Tag Archives: depression

An Epitaph to a White 2001 Nissan Pathfinder

By Eugene C. Scott

Unlike some people I know, I’ve never named one of my cars. You know what I’m talking about. My wife’s family named a couple of theirs: an old gray truck they called the Gray Ghost and an 80 something Olds they called the GLC, Good Little Car, which it wasn’t really, either good or little.

To me cars have always been something to get you from point A to point B. Don’t get me wrong. I like and know the value of a nice vehicle. I’ve owned too many jalopies, especially in high school. I am intimately acquainted with tow ropes and jumper cables. No, automobiles were mere tools. You do not name tools.

So, I was surprised this last Monday when my mechanic Dean told me my eleven year old, 267,000 mile white Nissan Pathfinder’s transmission problem was “catastrophic.” (See my last post, “Life is Funny”)

Surprised for two reasons: first, this was the only time EVER in all those miles and years the Pathfinder had a serious mechanical problem. One day it was running as strong as ever and the next day it dies of the equivalent of a sudden heart attack.

Second, I was surprised by my emotional reaction to the news. I became depressed, mopey. And then I felt stupid for feeling depressed about a vehicle, one I hadn’t even named. But as I’ve thought it over maybe it’s not that silly to be depressed about my Pathfinder’s unexpected death.

After all, I had dreamed of owning a four-wheel drive since I was a skinny kid in high school. And besides being a 4×4, it was the nicest car I had ever owned. It had power windows and locks and an eight speaker Bose sound system that flat-out rocked. I loved coming down the hiking trail and seeing how far away the keyless entry button would work.

But the Pathfinder was more than a nice vehicle.

We bought the Pathfinder in February 2001 in Tulsa. A month later I loaded it with our dog Anastasia, my mountain bike, and all my clothes and drove it to my new pastoral position in Vail. The family would come later. The Pathfinder took me home to Colorado, after twelve years of yearning.

The family joined me in June and as soon as possible we loaded the Pathfinder up and went four wheeling, windows open, tires tossing rocks and logs, radio off, everyone talking about the wonder of God’s creation.

I see now we used it not just to get from point A to point B but to stay connected. We drove back to Tulsa to see our friends we had left there. And when my mom’s health declined dangerously, the Pathfinder flew up and down I70 to Denver and back racking up thousands of miles.

On one of those trips back up the mountain Emmy, youngest daughter, and I discussed the meaning of lyrics and poetry. I discovered a depth in her that day.

Finally, I wept all the way home–gripping the steering wheel, radio off again–after my mom passed.

Inside its four doors we connected with each other as well. My son Brendan and I drove together back to Tulsa for his freshman year at Tulsa University. We listened to Van Morrison and talked about literature and hunting and the future. Those 950 miles flashed by.

After my oldest daughter Katie was married in 2003, she and her husband Michael came to visit and we packed mountain bikes on the Pathfinder looking for new trails. On those rides we began to establish a new trail for our relationship too. A very good and deep one.

When my mom was healthier, we all drove to Denver and picked her up to spend Christmas with us in the mountains. She sat in the back with Emmy and sang Christmas songs along with a Jaci Velasquez CD. That’s one of my best memories of her last years of life.

My wife Dee Dee relished loading our snow shoes in the back of the Pathfinder and heading out for a wilderness trek. Those were our most treasured dates filled with laughing, praying, and wonder.

And then there are the hunting and camping trips; my time alone in its cab listening to Darrel Evans, Waterdeep, or Mars Hill Audio Journal. God spoke to me in that car.

Now I know I am sad at the demise of the Pathfinder not because I am materialistic (though on other grounds I can assure you I am). It’s just that in 270,000 miles you compile some meaningful memories. The Pathfinder was just a tool. It is what we used to get here and there. But–oh–the richness of the journey and–oh–the places it took us.

If I had named the Pathfinder, maybe Faithful or White Knight would have fit. But no, that would just be corny.

Eugene C. Scott is in need of another cool car and is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

13 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Surprised by Joy: The Pursuit of Happiness

by Michael Gallup

The summer of 2004 found me on the journey many of my generation have found themselves on, I was trying to “find myself.” More specifically I was trying to find happiness. I had been diagnosed with depression and placed on medication. While I found some relief in my meds, the depression still placed heavy chains around me.

So in a quest to figure out why I was so sad, I spent the summer engaging in the places, people, and things that had brought me the most happiness in my short life. I built docks with my dad and brother on the coast of South Carolina, I visited my mom in the Ozarks of Arkansas, I traveled across the country following my favorite band at the time, and I spent time with my friends. Each time I would taste the once distant happiness but each time the overwhelming feeling of emptiness would return, but I kept looking.

Amazingly enough I found some semblance of an answer at the end of that summer. In a bit of what seemed like an epiphany I realized that what made me happy most was to make others happy. After the elation of that discovery wore off I was sobered with the striking truth of the fleeting nature of happiness and thus my depression intensified. What made me fleetingly happy was to make others fleetingly happy. It all seemed to be such a waste.

Thankfully this was not the end of my story, I would later realize that much more important to me than happiness was love and that what most fulfilled me was the empting of myself in love for others. This has become the mission of my life: to love. Somehow I was given to grace to move beyond what made me happy to what I loved, yet I am not so sure that the church has embraced this grace fully yet.

I mentioned last week that I found myself in a similar place recently to that of my depression six years ago. I knew that joy, a fruit of the blessed Spirit, was supposed to be a defining marker of my faith and yet I felt just as sad now as I did those few years prior. What was wrong with me?

