Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hearing Voices

I was asked recently about my spiritual growth. Ministers don't often get asked that question. In fact, very few get this question enough. The specific question I was asked was about my greatest challenges in the area of spiritual growth.

Since I cannot recall even a microsecond where I have recently spent time thinking about this, I was surprised at how quickly and easily the answer came to me. The greatest challenges to my spiritual growth are the voices of all the teachings, lessons, books, sermons, lectures, etc, I have heard, studied, absorbed and even created in the past that have shaped so much of my own spiritual growth to this point.

When I am confronted with a question or issue that requires thoughtful reflection and prayer, the easier thing to do is to fall back on what I have already heard and thought on the subject. All of those voices are so accessible to the point, at times, of being deafening. They are all I can hear.

I appreciate those voices and the place to which they have brought me. But I feel that more often than not these days, they are getting in the way of something deeper - something new - something even closer to the heart of God.

Ironically, I find myself, at least to some degree, trying to silence the voices to which I owe so much, so that I can more clearly hear the one to which I owe everything.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Maintaining my Amateur Status

While filling out a document recently, I had to reveal my profession. I wrote "Minister" in the blank. For some reason, my mind ran with that until I arrived at a very familiar question. To what degree am I a follower of Jesus because I love Jesus, and to what degree because I am a religious professional?

It's interesting how many people I have heard over the years, when contrasting themselves to me, have used the term "amateur Christian" to refer to themselves. It has not been a great number, but I have heard it about a dozen or more times - just enough so that it has stuck with me. I like that as a title.

The word amateur comes from a Latin word that means "lover." So an Amateur Christian is one one who is a follower of Jesus precisely because they love Jesus.

So if you are feeling like you may not know as much as a professional Christian, or a more seasoned believer who seems to know better why they believe and follow, be encouraged. As an amateur Christian - one following out of love - you are on really, really solid ground.

My challenge is to continue to be a professional clergy person, but to always maintain my amateur status as a follower of Jesus.

May you never see your amateur status as something less than it should be. May you take joy in being one who follows Jesus out of authentic love.  And may you, in that following, come to know more fully the love Jesus has for you.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Art of Overreacting

We have so many who do it for a living that I find the term "art" sadly appropriate. There are hosts of cable news shows that get paid for and draw quite an audience to their overreactions. They invite overreacting pundits to appear on their show to either agree with, or loudly and rudely disagree with some other overreacting pundit.

Valid criticism aside, we saw a lot of overreacting during the Bush administration and now we are seeing it again with Obama. Most recent is the issue; should the President of the United States be "allowed" to speak to school children by way of video broadcast. To some, this is evidently a great horror.

Now I get the parent or teacher who says that they should have the opportunity to preview any content put before students. But we are talking the President here. We are not talking about Rush Limbaugh or his alternate universe twin, Keith Olbermann speaking to our kids.

The overreaction is almost comical. People in complete ideological agreement with each other and against the President are calling him a Nazi and a socialist. That's like saying he is a member of two opposing street gangs. I guess rhetoric is more important than truth in the art of overreacting.

Let me offer a little pastoral counsel here. Lighten up. If he gives a highly partisan speech, he will be skewered in the press for doing so, and his speech will have the opposite of what one might speculate was his desired result. He is the President for crying out loud. If he wants to talk to school kids, he can. When did we all become so fragile and easily offended by what we think might possibly, who knows, could, but might or might not not happen?

For those who don't like the President, be encouraged. Like all recent Presidents, every time he speaks, his poll numbers drop. Why? I guess ideas that don't sync up 100% with our own scare us. And fear is the key ingredient to the art of overreacting.