Monday, November 28, 2005


It was a big crowd. They stood there for so long, not talking, barely wanting to even make eye contact with one another, for fear of instigating a conversation they just weren’t ready for. It was one thing to watch a man, a human being, drift up into the sky like a leaf caught in a dust devil, but then to have those two strangers, in clean white robes, show up and then disappear so abruptly; it was way more than the mind could process quickly.

Finally, one person broke the trance and said aloud, “What just happened here?”
“Seriously, what does this mean?” the person prodded.
“I don’t know, but we need to find out.” Someone quietly replied.

I’m part of this group of people. I may be two thousand years removed from the actual incidents, but I identify with this group of questioners. Two thousand years ago a Jewish Rabbi roamed around Palestine, and He changed everything, with His teaching, His miracles, His death and His resurrection. I am part of those people who are left in His wake, asking “What does this mean?”

I realize that for way too long, I saw following Jesus as an established concept; something already understood and catalogued by those who went before us. I saw the Christian faith as a belief system that had already been thought out, and saw my role as a leader in the church as a guardian of the established concept, and as a teacher who promoted the tenants of what was accepted and understood.

I’ve known inherently that the structure that surrounded the Christian faith in America had gone terribly stupid, and I’ve been groping around for the last 15 years for a new understanding of church, and seeking an honest expression of it in my own experience.

But lately, something else has been shifting and changing in me. I know a new excitement and wonder in my relationship with Jesus. I have a better (or at least different) view of who I am as a follower of Christ.
I finally joined the journey in earnest. I’m not an expositor of known truth; I’m an explorer of an ever-evolving landscape. I’m on a journey to understand, as best I can, what it means that Jesus lived and taught and died and lived again. What it means to me…to us, right here, right now.

I’m a kid again. Everything is new. It’s like the excitement of new love. It stirs my stomach and scares me at the same time.

I’m putting on my wrestling shoes and meeting God by the Jordan. I hope I come out like Jacob, with a defining limp as my reward.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Please Don't Feed

A local restaurant sent me a small business sized card in the mail. It was a card that, when presented at the restaurant would provide me and my wife with a free meal. You may be wondering why they sent this card to me. I’ll tell you. I’m a pastor. This restaurant, which is actually part of a chain, has invited all the pastors of our county to come and have a feed on them.
That’s downright nice of them.

Someone at that restaurant got religion, is all I can figure. No…that sounds mean…I don’t mean that, uh…meanly. It just struck me as odd is all. It’s hard not to feel edgy when offered something like this. What’s behind this? Is it a marketing technique to get church goers into their restaurant? Maybe there is a genuine desire to give back to the church from a guy in charge who has been blessed by God?

I don’t know…and I really don’t think it’s my place to try and second guess their motives…it’s a very nice offer and I bowed my head in gratitude when I looked at the letter it came with.

I probably won’t use it. I’ll get back with you if I change my mind. How I feel right now, though, it’s doubtful. This Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. I’ve been working with our media dude this last week to put together a movie that will help us focus our thoughts and prayers on their behalf.
There’s a picture we’ve included in the movie of a Vietnamese pastor who had just been beaten…his eyes swollen and bleeding, his shoulders hunched. His gaunt and downcast face still roams my mind. He took this beating because he’s a pastor.

No…they sent this card to me at the wrong time. Right now, and I’ll freely admit it, I’m way too ashamed of being an American pastor.
I went to a ministerial meeting last week, and my friend Fuego (not his real name…but a pseudonym that protects Dustin’s anonymity in case he doesn’t want me sharing this publicly) pointed out the accumulated lardage of that group of men. I looked down at my own widening girth and said “Man…we gotta’ lose weight.”
“Dude, we look like body-builders next to them!” was his retort.
I think he was wrong, but it’s a vignette that played through my head as I looked at that card the restaurant sent me.
I can’t seem to shake the glaring contrast. In Viet Nam, there are pastors who get beaten for their work. In America, we get offered free food. All you can eat.

I don’t believe pastors in America should be given free lunches. I really don’t think we’ve earned it. We deserve a serious butt-kicking as far as I can tell. Honestly, what I really wish this restaurant would do is take all the money they will lose in fried chicken alone, as the pastors of our county descend on their buffet, and send it to a few needy souls in persecuted lands.

Then again…why corrupt a pure Christianity like that?