The battle that you don’t see.


People battle with things that you never see. 

I recently was reminded of this during a lunchtime conversation. 

The “nugget” I learned that day was: “It’s hard when you have some pain people can’t see. There’s no cast, brace or a bandaid.” In that moment I was reminded that you never know what someone else is going through. Not all wounds are visible. 

So, what is the takeaway from that? 

In our daily lives, what difference would we make if we had more compassion?  If we were more gracious with one another? If we would stop and think, I wonder what they’re going through that made them say or act like that? 

I’ve battled with some things that many of you probably never could imagine. A few of you that I’ve “let in” know. For me the battle the last few years has been in my mind. Sure, I almost always have a smile. I try to bring encouragement and enthusiasm whenever I walk into the room, but sometimes I don’t feel like the chipper and jolly person that most of you think I am, but I keep pushing forward. 

What have I battled with? Depression. Anxiety. Crazy thoughts. 

While I’ve never been clinically diagnosed with depression or anxiety, I was told that’s most likely what I was dealing with. I learned that while seeking counseling. As a pastor and leader I knew I couldn’t just talk to anybody and everybody. So I sought professional help. It was well worth the time and money that I spent. I was really challenged and learned a few things that will forever shape the ministry God has called me to. I also learned that it’s OK to take time for Chris. I intentionally pulled back on the projects I was willing to take on. I’m still learning to do that. 

Why am I sharing these things? I’m sharing to encourage someone else that might going through a “valley” at the moment. To remind them that it’s OK — you don’t have to have all the answers. Take time for YOU! Pray. Slow down. Talk with a trusted friend. Seek counseling. 

While working through my struggles I’ve run across articles that have called my faith into question and have even said that the main problem is sin. While sin is a hinderance to spiritual growth, depression is real. Depression is something that devoted Christians struggle with. I whole heartedly believe this statement, “It’s what the church doesn’t talk about that its people struggle with the most.” Far too many people struggle with depression and are shunned because they are told they don’t have enough faith. That’s wrong. What we should be doing is coming alongside them to encourage and love them through their struggles.  

I’m hoping that my rambling thoughts generate conversation. If this is something you struggle with, I pray that you’ll reach out to your Heavenly Father and pray your fears, anxiety and worries to him. He can take it. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 91:2, “I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'” If you’re someone who has a friend struggling with these things, love and encourage them. Here is a great article I read back in 2014, How to Help a Friend Fight Depression7 dos and don’ts for helping a friend who struggles with depression.

In closing, one of the phrases I learned during my counseling sessions was, “More curiosity, less judgement.” What would happen if we applied that to our daily lives? I wonder how many people you come in contact with each day are battling with something that you’ll never see or never be close enough for them to allow you in? 

You can’t see all battles or wounds. 

Be gracious and love well! 

Caught with your pants down!

I have to say that Friday’s article, “Transgender debate comes home to roost,” in the Sumter Item was a wake up call for me. I had been dodging the transgender debate for some time.

Why, I don’t know. Things have been heating up in North Carolina for a while and just recently a friend in Conway has been posting a lot of information and updates about the Horry County School District’s dealings with the bathroom debate. Somehow, I guess I was naïve and thought it would be a while before it gets here and we have to deal with it. Boy was I wrong.

I failed in being prepared.

I’m not one who typically gets into political debates, because it’s not something I’m strong or good at. Maybe it is the fear of not knowing all the details, saying the wrong thing or just knowing what debates to be a part of and spend your time on. Honestly, you can’t get sucked into every debate that comes along.

No excuses.” That phrase is currently on “rinse and repeat” in my mind. I’ve become comfortable in making excuses. I realized that recently and am praying and processing that through.

So, when it comes to this debate I don’t have any excuses. I wasn’t reading, wasn’t studying and honestly haven’t been praying about it near enough … But that doesn’t mean that I can’t start now.

Here are some steps that should be taken by all of us:

1. Pray
2. Have conversations with both sides
3. Listen when you have conversations
4. Process what you’re hearing
5. Pray some more
6. Read multiple sources, trust worthy sources
7. Write out your thoughts and not necessarily for others to see or to be posted online. Dig deep and take time to process things.

An observation from Friday’s article in The Item:

The policy states “a student who has been identified as transgender under these guidelines should be permitted to use the resources assigned to the gender which the student consistently asserts at school.” Baker said the key word in the policy is the word “consistently.”
The former photojournalist in me keyed in on that word and formatting, “consistently.”

I also appreciated what Dr. Baker said about the disciplinary policy and actions that would be taken against any student who would try to abuse the bathroom policy.

Also, this comment I ran across on Facebook stood out to me: “Private schools and homeschooling are about to reach an all time high!!”

Hmmm … Yes, the answer to our problems is to run from them. That makes perfect sense. Not. My children attend public school because my wife and I attended public school. You can’t shelter your kids forever. The same issues that are in the schools — the social, political and economical issues of children and their families — are the same ones that exist in your ENTIRE community.

As Kyndal and I have seen, your classmates are the same ones when you grow up that will come running to your rescue you when you call 911; the same ones that will wait on you when you go out to eat; the same ones that will be caring for your love ones in the hospital, etc. Whether you like everyone or not, public school children, adults and administration and staff are the ones you’ll have to deal with on a daily basis, either now or in the future. Whether you agree or disagree with them, their lifestyle or their attitudes they are your neighbors. Those who consider themselves followers of Christ, isn’t it your responsibility to love those around you as you love yourself? As you love Christ?

I’d like to also take a second and talk about Dr. Baker. He’s getting bashed around town and on social media. I heard him speak just this past Thursday at an event for Partners in Education — where the district and chamber are encouraging businesses, industry, churches and nonprofit organizations to get involved in our schools. Dr. Baker said something similar to what I’m about to say … The Sumter School District exists to meet the needs of ALL students regardless of their background. The district’s website even states, “Sumter School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or age in admission to, treatment in, or employment in its programs and activities.” So, whether you like it or not, they have to accommodate and be mindful of things that you might just disagree with.

Lastly, what’s with the name of my post? My original title was “Ignorance is not necessarily bliss.” Then, “Getting caught with your pants down,” came to mind. That’s pretty embarrassing, isn’t it. It applied to how I was lazy and not prepared as a pastor/leader in this discussion, but it also reminded me of this section from a Time article mentioned in the links below.

Mel Wymore a trans man, “as well as the parent of a daughter, says more dialogue is needed, as people’s attitudes towards gender begin to change. “I’ve never heard of anyone [in the trans community] who wants to make other people uncomfortable,” he says. “I can say from my own personal experience transitioning that it’s uncomfortable to be in a restroom where you know people are uncomfortable.”

Things we don’t know about or understand can be uncomfortable to discuss. Disagreeing with people is uncomfortable. So, let’s begin to have conversations — with each other and God — and love one another regardless of our differences in opinion and beliefs. Yelling and screaming at one another is not the answer. This discussion and debate isn’t going away, but it is only with civil conversations, love and thinking of all aspects of a situation that change can take place to make our community to be a place to live, work and play!

Let’s keep the conversations going!

Conversations lead to relationships.

Here are some articles I’ve read and links I’d like to share.
NPR articles and coverage of transgender issues:

TIME: “Even in Liberal Communities, Transgender Bathroom Laws Worry Parents”

Southern Baptist Convention > On Transgender Identity 
Written and adopted in 2014 at the SBC National Convention in Baltimore, MD.

This section of the above article stood out to me: