I Want to Be Your Pastor Because You Intrigue Me

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napowrimo april 2 2014.pngI want to be your pastor because you intrigue me. Sounds kinda selfish when I say it like that, huh? But it’s the best way to say it. I’m interested in you, your story, your likes and dislikes, your talents and your experiences. And I’m willing to listen.

There’s an outward movement in Christian spirituality that comes directly from the teaching of Christ and certain Pauline texts which push the envelope on being aware of the people around you. Jesus teaches a “neighborliness” in Luke 10:25-37 that has nothing to do with proximity or gain, but everything to do with seeing needs and moving outside my own wants to serve others, being aware and not just passing by other people’s lives. Paul follows up with a lot of statements about caring about one another, but my favorite is found in Philippians 2:1-11, Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

We miss something very important to being human and being a Christian when our religion and spirituality lead us to tell others what to be interested in more than listening to what interests them. 

Now, I will at times fail at this very thing I believe so deeply. There will be times I’m caught up in being busy, and I will fail. There will times that I am so interested in my own interests, so excited to tell you what I’m thinking, that I will fail… I am a “preacher” after all.

What I ask, no… what I invite you to do is break in on me. Maybe even, well… shush me. Just do it with some grace and some love. Give me a chance to hear you and understand. I might be distracted some days, but I still want to get to know you.

Please be you, and I’ll try to be me. When we get the authenticity right God’s amazes us, and I’m excited to see where we might go. It’s always been our struggle, to quit bringing God some manufactured gift, some consolation prize, instead of the reality of our open selves, “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:15-17.

If I can serve you today, as a pastor and a friend, just let me know.

AMDG, Todd

Social Media Requires a Social Conscience

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questions for postingLet’s do something new.

It’s totally real and authentic, we all get indignant and fired up by things that cross our paths on social media platforms on any given day… and we go to sharing and posting away. Whatever our political, social, religious, philosophical or fiscal inclinations might be, there’s a whole world of memes and news stories out there to support our view and also to ridicule our view.

Are so many of those memes and stories just a bit biased, unfair, exaggerated or intended to cast one side in the worst light possible while giving the most generous presentation to the other side? Well, of course. Are those memes and stories intended to inflame and create controversy? Surely. Do they change anyone’s mind or alter anyone’s position on anything? I don’t think so.

Too many of us keep on breaking the internet’s #1 rule: Don’t feed the trolls. And we think we won something. We keep sharing and re-posting the jabs and skewers upon which we gleefully imagine “the other side” flailing in their death throes. But it’s not happening. No one is dying… only the discourse. The casualty is the space between us… it grows more and more dense and dark, deadly and confining.

Let’s try to make a change of the better, shall we? Let’s stop posting and sharing all the things that inflame and make us indignant. Let’s “lean in” as people are saying now, or “bear down” as we’ve said in the past, on making our shares and posts really count for good. You and I, each of us, in all our diversity and uniqueness, share this burden and this responsibility.

I quickly came up with six questions to ask myself before posting or sharing something. If I can answer yes to each, then I will share or post. If I cannot answer yes to each, then I need to stop, drop and rethink. Why am I posting? Is it what I really want to post? Why am I struggling with a yes on one of the questions?

Questions to ask before posting…

  • Is it honest?
  • Does it give the benefit of the doubt?
  • Does it encourage someone needing encouragement?
  • Does it promote every person’s dignity?
  • Does it ask good and fair questions?
  • Does it stretch my own thinking?

How would you adopt and adapt those questions and make them your own, for the good of more thoughtful and meaningful posts? Did I miss anything? I’ve written a little about Facebook Etiquette in the past, but this hopefully goes a little further. Let’s do something new.

Let me share a few thing additional thoughts real fast…
HUMOR: There’s a bunch of humorous things that can be posted without worrying about the heaviest questions of goodness and dignity. But don’t think that because we can post a cute kitten video without asking deep questions that we can then post any humor without asking good questions. Be wise. Think deep.
PERSONAL STUFF:  Same thing goes here I think. If I post a proud pic of the salad I made for lunch, that’s cool. Many times we post and share things that are rather benign and don’t beg to be vetted by a thoughtful social conscience. But having some benign posts does not negate my responsibility to weigh my more meaningful posts and shares against these questions.
CONVICTIONS: I’m not asking us to stop having convictions and deeply held beliefs. I’m asking that we learn to share them in ways that are not combative or mean-spirited. Speak your mind and share your heart, but not just to score a point or one-up somebody in your feed.

Perhaps we need to have an inverse set of questions for when something seems benign or we aren’t sure how to apply the first set of questions.

The Inverse Questions to ask might look like this…

  • Do I see a dishonesty or a stretching of the truth in the post/share? (Or better, have I looked into the background and sources to know if it’s honest, true or accurate?)
  • Does it assign someone a set of motives they have not clearly themselves articulated? (Often this involves name calling and accusations of being a “communist” a “conservative” a “liberal” a “racist,” etc.)
  • Does it openly ridicule and make fun of someone’s physical person, race, ethnicity, nationality, culture, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender or other personal expression or reality of their being?
  • Does it devalue a person or a group of people or invite negative thoughts about a person or group of people?
  • Does it only set out to win an argument without leaving room for dialogue and searching?
  • Does it simply affirm what I already think without causing me to question deeper or more clearly, or to learn something new?

