What if I put out in my blog I was was against semi sweet chocolate? That somewhere in the Levitical laws it was declared unclean and remains unclean to this day. So if you were to eat semi sweet chocolate you were to be condemned by God. Anyone seeing this post and liking semi sweet chocolate would feel judged and not likely walk into the doors of your church. While God has been prompting that person to go to church, we may have simply gotten in the way. Instead of working for the good of God and our church, we become a hinderance.
Lately I have noticed an increased amount of articles and blogs written about how we need to hold onto our faith stances. Whether those issues are sociological, theological, or whatever they may be. I do hold onto some deep theological stances whether they be about justice, the Bible, social issues, and a myriad of other issues. But I also realize that I am called to be a Pastor or the technical term for me within the Presbyterian Church, a Teaching Elder. In that I am called to be pastoral in how I apply my own personal beliefs. The world and our community is large and I doubt that we all agree on every issue. Why do we make some larger than others? Why must we agree on every issue beyond our essentials? We will not, but if we let the issues divide us then we have larger issues. Issues with our own community or lack or it, and our ability to reach those around us with the Gospel.
By coming out for or against semi sweet chocolate, I immediately endear my self to some colleagues and to others I am quite the opposite. This does not help in creating unity within our Presbytery or other circles. Many of us have experienced it. The looks or the unwilling to talk with other people with dissenting viewpoints. In the past couple years, there are colleagues that will not acknowledge me beyond a head nod simply because I am one of “them”. Too bad they do not know me, but I am categorized and moved on. I am not saying my semi sweet chocolate haters are right, but simply over a disagreement we have chosen not to have community with those that are in the same profession.
The outside world sees our infighting, and wonder why they should even enter a church that cannot get along with each other. Earlier I talked about how I am called to be a pastor. I am not called to be a pastor of those that agree with me. My primary job as a pastor is not to do the bulletin or make sure the Sanctuary is properly decorated. It is to follow the prompting of the Spirit to lead people to a deeper understanding of God and faith. By stating publicly that “I”, the pastor do not believe that semi sweet chocolate should be eaten we only further entrench those outsides thoughts about the church. Those thoughts are simple: we are judgmental and hypocritical. We as the church have not done a good job in trying to change this perception. I am not saying that we should not talk about our viewpoints of the tenants of our faith, but how do we do it. Is it done in a way that that divides or in a way that offers differing viewpoints in attitude of unity?
I am grateful that I have found a community both locally and larger that sees me as who I am and not for my stances. I can look around the table, Facebook group, or prayer letter and see differing chocolate views but sense unity around it. While we may disagree on some issues; we care and want the best for each other.
All this talk about chocolate is making my sweet tooth take over.
Last night I was having a really pleasant conversation at dinner with my two older teenage daughters, when something struck me. It was not longer the about Sponge Bob or about how pretty the Disney princesses are but more adult conversations. Of course the conversation got steered away by the whole conversation about “Hulk Roy” and what it had to do with the Mermaid Theory from HIMYM, but that is a whole side story.
When did this happen? Weren’t you just the little girls that I brought home from the hospital? While part of my hear sank as I continually come to the realization that they are slowly becoming adults. After I talked about my day they gave me some sound advice. What was even better? It was followed up this afternoon by an email encouraging me in what we had talked about. Seriously? Are these the same teens that some days we have long drawn out arguments? Yes they are, but God is moving within them in incredible ways. God is not done molding and shaping them. Much like even at my age I am continually being refined.
I can’t wait to see what happens in the future. My girls (and boys) are solidly in God’s hands. And so are all of us.
This whole skype thing is ingenious! Through it we can keep in good touch with all our families. As my niece and nephew grow I can still be an intimate part of their lives. After all they call from Northern California a couple times a week to say goodnight to us east coasters. What would we do without technology to bring our families together as God calls us elsewhere.
A frequent conversation that I have with older adults that have retired is that they tell me that they are busier than they were when they were working. While I have had problems stretching my little brain around that, I have begun to understand what they mean. While I am not “retired” but yet hope to reach that point I am getting an inkling of what they are talking about. No longer am I stuck in an office (figuratively or literally), have to attend staff meetings, put in a requisite amount of time doing “churchy” things, or even have a feeling that I need to work more to earn my pay. Instead this last week has been a blank canvas. Last Saturday when I looked at my calender for the week all there was a meeting at CSUCI on Tuesday and a note that it was the eldest Birthday this week. For a person that is use to juggling seminary, family, and church(s) this is going to take some getting use to.
