Monthly Archives: July 2012

Where is the Love?

I am not a conservative or a liberal – as they are portrayed by the other side.  Most people aren’t.  I know that good, loving people can consider the same issue, read the same Bible, pray to the same God, worship in the same pew, and come to very different conclusions.  Some of the most valuable lessons about God and Christ have been taught to me by people that would consider themselves liberal and conservative.  I’ve been taught about grace, and shown unconditional love by people from across the spectrum.  Differing political opinions do not have to be the end of a loving relationship.  If they are, then we’re all in more trouble than I thought.

The current political climate is a difficult one to manage.  I have some strong feelings, and I’m sure you do to.  I have come to my conclusions through prayer, Bible study, reading other sources, examining the current culture, talking to friends, listening to speeches, and a variety of other ways.  I try to listen to those with whom I disagree, but like most people I probably go to my tried-and-true comfortable sources more often than not.  I have changed my mind over the years.  I have cast ballots that I now regret.  My faith informs everything I do, including how I vote.  It must also include how I engage with those with whom I disagree.

I try to focus not on the areas in which I disagree with others, but seek to strengthen the places of contact.  I try to focus on those things which we can agree, and see where it goes from there.  I think an important starting point is here: Acknowledge that the world is broken and in need of healing, so let’s love each other and leave room for disagreement.

I guess that is the question with which I struggle.  Can we love each other and leave room for disagreement?  And a second question that seems to be of particular importance to our churches.  Can we disagree and still work together for the Kingdom?

My answer to these questions is “Yes, and Yes.”  But it’s not easy.  How do we go about loving each other in the midst of disagreement?

Remember that all people are created in the image of God.  Every person is of sacred worth, and is loved by God.  Even if they are driving you nuts.  Even if you think that person is a conceited, ignorant, know-it-all.  That person is loved by God.

Remember that all people are flawed.  And so am I.  I am not the final authority.  I’m just a guy with a wordpress account.

Consider the last time you  changed your mind.  Someone in one of my Bible studies brought this point up.  When was the last time you changed your mind?  If it has been awhile, then ask yourself why that is.  I’m also guessing that you didn’t change your mind because of a well constructed 140 character tweet, or a bitingly funny picture with words on it.

Be willing to concede that the Bible says a lot of things, and also very little.  The Bible should be the primary guide to discernment for Christians.  According to the United Methodist Church, “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”  In other words, it is our greatest source of divine truth, but it is not the only source of truth in the world.  For most modern issues that are so divisive, it has little to say directly, but much to say indirectly.  I try to take it as a whole, living Word.  This means Bible verse wars are probably not very productive.  In depth analysis, reading, prayer, and conversation over the Scriptures can be extremely productive.

Keep your eye on the mission.  Instead of getting bogged down in particulars and pet projects, see the grander scope of what’s being done.  Part of the political disconnect is that it seems like the mission has turned into winning, when the mission should be working to make our nation stronger, more stable, and safer.  If we can start with a common interest, e.g., helping the poor, then a conversation can begin.  What is the nature of charity?  What does the Bible say about how a government should care for its people?  If we start with a common value, then the particulars of how to go about that become ways to grow, learn, and expand.

-Acknowledge that there are fundamental differences sometimes, but this can be a good thing.  In other words, we need each other.  Liberals and Conservatives and everyone in-between needs each other. We need each other to act as checks and balances.  We need conflict to generate creativity, but sometimes the conflict can rise to levels that are destructive.  Media, pundits, memes, TV commercials,and tweets like caricatures.  They like broad sweeping statements and biting sound bites.  They love gaffes – as if Mitt Romney actually believes that corporations are people, or that Barack Obama actually believes he built your small business for you.  Candidates are not sound bites.  People are not caricatures.  Values, beliefs, and principles cannot be wrapped into packages and labeled.

Can we disagree and still work for the Kingdom?  If the answer is no, then I am deeply saddened.  I pray that the answer is yes, we can work together in the midst of disagreement.

We need each other.  The body of Christ is meant to be a complex, working body.  There is room at the table for everyone.  I may be more liberal than you.  I may be more conservative than you, but I will do my best to love you.  I believe together, with the Holy Spirit, we can make a difference in this broken world.  I believe that together, in the midst of turmoil, political bantering, name-calling, and fear, we can bring people to know the good news of Jesus Christ.  We can work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

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Fat is not the opposite of thin

Left: This picture was taken in December, 2011. Right: Taken in June, 2012, immediately after finishing my first 5K.

Fat is not the opposite of thin.  At least in my way of thinking, it’s not.  When I created this blog and started calling myself The Fat Pastor, I did so with the intent of changing the name someday.  I never wanted to change the name of the blog to The Thin Pastor.