If you’re a follower of Christ, there’s a strong biblical case for this kind of discernment in our daily communication. If you’re a person of another faith, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist or one of the world’s other great faith systems, I know that this is in your scriptures and creeds. I’ve seen it in many of your writings and heard it preached in each. If you are a person of no faith, I know you are completely capable of seeing the goodness in this idea.

As always, the question is what will we do? We can look back… looking. Or we can look forward, and do. Forward lies the the question, the answer and the hope.

AMDG, Todd

Here’s the question in some Christian scriptural terms…

Is the post/share:

  • True (or false/deceiving)
  • Noble (or unworthy of you)
  • Right (or simply wrong)
  • Pure (or makes you feel dirty)
  • Lovely (or an image/word of hate)
  • Admirable (or just winning at any and all costs)
  • Excellent (or stooping too low)
  • Praiseworthy (or just a quick laugh at someone’s expense)

Philippians 4:8
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–
think about such things.”

Believing in Your Goodness

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I’m not only trying this month to write about my belief in your goodness and my desire to be your pastor, but I’m also reading. One book I’m spending time with is Eknath Easwaran’s “Original Goodness,” his book on The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. His book “Love Never Faileth” is also amazing.

Here’s a just a snip that I read while on a long walk, yesterday, and a doodle I did this morning in my prayer and reflection time.

     “When I was growing up in South India, just half an hour’s walk from my home was a lotus pond so thickly overlaid with glossy leaves and gleaming rose and white blossoms that you could scarcely see the water. One of the Sanskrit names for this most exquisite of flowers is pankaja, “born from the mud.” In the murky depths of the pond a seed takes root. Then a long, wavering strand reaches upward, groping through the water toward the glimmering light above. From the water a bud emerges. Warmed by the sun’s rays, it slowly opens out and forms a perfect chalice to catch and hold the dazzling light of the sun.
     The lotus makes a beautiful symbol for the core of goodness in every human being. Though we are born of human clay, it reminds us, each of us has the latent capacity to reach and grow toward heaven until we shine with the reflected glory of our Maker.”

Eknath Easwaran, “Original Goodness” 1996, pages 10 & 11

Be blessed in your day, my friends, for you are good.
AMDG, Todd

lotus quote

I Want to Be Your Pastor Because I Believe in You

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people walkingI believe in you.

I’m sure I’ve blogged enough over the years about my belief in God and Christ… but I don’t think I’ve ever actually blogged about how much I believe in you, you my friends, you my family, you my neighbors. I believe in you.

I don’t believe in you in some silly way that romanticizes your chances at becoming President one day. Instead, I believe that you are good.  You are beloved.

I believe in you.
I believe you should be you.
I do not believe it’s my job to change you.
I believe in God in you.
I believe in God’s love for you.
I do not believe God’s love will ever leave you.
I believe in your love.
I believe in your wisdom.
I do not believe your mistakes define you.

Jesus believes enough in you, in us, that he once described us as salt and light. The Psalmist once described us as a little lower than God, just a little. Don’t worry, I’m not thinking we’re at all close to dethroning the Almighty. I am however pretty excited about sharing some life with you. Let’s do this!

AMDG, Todd

I Want To Be Your Pastor Because I Need You

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community is needfulIndeed, I need you. I’ve grown up with various ways of expressing an old idea that each of us has “a God-shaped hole in our soul” that draws us to the divine. It’s been expressed in various ways from Augustine of Hippo in the 4th Century, Pascal in the 17th Century and our beloved C.S. Lewis in the 20th Century. I’ll let you do the Google work if you really want the quotes, but watch out for the misquotes! =)

It’s also a biblical idea that rings though in lots of scriptural passages like Acts 17 when Paul recognizes the religious nature of the people of Athens and in various bits of Ecclesiastes. Some have also linked teachings of Jesus to the idea, such as the “well of life-giving water” from within that he promises. And of course, it’s been sung, and sung and sung, by many in our lifetime.

Ok. I don’t have much of a complaint about that idea and have in fact felt an anecdotal affirmation of it in my own life. Yes, I have tried to walk away from faith, often to simply give myself some distance, but always have been inexorably pulled back. My doubt has always been as strong as my faith. I rest in a great tradition of faithful doubters involved in sacred vocation, Matthew 28:16-20. Still, I think there’s just as valid an idea and truth in these words: In each of us there is a need of one another that cannot be safely denied, completely ignored, or fully satisfied in anything but community.

In each of us there is a need of one another that cannot be safely denied,
completely ignored, or fully satisfied in anything but community.

There are many scriptural passages and themes that support this idea, and I’m happy to lay out a few that illustrate our need of one another and the value of practicing good community, found especially in the life of Jesus and community of the early disciples: Psalm 133; Micah 6:8; Matthew 5:13-16, 21-26, 43-48; Matthew 7:1-6; Matthew 22:34-40; John 11:1-44; John 13:1-20; Romans 13:8-10; Romans 14; Galatians 5:13-26; Ephesians 4:1-16; Colossians 3:1-17; and 1 John 4:7-21. And now think of the “communal correctives” embedded in the Ten Commandments and the teaching on prayer by Jesus: Exodus 20:1-17 & Matthew 6:5-15.

