05 February 2014

First stepping via social media

Yesterday I posted the following on several of my social media accounts:

A revelation, an apology, and a resolution
Ah, the journey of self-awareness continues. I realize that I have spent 40something years practicing at being the good guy. I have chosen to avoid conflict and just roll along to make people happy. Well, that usually didn't make people happy and it is exhausting! So I am sorry for being this way with my friends, family, and people I work with. I resolve to be real. Many thanks to all of you who model that for me. Of course, I give a hat-tip to Jesus who never chose nice over being real. I claim to be a follower so I will try to follow in that way as well. This will take some time as I have practiced being a pleaser for some time. Hey! I also believe in resurrection, transformation, and grace! That applies here as well! You can join me if you like. Let’s be real. Who knows? I might actually be a nice guy. 
Now that I shared this I might have to be accountable! 

I got several positive responses and what amounts to a good number of likes for me. Even before I posted I was feeling good. I am an introspective type and I had been mulling over things for a bit. I suppose my recent birthday, and several life events had me thinking about how I live my life. 

I am reminded of the first of the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous: We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable. I shared with friends and strangers that I often behave in a way that just doesn't work. It hurts relationships and my own well-being. Of course I immediately started judging myself. I wondered if people would roll their eyes and think I was over-sharing or obviously had too much time on my hands. Maybe they would think that I should save such sharing for close friends or a therapist. Then again, part of the point was that I obsess over the way others might feel. Even with my doubts I was feeling good. 

I feel good because I put something out there and stated my desire to change. So I am committing to keep sharing if it continues to motivate me to live in a more healthy way. Sure, it is possible that we can share more than others need to see. Even so, I am going to ease up on the judgement as we are all wrestling with our inner shit. Being open about my own stuff has me feeling a little more open to others today. 

I write this because I was actually surprised that sharing over social media felt so positive. I write this because I know others can relate to working to live in ways that help us live, work, and love in healthy ways. I write this because writing and sharing is making me feel good. I will keep it up as long as it works. 

20 August 2013

I know what you nee

"What you need to do is. . . " and I don't recall what followed because my brain shut down in resistance. I just don't like to be told how I feel, what I need, or what I should do. Who does? Even when I know that someone has more expertise than me I still resist. I cringe when my doctor says that I need more exercise. My inner rebel stands to attention when my diocese hands down the call to attend another workshop. I don't even like financial guidance from my pension fund. This presents a challenge to me as my role as a priest often calls me to point out the needs of others. Of course we followers of Christ are called to love our neighbor. We wrestle with how to meet the needs of others in a way that honors their dignity and enables them to thrive. There are other needs that the Church seeks to meet, and it is those needs that I wish to address.

My role as a priest and pastor gets challenged when we set about the work of planning activities, worship, and mission for the parish. As I meet with staff and committees we look at what has drawn folks in the past, and at things that just are not working. Again and again I have heard some well meaning parishioner say: "We should ask folks what they want." I have followed that line of thinking before and found it to be a frustrating path. I recall youth group meetings where we made a list of all the great activities kids wanted. (We did leave off the suggestion that "beer and strippers" would help the group grow.) We set about planning many of those activities, but most were scrubbed as participation dwindled. We provided what they said they wanted and it didn't seem to matter. Ski trips and lock-ins are fun, but are they truly what the Church is about?

As the Church, we know what people need. As a priest, I know what you need. Hold on, please don't shut down as I so often do. We hold that people need a relationship with Christ, that Christ called us to live that relationship in community, and that this relationship will transform us and our world. You need a relationship with Christ. You need a community that holds you accountable. You need the transforming love of Christ that will increase your love of the world.

We may want a congregation that gives us the music we like, entertains our kids, and has a pastor we can relate to. Those are not we need. I am challenged as those are some of the very things that I focus my concern on when considering congregational life. I worry about the numbers and try to think of flashy ways to draw people in. Yet I see every day that the people who are growing in commitment to Christ and the Church are not asking for those things. They are folks who have found real transformation by engaging in the life of the community. They have entered into worship as an experience with God even if they don't like a particular song or the sermon is kind of flat. They have built relationships over cups of mediocre coffee. They have found the love of Christ in authentic community.

So to my parishioners I want to apologize for trying to give you what you want. Such efforts have exhausted me and haven't provided what you need. I extend a challenge to my ordained brothers and sisters to step up and tell people what they need. It is the same thing we all need. We need that loving relationship with Christ. Whether we know it or not, it is what we truly desire.

03 March 2013

The Bible, The Living Word, and Television

Skimming the "internets" I see that reality TV producer Mark Burnett has joined with his wife Roma Downey to produce The Bible beginning on 3/3/2013. This past week they authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which they propose that the Bible should be taught in public schools. I could entertain that idea, but something else caught my attention. 