To me, fat is the opposite of fit, and fitness has little to do with the size of one’s body.  Fitness is a state of mind.  It is not about diets, weight loss, and scales.  I’ve lost about 35 pounds since February, and I celebrate that, but my celebration isn’t about the weight loss.  It is because I’ve changed my mindset.  I celebrate the lifestyle change that has taken place in my family.  All the other stuff is great.  I love the looser fitting clothes, the lower number on the scale, the lower cholesterol, and improved resting heart rate, but those things are byproducts of a more important transformation.

Fatness is a state of mind that goes beyond the shape and size of my body.  When I was fat, I didn’t care what I ate.  I made unhealthy choices at restaurants.  I ate too much at home.  I snacked when I wasn’t hungry.  I satisfied every craving.  When I was fat I slept in instead of going to the gym.  Excuses not to exercise were easy to come by.  When I was fat, I acted fat and I ate fat.

Am I still overweight? Absolutely.  I’m 6 foot 2 inches, and weight 290.  The ideal weight for my height is between 170-200.  Honestly, I cannot picture myself at 200 pounds. Am I still fat?  Sometimes.  But not nearly as fat as I was.  Now, I am able to resist foods that are empty of nutrition.  There is an open bag of Doritoes in our kitchen (a visiting friend bought it and left it there).  The life expectancy of an open bag of Doritoes last year at this time would have been about 18 hours.  It has been untouched for six days.  At restaurants I order dinner salads.  At home I cook more salmon, fewer boxed items, and rarely take seconds.   On the Fourth of July, I got up at 7 a.m. just to run a 5K.  My perfect birthday had to include a trip to the gym.

Do I still make unhealthy choices sometimes? Of course.  I have too many refills of cereal at night.  I could probably do without the handful of M&Ms with my popcorn during movies.

People have been asking me, “So are you going to change the name of your blog?”  I don’t know.  I don’t feel like it is the right time.  I have made a lot of changes, but I’m still striving to live well and do good.  Will I ever arrive, and feel the need to change the blog?  I don’t know.  I know it’s not about a number I’m trying to reach on a scale, or a time I’m trying to beat in a 5K, or a weight I’m trying to lift on the bench press.

When will I be the Fit Pastor, and not the Fat Pastor?  I’m not sure, but I like the path I’m on.  I’ll just keep taking it one step at a time, walking humbly with my God.  I love the fact that so many are on this journey with me.  I appreciate every reader, commenter, facebook “fan,” and twitter follower.

We follow a God that is in the business of transforming lives, and through those lives God transforms communities, nations, and the world.  I know that God can transform me from fat to fit.  I want to be more than a witness.  I want to be the evidence.

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Feel angry, then do something

For all those that are angered, sickened, saddened, devastated, or outraged by Freeh Report, I want to say this: Good.  Feel that.  Feel anger.  Feel sick.  Feel sad, and outraged.  Feel it all.  Shed a tear.  Punch your desk.  Do whatever you need to do to feel what you need to feel.  Then, once the emotion can settle, do something.  Do something for children.  Do something for victims.  Speak about abuse.  Talk to your children about their self-worth, and teach them to not allow anyone to violate them. Write letters to lawmakers.  Donate to local shelters.  Take all that energy that you are feeling right now and use it.

Jerry Sandusky is in jail, but there are thousands of others like him in the world.  Don’t believe the lies that predators want you to believe.  Don’t believe that it can’t happen to you.  Don’t believe that it can’t happen to your kid.  Don’t believe that no one would cover up something like that.  The Freeh Report needs to shock us into reality.  It needs to shock us out of hiding and into the light.  Sexual abuse and domestic violence cannot be a secret anymore.  So go ahead and get mad.  Call talk shows, talk to your friends, tweet, and update your status, but do not let it end there.  Educate yourself and others.  Advocate for those with no voice.  Serve in places that need caring and loving people.

We need to learn some lessons from Penn State, Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, and Tim Curley.  The Penn State Four covered up for a grown man that was raping children.  When those children needed someone to stand up and shout, “Stop!” silence was their answer.

If you are outraged, listen to that outrage.  Do not let silence be your answer.

http://www.childhelp.org/

1-800-4-A-CHILD or 1-800-422-4453

Faith in Action

P.S. I wrote this blog, entitled Paterno’s Legacy (not his eternity) in January.  At that time, a few people made comments saying that I wasn’t being fair.  I wonder what they’re thinking now.

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The workout begins when you want to quit

workout beginsYesterday was my 35th birthday.  It was important to me to get to the gym.  I’ve actually gotten to the point where going to workout is a treat, not a chore.  As I was jogging on the treadmill I set the pace to my usual 5.5 mph.  For the last few weeks I have set it at that pace for the first mile, then set it down to 3.5 for about an eighth of a mile.  Then I finish with long stretches of 5.5 with some 3.5 walking in between.

In the last month I’ve run two 5K races.  My goal at both of them was a 12 minute mile pace, and I achieved that both times.  Now I’m ready to set a new goal.  I want to jog the entire 3.1 miles.  Yesterday as I approached the completion of the first mile, I was preparing to punch the speed down to 3.5.  Then I thought of this saying.

“The workout begins when you want to quit.”

