March 27, 2011

The Single Pastor

Death and taxes are only two of life's certainties. There are others.

For instance, if a tornado hits Oklahoma, network reporters will invariably seek out video of the person with the strongest Okie twang and the worst grammar to share their tornado survival story on the national news.While our hearts go out to anyone who has been so traumatized, I have to tell you, we always wonder why they never seem to be able to find any articulate tornado victims to interview. Believe me, there are plenty of articulate people who have survived tornadoes.

Another certainty? Whenever evangelical churches do something questionable, The New York Times will not only write about it, but they will go out of their way to include a quote from Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. It's also fairly certain that whatever Dr. Mohler says will make me cringe.

Not surprisingly, it is Mohler's quotes on singleness that most try my patience. It was an article in The New York Times this past week that reminded me of how much I hate to hear the man's thoughts on the subject. The article, Unmarried Pastor, Seeking a Job, Sees Bias, centers on Mark Almlie, and evangelical pastor who has been out of work for 2 years.

Almlie, who has years of experience behind him, says he has responded to more than 500 job postings. Some churches reply and request more information, but never contact him again once they learn he is single.

He believes there is a bias against single pastors, and I think his point is valid.

March 16, 2011

Murphy's Law

The events of the past week have been incomprehensible, beginning with a 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan, followed by a tsunami that wiped out entire towns, and now a nuclear crisis. As we watch the pictures, it's hard to believe it's real. The home videos of the tsunami look like special effects from a disaster movie.

There are those who say it's God's judgment. I don't agree with that but I do believe it's the result of living in an imperfect world. That said, I also believe the images of the past week, including what's happening right now at the nuclear plant in Fukushima are a vivid illustration of sin in our lives.

When I was in the 8th grade, the local electric company announced plans to build a nuclear power plant 30 miles east of the city. It would be named Black Fox, which sounded like an appropriate name for a plant in Oklahoma. But over the next 9 years, as opposition to the plant grew, the name came to sound very ominous.

As I neared my 20th birthday, the plant had still not been built, and a couple of things happened that spring to draw everyone's attention to the protests. The first was the release of the movie, The China Syndrome, about safety issues at a fictional nuclear plant. That same month, there was the all-too-real accident at Three-Mile Island.

By now, I was paying full attention to the issue, and I agreed with local protesters that the dangers of a nuclear power plant were too great. While I never joined their efforts, I admired their tenacity, particularly that of Carrie Barefoot Dickerson, who led the fight. By 1982 the power company gave up their plans for Black Fox.

A few years later came the disaster at Chernobyl, and I was again relieved that Black Fox had never been completed. But 25 years went by without another major event at a nuclear plant - although there have been other accidents - and like many people, I didn't give nuclear power a lot of thought.

Then, a couple of years ago, as it became more obvious that we needed to be considering alternative energy sources, I began to wonder if maybe Black Fox should have been completed. "Sure," I thought, "things could go wrong, but they hardly ever do go wrong. Maybe nuclear power isn't really all that dangerous." Those who planned the various nuclear plants that have been built along fault lines probably told themselves the same thing.

Source: Google Images
That's exactly how sin works. "Sure, things could go wrong, but they hardly ever do go wrong," we tell ourselves. I know even the word "sin" causes some of you to cringe. Too often, we see use of the word itself as judgment. While we all acknowledge the big sins - sins against children, sins of violence, we tend the minimize the sins we see as small sins, or the sins that we don't believe affect others.

But that's the problem. Just as radiation escaping from the plant in Fukushima could potentially affect people beyond the immediate area, our sins can have an impact beyond ourselves. Sin is what separates us from God, but it also separates us from others, as it impacts our relationships. All sin can do that, from those we see as "small" all the way to the Big 10. Sin can permeate our culture and impact generations.

Just as those who approved and built nuclear power plants on fault lines convinced themselves the dangers could be controlled, we think we can control sin. And while we tell ourselves that the sin we're considering giving into is not that dangerous, the truth is we never know when the ground will begin to shift beneath our feet, or when the wave will overcome us, or when the safety mechanisms we thought were in place will fail.

Fortunately we have a God who forgives. We have a Savior.

Lord, please help those who are harm's way in Japan because we foolishly thought we could outsmart nature. Lord, forgive us our arrogance. Forgive us our greed. Forgive us our short-sightedness. Lord, have mercy.

Praying continually for the people of Japan,

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. ~ Romans 8:5-6

March 1, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

Since my last post much has happened.

  • I have learned that I'm a Leo instead of a Cancer, which is just plain wrong.
  • Two Middle-Eastern governments have been overthrown.
  • We have discovered that the delusional rants of Muammar Gaddafi are nothing compared to the delusional rants of Charlie Sheen.

I may have exaggerated a bit on the last one, but just a bit. I feel reasonably certain that Charlie Sheen has not hired mercenaries to kill his enemies - although at this point I don't think anything would surprise me as each day seems to bring a new dimension to the very public unraveling of Charlie.

As long as I have brought up the topic of Charlie Sheen, just this week I have learned that I have missed the vanity cards that appear at the end of each episode of Two and a Half Men. I was vaguely aware that something flashed by at the end of the credits, but I didn't know what it was.

Now, thanks to Charlie's rants, I have discovered that I have been missing a creative art form. It seems that Chuck Lorre, the show's co-creator and the target of some of Charlie's nastiest comments, has been writing vanity cards to end episodes of his various shows for years. It turns out they are also on The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly and they were on Dharma & Greg. You can find them archived on Lorre's website.

While cards from the recent weeks have attracted a lot of attention, it's #111 that caught my eye. It begins with words that I felt speaking directly to me. "This is the official "I have nothing worth writing about" vanity card. It will run whenever I have nothing worth writing about." It was first aired in November of 2009, and as Lorre goes on to explain, he wrote it because he realized he had nothing to say, and the only thing that had kept him from coming up with this card earlier was his vanity about the vanity cards.

Source: Google Images
That pretty much sums up how I have felt the last couple of months. It wasn't necessarily that I had nothing to say, or nothing worth writing about. There were a couple of times when I was tempted to write a post about something I felt strongly about, but I held back because it either wasn't my post to write, or it wasn't the right time to write it. I realized that I would be writing for the sake of filling a space, and to appease my own vanity. I tried reading other blogs and realized my competitive nature was dangerously close to taking over, tempting me to post just to keep up with everyone else.

As I held back, I learned that I don't need to share every thought as it enters my head. I can wait for the right time. I can wait to feel inspired. I can wait. And, as Chuck Lorre points out on card #111, "that knowledge is freedom."

So thanks to each of you who have either posted or emailed me to ask how I'm doing. Nothing has been going on beyond regular life and oh yeah, the occasional record-breaking snowstorm. It's wonderful to know I have been missed. I am feeling refreshed from this break, but I'm still not sure I'm ready to get back to a regular writing schedule.

While I continue to wait for the right time to return to posting on a somewhat regular basis, I will get back to the routine of visiting and commenting on your blogs, looking forward to the wisdom each of you has to share. I've missed all of you!

Love to each of you,

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17