Wednesday, December 18, 2013


A man at my church called me religious the other day. Actually, I think he called me very religious. It was in a conversation about my dating life, or rather, my lack of a dating life. Telling a date or potential date I'm a pastor is a great way to kill a conversation; that's just the reality and I'm mostly ok with it.

Because of my profession, though, this guy was not off target in calling me religious. I'm in worship most every Sunday. Actually, I plan worship most every Sunday, and preach, and go to other churches just for fun, and ramble on about the theological discourse of Stephen King and horror movies. I'm pretty much as tied to institutional church as anyone can be. By most anyone's definition, I'm religious.

Still, I bristled at the word religious. Actually, that's putting it pretty mildly. My first instinct was to yell at this guy, "I'm not religious!" Luckily, a more rational chunk of my brain took over and I didn't. I'm pretty sure this guy would have laughed at me a lot if my first reaction had won. Ok, I would have probably heard about that reaction for a quite a while, with him enjoying bringing it up again to laugh at me some more.

But you know what? I don't feel religious. I'm not even sure I know what I associate with that word, but I'm pretty sure it has to do lots of rules and regulations about life. I'm pretty sure that means conviction of the evil of some people or that my religion trumps other religions. And I'm not quite sure what else, but I know I don't like whatever that is. Yes, I know that doesn't necessarily make sense. I'm ok with that.

My faith calls me to love other people--to trek to hospitals and school plays, restaurants and messy houses. The people there need to know someone cares about them enough to show up.

My faith calls me to prayer and study because yes, those things deepen my practice of my faith and change the way I think about God and the world.

My faith has taken me to temples and mosques and synagogues and candle circles in the woods, but I keep coming back to this Christian faith, which moves me deeply.

My faith means that I proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ from a pulpit in a church most weeks, and hope that yes, through me those present will hear a bit of good news.

My faith means that the money I give to the church represents my third largest household expense, after housing and taxes.

My faith leads me to strange discussions, heated discussions, life-giving discussions, doubtful discussions, all sorts of discussions about spirituality and the life of faith.

My faith, my spirituality is deeply important to me. It shapes much of my life and calls me to new things. While my faith will certainly morph in the years to come, I cannot imagine a life apart from faith and spiritual practice.

But am I religious? I'm not so sure about that.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When the Impossible Becomes Reality

One of my church's mamas sent me a picture recently. She'd taken a snapshot of her daughter playing with scrap paper that morning. It just so happens that Mea had cut out a u-shaped piece of paper and draped it around her neck. She said, "Hey, Mom, I made one of those things Abigail wears around her neck!" Then she made two more, one for her mom and and one for her grandma.

Yes, she was talking about my stole. I'm probably the only person she's ever seen wear one of those. This particular kid has probably noticed that the stoles change with the season of the church year. The one I've been wearing this Advent is purple and gold; the ends have fringe. It's pretty cool in kid world. Yet, she's three going on four. The stole is just another accessory, similar to my boots that she also likes.

For her, making her own stole is part of figuring out life, learning new things, and the rich imaginative life that most children lead. It goes along with baby dolls and dress-up and play food. She has no clue that when I look at her, she reflects a reality that I long believed was impossible. When she plays pastor, she's imagining herself like me. For her, the image of pastor is a young woman--stole, cute boots and all. For her, this impossibility will always be reality; I can't stop wondering if this is reality.

Just this week, someone stopped by the church, carrying our Advent postcard with her. Every time we send something out to the broader community, we make sure to say explicitly that the LGBT community is welcome. She came to ask, "Is this really true?" I got to tell her yes. Yes, what you thought was impossible is a reality here. And I remembered, again, how strange it is when the impossible becomes reality.

That impossible turning to reality is so often a sign of God's reign coming just a bit closer. Because it has so long been impossible, the new reality comes with  incredulity and a zillion questions. It comes with suspicion. Eventually, when you realize that the impossible has actually, truly become reality, the new reality comes with deep, overwhelming joy.

Jesus knew that when he was approached by John the Baptizer's disciples, asking, "Are you the one who is to come?"

Jesus answered, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised and the poor have good news brought to them."

In other words, the impossible is now reality; God's reign is near.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"I don't want people to think I'm gay."

Several times lately I've heard people point blank say in response to some life situation they're facing, "I don't want people to think I'm gay." They usually follow it up with something like, "Not that I have a problem with gay people."

Are you kidding me?

Because, you see, it's said with the same disdain used for any classification we don't want applied to us.  In my case, it's the same reaction I have to people when I say I'm a pastor and they mention the fundamentalist megachurch down the road. I rush to say anything to make sure they don't confuse me with that, which is so different from my faith.

There are a few words often spoken with that sort of disdain, words like poor, homeless, black, just to name a few. There are all sorts of things folks say with an edge to indicate they'd never want to be confused with one of those people, and yes, gay is often on the list. That's ridiculous. Here's why.

First, if it's that big a deal for you to get hit on by someone you're not interested in (which seems to be the number one concern), grow up. I attract guys who say in the most disgusting way possible, "Hey, baby." Guess what? I don't go out with those guys. Problem solved. Of course, this is assuming the getting hit on fear scenario ever actually happens.

Second, you sound like a homophobe. This isn't a statement of religious or political conviction. It's a statement that says, "There are few things worse than being gay." So stop saying homophobic crap.

Third, and most important, get some new priorities. Make sure people don't think you hate your neighbor. Make sure people don't think you're stingy. Make sure people don't think you're a snob. Jesus said a lot about those things. Ok, he said a lot about the inverse of those things--love your neighbor, be generous, and Jesus hung out with people on the margins of society. They're pretty awesome priorities, actually. They might actually change your life.