Monday, May 23, 2011

Blood Letting

“This geek isn’t going to fit in,” one of the influential leaders said about me before I ever moved in here.

By geek, they mean I’m not athletic and I don’t care about sports. I think it also means that I like to read and enjoy good conversation.

He was right. I didn’t fit in. 

I’m used to that. We ministers really are a strange breed, especially in blue collar areas where one’s worth is measured by how well he can raise livestock or drive a tractor.

My children were criticized for not fitting in well in this community. The implication is that there is something odd about them.

The last preacher’s kids fit in much more easily. Of course one of them narrowly avoided jail by making a deal with the DA to testify against his friend. And the others knew how to have a good time. So of course, they're missed.

But my children didn’t make the cut. Never mind that they’ve made A's in all subjects every semester they’ve been here. Never mind their achievements in art and music, as well as academia. Never mind that my older son has one of the school’s highest ACT scores ever. Never mind that they are articulate, kind, and have never once been in trouble at school. 

The people don’t like my wife either. Like the kids, she’s too quiet, and she makes others feel uncomfortable. I guess it doesn’t help that she’s breathtakingly beautiful. I told one of the leaders that I was baffled by the criticism because my wife has been quite popular in other churches. 

The leader tried to encourage me. “I’m sure she’ll be popular here one day, if she keeps trying.”

I was taken aback at what he implied. Later, after the moment was past and I was by myself I figured out what I wanted to say:  “You don’t understand. It’s not that she isn’t measuring up. It’s THIS CHURCH that isn’t measuring up. It is THIS CHURCH that has failed.  It’s THIS CHURCH that needs to do better.

I can look back and see where I would have done some things differently—that’s a normal part of evaluating. I can even see where there could have been some misunderstanding and I would have appreciated the opportunity to clear things up. 

But I didn't make many wrong moves. I've done this work enough to know that I'm better than average at it.  

And I worked hard to make things better for them. I visited them in the hospital. I comforted them at funerals. I taught and loved their children—I still love their children.

I don’t know how to end this post. I don’t know how I feel. I do know that we’re moving in two weeks and if I could pack up and leave tonight, I would.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I'm Not Wyatt Earp

I'll tell you what nudged my thoughts in last night's post.

I was watching Tombstone, the story of Wyatt Earp. They'd killed one brother and maimed another. He rode out of town with his family as if he'd been completely beaten. But as soon as his family was safe he went back to defeat them with his friend Doc Holliday.

I can relate.

I have felt like a sheriff more than once. I've faced mean and occasionally dangerous people before. And I've had friends I loved dearly who were every bit as drunk and deadly as Doc.

Okay, there are some differences, too. This isn't the old West. I'm not tall, slim, and tough. I don't ride a horse (a motorcycle instead). I carry a Bible, not a six gun (I can shoot one though). And I don't kill people. In fact, to the best of my limited ability I try to honor Jesus by blessing my enemies (but I'm reaching my limit on that one).

But other than that, I'm exactly like Wyatt Earp. 

Well, okay not exactly like him. 

Okay, not like him at all.

I still don't like walking away without having gotten the job done.

On the other hand, I can learn to live with it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sore Loser

It’s working out.

My reputation is intact. No one in the denomination believes the unfair criticism people leveled at me. I’m going to a better church that’s eager for me to come. The schools will be good for my children. My wife likes our new home which will be nicer than anything we’ve lived in before.

I’m going on to better things.

They will still have each other.

I win.

And yet it galls me something fierce to walk away without having gotten the job done.

So if I could stay, would I?

Hell no.  

But I hate losing.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A New Set of Problems

So there's this old lady at the new church I'll be moving to. They're blaming her for everything and she probably deserves some of the credit for their problems.  

She talks too much and too loud and most of what comes out of her mouth are complaints. 

I saw her in action the first time I visited these people. She's an  old woman full of anxiety and spare time that she spends gossiping on the phone.  But she's no threat. The day I can't handle that old biddy I'll hang up my robes, retire and go fishing.  

Wait, don't tempt me.

No, she's the identified patient in this little crazy family. The scapegoat. As usual, their problems are more systemic with a strong inclination toward passive aggressiveness.  She's a hitman that they point at anyone they don't like.  

They didn't like the last guy.

But they're gonna like me. And she's gonna adore me.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Sex Talk

It was very quiet on the day I preached on moral responsibility concerning human sexuality. It wasn’t just quiet, it was still. And tense. And it made me that way, too.

Now I have to say, I thought I was pretty damn graceful in my phrasing. I was not graphic by any means. It's hard not to trip over a double entendre that would cause folks to titter, but I managed. And I doubt I came off sounding like a prude, which is good, because generally, I'm all for sex.  It's one of my favorite things.

Some appreciated the sermon. Others didn't.

Generally, we’re pretty freewheeling about the subject of sex our culture. It’s in our jokes, our gossip, entertainment, literature, and news. If it’s the least bit funny, and often when it’s not, we’ll laugh raucously.

But let the preacher talk about it from the pulpit and all the humor, as well as the oxygen, is sucked out of the room.

It happens when we talk about money, too. If the minister gives one measly sermon on tithing, someone will skulk out the door and huff about how preachers only want money.

If I can’t talk about sex or money, that leaves politics, but the law says I can’t address that (which is okay by me).

“Just preach from the Bible preacher.”

That’s what I was doing, although I toned it down considerably. The Bible has so much to say about sex that you could give it an "R" rating.

“Preach about holy living.”

That’s what I was doing.

“Preach about spirituality.”

That’s what I was doing.

Well just don’t make us uncomfortable. Preach things that make us feel good. We want it to be fun. Don’t make us feel guilty. Tell us funny stories instead. Make it exciting. And don’t take too long.