I began to ask God some hard questions about who He is and who I am and what joy really is. But before God could show me what joy was, he had to show me what it isn’t.

Joy is not happiness.

This came as a shock to me; the words were practically synonymous in my vocabulary, totally interchangeable. But I was wrong, these are two rather different words and the first steps towards freedom for me was to accept this.

Accepting that happiness is not the marker of our faith is a hard pill to swallow. It is core to who we are as Americans, after all the pursuit of happiness is one of our unalienable rights. Yet the pursuit of my happiness had left me wanting, even more depressed than when I started.

This myth has infected our churches. When trying to find a new church home I would often leave feeling dirty because everyone was so “happy” and I was not. One of my close friends recently visited TNC and remarked that he liked the visit mainly because we were not “happy-clappy.” I took this as a compliment. For some reason, we have come to think that to be Christian means to be happy and this is not honest and ultimately, I think, not Christian. Being happy is not bad in itself but the pursuit of happiness is a pursuit away from joy, away from truth.

Happiness is purely circumstantial; it has little lasting power and is often self-serving. My desire to know joy was misguided because I was trying to find it in the wrong places.

But where was I supposed to look? The answer to that question was the most shocking revelation yet. God was beginning to teach me the hard lesson that I could find joy even my most sad moments that those places of my deepest hurt may end up being the very place of my greatest joy. How could this be?

Michael is a student at Denver Seminary. This is part two of a five part series asking hard questions about the nature of joy. You can read Michael’s blog, A Sprig of Hope, by clicking here: www.asprigofhope.blogspot.com

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

In The Stillness

Six weeks ago, I embarked on a 5-day trip to Taos, New Mexico for some extended time alone with God. To my delight, I stayed in a beautiful house nestled on the side of a mountain overlooking the city while some relatives were out of town.

Immediately upon entering the house, I said to myself, It sure is quiet in here. No one yelling. No one telling me what to do. Apart from an occasional dog barking in the distance, the stillness was deafening.

That night as I prepared for bed, I started freaking out. Every errant sound transformed itself into an imaginary wild animal or fugitive attempting to break into the house. As I turned off the lights, I checked to make sure the bedroom door was locked.

Obviously, nothing happened, but I soon realized how ill-equipped I am to cope with silence.

Join me today as we look at the benefit of silence.

TODAY’S READING

1 Kings 19:1-21
Acts 12:1-23
Psalm 136:1-26
Proverbs 17:14-15

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Kings 19:1-21. After serving as the instigator in a dramatic showdown between Yahweh and Baal, Elijah heard Jezebel had sent men to kill him…so he ran. The explanation of why Elijah ran after such a significant “God encounter” has always escaped me—so if you have some insights, please join the conversation.

Elijah shows us that no matter how powerful or godly a person may appear, everyone stands on feet of clay.

This passage is rife with parallels between Elijah and Moses—both stood on Mt. Horeb (Ex 3) and both possibly hid in the same cleft of the rock as God appeared (Ex. 33).

Acts 12:1-23. Two elements about this story of Peter’s dramatic release from prison struck me as I read this section from the Bible.

  1. The people prayed earnestly for Peter’s release. Verse 5 tells us that “the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” In prayer, we ask God to intervene in our everyday circumstances. This may seem pretty basic, but all too often, I witness heartless prayers that seek nothing tangible from God. It’s okay to ask God for something!
  2. The people were surprised when God answered their prayer. After the servant girl announced Peter was at the door, they remarked, “You’re out of your mind.”

Psalm 136. This psalm served as a recitative prayer between the leader and the people. And what is the theme? God’s love endures forever. Sometimes we need to keep reminding ourselves of this because we so easily forget. By tracing various examples of everyday life and Israel’s history, we begin to see the breadth and depth of God enduring love.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

If God could throw lightening from heaven and bring an end to a overwhelming drought, surely he could defend Elijah from lowly Jezebel. Nevertheless, after serving as the instigator in God’s show of superiority over Baal, Elijah was burned out and desperate. He ran for his life in fear of Jezebel’s threats and then pleaded for God to take his life. So fearful was he that Elijah ran to Beersheba, the southern region of Judah on the edge of the desert. Surely Jezebel’s troops couldn’t find him there.

Elijah desperately needed an encounter with God. He needed something that would prove God was there, and that he cared. And where else should he go but the same place Moses had encountered God 650 years earlier?

There, standing on the side of Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb), Elijah waited for an experience with God he could call his own.

A powerful wind blew across the mountain.

An earthquake shook the ground underneath his feet.

Fire raged all around him.

But God wasn’t present  in any of these “manifestations.”

How often do we ask God for dramatic experiences? Maybe you don’t, but I do. I want him to rescue me, heal me, deliver me. And I want it NOW!

While he has the power to do any of these—and sometimes he does—he usually appears to us in the same way as he did to Elijah.

The NIV translation of the Bible says that God spoke to Elijah in a “gentle whisper.” Most scholars, though, translate the word as “silence.”

A deafening silence.

Interestingly enough, the writer of 1 Kings tells us that Elijah heard it (see 1 Kings 19:13). Then out of the silence, God asked him, “What are you doing here?” Elijah’s answer reveals his good intensions as well as his skewed view of reality. God then gave him direction and courage to continue.

In an age of overstimulation, the idea of being still and silent is frightening. Yet perhaps that’s exactly what we need.

When we turn down the volume of the many voices vying for our attention, we create room for God to speak to our hearts.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How do you feel about spending time alone in silence? What prevents you from this important spiritual discipline?
  3. Why do you think it’s important to God?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized