Sunday, January 28, 2007
"Sorry I can't check you in right now. I have to leave and go demonstrate at the Capital." Just previously I heard on the local radio in my delivery van that there was a national anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC, with coinciding protests around the country. It shouldn't have surprised me to find half the staff gone from the vegetarian outpost which is the last stop on my bread route. This place rivals the life of a church in such uncanny ways. Promise Keepers is one comparison to the anti-war march the klerk was anxious to attend. Someone rallies support for a cause, a tipping point is reached and soon you have a movement. Excitement abounds. "This is it!" you think to yourself. "We are on the verge of an answer!" But of course it doesn't turn out to be the answer, and people lose interest and go home, leaving one to wonder what that was all about. People lose interest because there is no power. I can't speak for the anti-war folk since I don't know their agenda, but I did find myself at a couple of PK rallys. It was based on 7 promises, 7 really grand and noble claims that I could never keep, regardless of my best intentions. Those 7 promises, like much in my life, didn't really factor in a need of the power of God to transform. I yearn to see that power. For I believe it is this that separated Jesus from all the other teachers, and it will be this that separates the Church from all the other co-ops and non-profit groups that want to do some kind of good. Without it, the Church is just like the United Way or Red Cross. They raise money, have a following and try to do good in the community. Without power, I might as well just pay my membership fees at Open Harvest and hang out with them. They are, after all, very nice people.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Knuki brings up a good point. Why do I feel like I need validation from someone to allow me to be myself? Why can't I just be OK with who I am? Most of you probably don't have a problem with this, but I care too much about what other people think. Here's more of my story. Jack of All Trades predicted about 3 years ago that I would feel like a very different person once I left the vocational ministry culture. He said there were limitations we accepted because the world we lived and worked in was very small. He could not have been more accurate. Most of the dreams I had for myself fell within the confines of ministry. I wanted to be a noted song writer or musician, but within the Church As We Know It. I wanted to lead, but only in that same realm. Writing, speaking, and teaching are all interests of mine, but I only saw myself exercising these to a limited audience, again, the Church As We Know It. But I got something via email this week that has helped me take knuki's advice. I saw an invitation to a weekend conference, and some alums of my collegiate ministry were invited. I looked through the list of titles for the messages and seminars and was stunned. They were the exact same titles we heard as college students 25 years ago. Yet another round of Quiet Time, Scripture Memory and Spiritual Journaling. And we wonder why men leave their wives. You see, the reason this email was such a downer was, I guess, I had in my mind that I would always stay connected to my past in some way, and that I would bring it with me wherever I went in the future. I never realized that to move forward in ministry, I may have to burn a few bridges along the way and leave some folks behind on the other side, especially those I once considered my leaders. New directions require new faith, and if we are going to lead the Church As We Know It into Terra Incognito, we’ve got to know that many will never understand us. I don’t like the thought of leaving my leaders behind, but when you awake to the fact that they are no longer leading you anywhere, its time to make a choice. Will I stay or go? Will I live in fear of offending, of being misunderstood just so I can fit in and be asked back to speak to the same old audience? I don’t think so.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
One point of discussion I’ve never heard addressed is the act of returning a spiritual gift. Supposedly all people of faith in Christ have been given a gift of some kind to use in the edification of the Body. What if you don’t like yours? Can you take it back? Can you call up Jesus and ask, “can I just have the money instead?” Maybe Jesus could come into the new millennium and offer a spiritual gift card. This way we could cash it in for what we really want and what we would like to use. Here’s my quandary. He gave me a pastoral gift and I don’t want to be a pastor. I have to be blunt here. I don’t relate to pastors very well. I don’t know one that I want to aspire to be like. I’m not trying to be arrogant or offensive here, but in my limited exposure of pastors, I can’t think of one that I would want to trade places with. Pastors have to be certain. Take BibleAnswerMan, for example. I cannot relate to that guy or his radio program. He never has a doubt, always has an answer, never a dilemma, always upbeat. I, on the other hand, often doubt, feel clueless, have difficulty reconciling conflicting issues, and wander in the dark. My choices seem to be 1) try to change and be like BibleAnswerMan 2) start my own radio show called BibleDimwitMan or 3) trade in my gift for something else. Are there other pastors like me, who feel drawn to bless people, to listen, to call, to write letters (or now email) of encouragement, or to just simply enjoy a pint and talk about our questions? Why do I feel alone in my gift? Why do I want to exchange it? Why do I look around at others who are called pastor and feel disconnected from them? My idea is that we have created a huge chasm between the office of pastor and the pastoral gift. One can hold the office of pastor and never have the gift or possess the gift but to only have the office smother it. It’s my hypothesis that there are pastors hidden like gems among the flock that will never find their way into the office. And that’s probably a good thing.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
My last delivery stop on my bread route is the granola joint I spoke of previously. I like stopping there. It doesn’t take long to form a routine and find the guy with whom you can exchange the “Hey Doug, workin’ hard?/hardly workin” banter. You also identify the people who are glad to see you, and vice versa, so you try and make sure you say something to them before you leave. Now this place is more like church than I imagined. This week I asked an employee for a roll of tape. She asked me, “What kind of tape?” I froze, thinking it was a trick question, you know, kind of like the “paper or plastic?” line you get at the checkout. [Which, I later find out that it really is a trick question, and that the right answer is neither, because you carry a) your own canvas bag, or b) a fair traded Kenyan tote bag, or better yet, c) organically grown hemp bag, in which you carry home all things organic.] I, in noncommittal fashion, reply, “just whatever you have handy.” She digs through a messy worktable and hands me a roll of masking tape that looked older than the store. I wondered if it would even peel off. My insecurity led me to think she didn’t want to waste the good hemp tape on me, the unbeliever. I admit I am an outsider in this little community, but one thing I do recognize are the little inconsistencies that make you tilt your head and say, “Huh.” One of those is, why do lots of the employees smoke? Inside the building, I get this vision of a better, more healthier world with a commitment to wellness and wholeness, yet half the workers sit out back on the loading dock puffing away on their break. Understand that smoking is not my issue here. What puzzles me is how difficult it is to make the real match up with the ideal. The hippies and vegans and wannabes preach a gospel of a cleaner environment and go to great lengths to avoid meat and milk, but will ingest smoke and all other types of toxins into their temple. I would guess this is what your average church outsider might experience also (and I’m not referring to the deacons smoking out back.) Here is a place that is supposed to be the mainstay of love and goodness and charity and peace, but reality seems so inconsistent with that ideal. It’s the old line, “Practice what you preach.” What will enable us to live more in line with the values we proclaim so loudly? Without it we are nothing more than a health food store. I left the smokers on the dock and walked across the street and bought a bacon cheeseburger.