While Monday might have been a stress case for me since I was literally sitting around and watching the Syfy network and its V: the series marathon. Since then I have begun to get my feet underneath me. Besides becoming the official Chow family taxi for school, youth group, and other events I am definetely re-engaging with the family. If you ask them perhaps I am too much into their business. Oh well… welcome to Dad-have-no-job land.
The best part of all this chaos is that I get to do anything that I want to do and not things that I am obligated to. Last week I have several meetings about Front Porch and its development at CSUCI. Next week we will begin spending time meeting with students and actually DO SOMETHING on campus, rather than simply meeting with churches and casting the vision. If I wanted to (which I plan on doing) is starting some studies on campus and being present for students. Someone that I met with last week said that I could be “the weird Presbyterian prayer guy on campus.” While that may be cool, I am not sure if that is the angle that I am looking for. I have also been tossing around the idea of heading back to the hospital to volunteer as a chaplain.
This blank canvas is an interesting thing. What makes it more interesting is some of the blogs that I read. One of them is the former President of Youth Specialities that was recently laid off. He wrote on some of the things going on in his mind here. I am loving the freedom to do the things that I WANT to do rather than what I am obligated to. I do see how retirement can be a time that is more busy than one is working with the desire to be a part of many things that you have a passion for.
Last month I received a phone call from my dad. Usually when he calls, I know I did something wrong. It must be a link back to my childhood. Yes, I did get into a fair share of trouble as a kid. Mostly because of school and well lack of doing anything when I was there. Anywho… my dad explains to me that since my dad and uncle are going to be in Europe for most of September they would like to transfer the power of attorney over my grandmother to us siblings. In siblings, it is me and my brother. Kirsten got left out of all the fun, but she always has.I don’t know why this is so weird and awkward to me. Serving in a church I have been involved in life and death situations before, as well being in hospital rooms as doctors explain prognosis’s to people. Why is it so different when it is family? As I spent time pondering this, it is vastly different than being involved in a ministry. When I serve as a Pastor or a confidant, I ultimately do not make the decisions. While I may pray, annoint with oil, and be a presence I am emotionally detached. This is not to say that I do not care about what is happening, but it is not my loved one.While I may be over three hundred and fifty miles from the situation it still weighs on my mind, if the time comes how will I react? Will it be as a person that is emotionally involved or slightly detached as I have learned from years in the ministry? Which leads me to an underlying question, can we simply put on and take off ministerial hats? While I hope all that I am in whatever facet is the same person, emotions can override all that. If the situation becomes highly emotionally charged, coming the correct consensus is often difficult no matter ones background.Just a rambling thought of a guy wasting time waiting for a public hearing to be done at City Hall for our permit issues for Word of Life.
Being a family member of one that serves a church can be quite a difficult thing. For instance the cut short vacations when there is an murder in the local middle school or the times when special dates get cut off (at the ice cream shop… oops I have a Deacons meeting fifteen minutes ago) or the constant state of being distracted. Yup that is the life of a family of one that is in the ministry. One thing that I swear to myself is that I pray that my kids do not grow up hating the church, due to my responsibility to it. I can honestly say that the past couple of years and specifically the past six months have been rough on the family. I have been charged with moving the congregation to a new facility, starting new ministries, training others, General Assembly, Presbytery commitments, and somehow took an intensive on Hebrew. Somewhere in the midst of that my family laid. I am sure more than a few times they got the short end of the stick or that I was not home to tuck them in. While I have worked hard at being there for them in different ways, I am sure that it was not the same.This past weekend we were in Truckee for a wedding that I was doing for a family member. I had just finished my Hebrew final the week before, was in finishing studying for the Ordination Examinations, and trying to get the papers and permits necessary to move the church. While it seemed that everything fell apart around me, I had more than a few moments of the weekend, about how cool my family was. While I was hobbling around, I managed to get Jenn and the girls off to a stable where they went on a trail ride. Considering it was my girls first time on a horse, they were a bit scared. As we raced back to the resort where the wedding was going to be performed I was amazed by something…. the smell on them. Wow horses can smell. Besides that was the giddy look on their face. During the reception in which I raced to change out of my dress shoes (they hurt) I spent an hour dancing with my clan. It was pretty cool dancing with Hunter, Jenn, and Lauren to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice, Baby”. That night as the girls were getting ready to go to sleep the words of one of my mentors from long ago rang about the priorities in life… Personal Relationship With God, Family, THEN Ministry. Far too often that order gets messed up and needs to be re-prioritized. They are more important to me than my ministry and I sometimes forget that.