After reading the WSJ article I saw something related on Huffington Post. This article noted that Burnett and Downey say in one place that they believe the Bible to be "the living word of God." I am familiar with this notion. I grew up in the world of conservative evangelical Christianity and my parents owned a Christian bookstore in our small Alabama town. The name of that store: The Living Word. We even had a hand painted sign with an open book right beside the name. As I read scripture over the years I began to realize that we had it all wrong. Calling the Bible "the living word" just isn't... well biblical. 

Hebrews 4:12 does say that "the word of God is living and active." Nothing in that verse and the surrounding verses says anything about the Bible or scripture. The word for "word" is the Greek  λόγος (logos). That word is not typically understood or translated as the written word. In the broader culture before the Christian scriptures were written, the term "logos" was used in philosophical circles to speak of a pattern of the universe. In the New Testament, the word "logos" most often refers to Jesus. Perhaps the most famous usage is John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The passage goes on to describe this word coming into world in human flesh. That Word in Christian teaching is Jesus. 

A quick search of the "interwebs" will reveal many Christians speaking of the Bible as the "living word." No doubt, many of us who believe feel the scripture has an authoritative and powerful influence in our lives. Most of us Christians have no problem declaring that the Bible is "the word of God." As people of faith, we see these scriptures witnessing to the "living word" which is Jesus Christ. Sometimes it takes faith to read scripture with those eyes. 

I point out this misunderstanding of the Bible as "the living word" because it is a distortion that takes away from faith. Understanding Jesus as "the living word" makes things messy. Then it is about relationship, and loving our neighbor. It means that the life and teaching of Jesus have something to say about how we read the whole of scripture. Considering the Bible to be the "living word" means that I can use it to mean what my group and I think it means to do what we want to do in the name of God. 

Of course, I have just given an example of how some of us interpret "the living word of God." I took that step because I believe that Mark Burnett and Roma Downey believe with other Christians that our faith is not in a book. Our faith is in a living God who we believe  to be revealed in Jesus Christ. We don't worship the book, but the God that it reveals to us. 

I hope to catch the series as it airs. I am a sucker for some good biblical storytelling. I hope it does well and that we can all understand how this important collection of literature has influenced our culture. Of course, I will be watching those stories from the perspective of someone who believes that God is "the living Word" active in us, and that will make a difference.

26 February 2013

Did I say that. . . ?

I think I said that I was going to write more during Lent. My intention was to journal, write poems and stories, and to blog more. It seems I did not understand this thing I was thinking. I have been writing a little more. I am not going to share my journal, but I will promote my blogging over at my parish website. Check out what I had to say about the Oscars and Holy Week .

Then again, not keeping up with a proposed Lenten discipline is fine. It give me pause to think about what I believe about God's forgiveness. It makes me ask why I would choose writing more as a spiritual discipline.

So. . .

As to forgiveness, I just can't imagine God really cares if we keep our Lenten disciplines. However I did choose a discipline so that it would strengthen my faith. I wanted to commit to writing because I feel that I have something to say and that God has something to do with that. All the reasons I find not to write tend to be real time wasters. I also know that when I do write I feel a sense of the Divine as the creativity gets going. I also feel more whole, which is a feeling that I associate with drawing closer to God. So the real exercise here is to forgive myself for slacking off, and start writing. (Thus I presently ramble.)

That stirred me up a bit. There are some topics floating around now. How about the question of what God does care about? What about a ramble on rambling?

Hey, I did some more writing. This Lenten thing is spurring me on.

12 February 2013

Have fun this Lent. . . ?

Lent has a reputation as a season of dreary remembrance of our sins, and penitent fasting to express our sorrow and turn our hearts. "Fun" usually doesn't make it's way into discussions of this Christian season which leads us to the celebration of Easter. Christians have longed dedicated themselves to prayer and fasting during this season. This can be a good thing. Can it be fun?

Apparently Lent can be fun. Some bloggers have gotten together to create Lent Madness . Drawing inspiration from college basketball, these folks have arranged a bracket to pit saints against one another in a competition leading to the award of the Golden Halo. Lent can be fun, and if you give this a try you might learn something about the cloud of witnesses who have come before.

I plan to commit to writing more during Lent. That would include blogging so the few folks who read this now have permission to hold me accountable. I also plan to join in the fun over at Lent Madness. We can make it part of our discipline to learn about the faithful followers of Christ throughout the ages.

Join me on the journey.

11 October 2012

Back to school (sort of)

I am taking an online course at coursera.org  . This site is the leader in free online courses from major educational institutions. I am not getting credit, but what is credit anyway?

I am taking Modern and Contemporary American Poetry from the University of Pennsylvania. Wow! Professor Al Filreis has gathered a great team who are making things happen. Over 30,000 people from all over the world are participating in the course.

I am loving it. I am looking forward to taking other courses. Take a look at the offerings and stretch yourself. You just might learn something.

29 August 2012

Inspiration from the Congregation

I am delighted to see the Faith Voices section of St. James, Knoxville, TN . We are updating the website, and I must say that the blog posts from various parishioners are my favorite. Check it out.