When I say I need you I really do mean it. We share life and we share caring, and that doesn’t lessen my value or expressiveness as an individual, but enhances and enlarges it. Yes, we are capable of doing community badly, but that doesn’t mean we no longer need community. The vast majority of religious moral and ethical ideas cannot find any fruition without our neighbor. And likewise, I believe that the deepest spiritual fulfillment, giving and receiving love, is also found with others.

I need you to give and receive love with me. My chosen vocation means that I am going to do everything in my human abilities to make that exchange pure and up-building. Pastors are never perfect, but in community, we find a rhythm of life and love that helps us share well. I’ll need your grace and your forgiveness at times. And you’ll have mine. I cannot be fully realized as a person, either religiously or spiritually, without you.

This is all exciting, scary and endlessly promising! And though it’s not always easy, community is always needful. Talk and I’ll listen. Share and I’ll hold your truths in confidence. Struggle and I will struggle along with you. Face victory and I’ll dance alongside you.

Life is ours.

AMDG, Todd

mother teresa of calcuttaP.S. And I love, love, LOVE me some Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She has a couple of a quotes that have become very dear to me, often shared and never old…

“Today, if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

And the Simple Path of Mother Teresa: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”

The Thing Is, I Wanna Be Your Pastor

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Puzzle Cross BlueI have no idea what you think of when you hear the word “pastor.” I can hope you hear “pasture” and that you can imagine a shepherdess or a shepherd, and green fields with blue skies and cool air. I hope you don’t see an angry face of someone who lacks faith in you or lives to adjust you, change you or rule you. I hope you can imagine a person of grace, joy, humility and imperfection. I hope that you can imagine a friend and a companion.

I whipped up this image of a puzzle piece cross to emphasize that I believe in and trust in the scriptures that teach our completeness when together and our deep need of each other. Maybe we’ll explore some of those passages through July.

I want to be your pastor.

I want to be your pastor because I need you. Yes I’m paid to be a pastor, and I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to be supported as the pastor of a congregation, but that only meets the financial needs of my life and my family. It’s the people who choose to savor grace with me, those that carry me along with them and I carry them with me, who keep me choosing day after day and year after year to be a pastor.

pas·tor, noun 1. a minister or priest in charge of a church.
2. a person having spiritual care of a number of persons.

All through July of 2014 I’d like to work on some various expressions of why I’d like to be your pastor. You see, I want to be your pastor even if you don’t attend my congregation. I want to be your pastor even if you don’t call yourself a “Christian.” I want to do life with you and I offer myself to you as a friend, a neighbor and a pastor.

I don’t really like the “in charge” part of the above definition. I prefer the “spiritual care” part, but I don’t want you to think that liking the word spiritual implies that I have a dualistic sacred & profane, spiritual & secular divide for thinking about and doing life. Pastoring is a shared caring. We walk through all the things of life together and I don’t have a list of life’s stuff I don’t want to share with you.

It’s July 1st and if I’m your pastor, then hear me say that I am thrilled to be your pastor! I love the people with whom I am blessed to do life! And if you have never thought of me as your pastor, then think again. I’m at your service. I offer myself to you.

I’m not sure what all I’ll write about in July, but I’m excited to start the process of praying and thinking and expressing something I’ve wanted to blog about for a while: I want to be your pastor. Let me also invite you to ask me a question you’ve always wanted to ask a pastor. Something on your mind? I’m at your service.

Be safe this July 4th weekend, ok?

AMDG, Todd

Where The Cross Has Been

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where the cross has beenWe’ve been painting little hearts, hands and crosses in worship at Church in Bethesda as we talk about service, sharing and the impact of our faith and lives on the world around us. To make cleanup a little easier I’ve been taping the little wooden pieces to half sheets of construction paper. I thought it would make it easier to paint to the edge of the pieces while keeping fingers clean.

Later, I come along and pull the pieces off to lay them around on the altar. What I didn’t plan on was the awesome way many of our people painted onto the paper, using it as an extension of the canvas. I was also struck by this image of a piece of paper with the outline of a cross after I removed the wooden piece.

When we work so hard to create a life that has beauty and intention, we don’t know how far that life will reach or how much it changes the world around it. Painting that little red cross created two images, the cross itself and the place where it was made. How like that is my own life? How like that is your life? Let’s keep painting and working on our little lives, our efforts of colors and shapes of grace, and let’s stop every now and then and look to marvel at the patterns and imprints we leave behind.

One of the sweetest elements of community is sharing the surprises, the unexpected and the leftovers. One of the deepest blessings of our faith is what we don’t easily see it creating in us and our world. Thanks be to the God who paints alongside us. Thanks be to the God who overpaints our edges and covers the world anew in grace each day. Thanks be to God.

AMDG, Todd

P.S. There are more photos of our crosses, hearts and hands on my Facebook page and on the Church in Bethesda Facebook page!