cried because I still didn’t know what to do, who I was, and why I was continuing to feel this way. But, it was the memory of this song and message that got me through. It was my friends and my family that allowed me to see the morning.  By the end of the summer the prozac had taken its full affect and all that was left was a memory and a story.

It is still a constant struggle. I believe Søren Kierkegaard sums it up most eloquently; “In addition to my other numerous acquaintances, I have one more intimate confidant… My depression is the most faithful mistress I have known — no wonder, then, that I return the love.” Every now and again, when I am most vulnerable, this mistress will beckon me to come to her. In my weakness I acquiesce.  That’s the funny thing about ‘recovering’ from depression, it comes back sometimes. The symptoms will come back, sometimes for a night, sometimes for a week. It is only when I am open and honest with close friends, family, and my God do I find I have the strength to brush off this burden and find the morning.

That is my story. It’s not over, however. I am sure I will continue to have bad days, but if the past year is any reflection of the future, than the good days will far outnumber the bad.  Friends, if your story is like mine, tell someone. Admitting that you are struggling with depression does not make you weak, it does not make you crazy. It makes you normal. Ignore the stigma, ignore the friends telling you ignorantly that “Yeah I’ve had days like that too.” All you need to know is there is hope, it gets better.

One of the most profoundly human things we can do is hear another’s story. So that is what I am asking you to do. Ask someone about their story, tell someone yours, and hopefully healing and restoration can take place.  And know that you are not alone.

–Your humble servant