I don’t remember where I first heard that, but it struck a chord.  I realized that for me to improve, I couldn’t keep doing the same thing.  If I want to grow, I have to push through the barriers that I create.  So I kept going.  I was ready to slow down, but I didn’t.  That’s when the workout started.  That is when the growth started.  That is when getting stronger happened.

I pushed through and found myself jogging past 1.25 miles.  Then I thought about stopping.  Again, I had to keep pushing.  When I finally started walking, I had run for 2 miles.  I completed it in 22 minutes – by far my fastest pace for that distance.

A good friend and I have signed up for two more 5K races before Halloween.  I’m hoping to do at least one more.  My goal now is to run a full 5K without slowing down to walk.  The next step is making a two mile jog routine.  The next is to not let the routine be the limit.

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July 10, 2012 · 3:02 pm

The Star Wars that I used to know

I love Star Wars.  I’ve seen the original trilogy countless times – but not the original original in many years.  I bought the re-releases immediately and loved them, at first.  I loved the added details, and even some of the deleted scenes.  I thought the Jabba scene in A New Hope was weird, but I let it slide.  I missed the old celebration music at the end of Return of the Jedi, but seeing the Palpatine statue get toppled was kind of cool.  Then the more I watched, the more I felt uneasy.  Of course, the most egregious change was that Han shot first.

If you don’t know what “Han shot first” means, then you don’t truly love Star Wars.  Find someone that does and ask them, then sit back and wait for a good 15 minute rant to ensue.  I won’t go into the details, but when Lucas changed the original movie, he changed the development of one of the greatest characters in movie history.  He sterilized Han and ripped out part of the heart of the movie.

It was as if Martin Scorcese decided to remake The Godfather trilogy, and decided that Michael should have Fredo beaten up and shipped to Mexico instead of having him go fishing.

Then the next trilogy came out.  I remember leaving Phantom Menace a little perplexed.  I felt like I liked it, but again I felt uneasy.  I enjoyed the light saber battles.  I enjoyed seeing a younger Yoda, but I missed him as a puppet.  I couldn’t put my finger on just what was the problem, partly because there were so many of them.  Yes, Jar Jar was annoying.  Yes, the kid was whiny.  Yes, Darth Maul was underdeveloped and dispatched much too quickly.  Yes, the strange opening story that included trade embargoes and legal negotiations seemed disjointed.

Then I realized, it was the metachlorian.  In the original, the Force was a mysterious, spiritual experience.  “May the Force be with you,” was a spiritual salutation on par with, “Peace be with you.” If one of the characters had ever said, “And also with you,” it would have felt right. The Force was clouded in mystery, but it was attainable.  “The force is strong with this one,” referred to Luke’s eagerness, inner courage, and desire for justice.  The force was something that we could all tap into.  It was something within reach, even if it was from a galaxy far, far away.  The force was a reminder that there is something mysterious, a power that we can never truly understand.

There were theological ramifications for this.  You could put away the targeting computer, and trust in something more powerful. Even in the midst of amazing technological advances, there was something more.  The power to destroy planets was insignificant next to the power of the force.  Isn’t this the good news of the Bible, after all?

The greatest powers on earth was Egypt, but God saved the band of rebel slaves.  Then it was the Babylonians, but God was able to gather the remnant of Israel and save them.  Then it was Rome.  Rome had the power to destroy entire cities, but it was insignificant next to the power of grace. The Methodist in me screamed: “The Force is Prevenient Grace.” It is the power that flows through us all before we even realize it. The Force precedes even our undersanding. Stars Wars taught us that there was something beyond death that can be a source of hope, but it is the power of love that is truly the ultimate power of the universe.

Then in Phantom Menace, they pull out a syringe and count metachlorians?  What the hell?  Now it’s just a chemical and genetic accident?  It is something that be counted, measured, and predicted?  That’s just wrong.  It’s wrong on so many levels in so many ways.  I don’t care if it George Lucas’s movie, and he can do whatever he wants with it.  If DaVinci decided he wanted to put a big cheesy grin on Mona Lisa, he would be wrong.

So here’s a parody video.  It is really well done, and it sums up very well how I feel about Star Wars and George Lucas.

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Redesign

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything since my 5K a couple of weeks ago.  I’m in the process of rethinking this site.  When I started blogging three and a half years ago, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I knew little about tags or RSS feeds.  I wasn’t on twitter, and facebook was an interesting new fad.  As this site has grown in popularity, and as my knowledge and social media connections have grown, I feel like I’ve outgrown this old template.  Over the next few days I am hoping to redesign the site.  I’ve been thinking about what sections I want to keep, what sections I want to ditch, and what sections need to be added.

I’m also researching the costs of adding a new design, a new logo, and new domain name.  This will take some conversations and prayer with my finance department (my wife and me) as we decide how we can invest more into this ministry. My hope is that by the end of the month, there will be a new, streamlined, more professional Fat Pastor site.  Thanks for following my journey to live well and do good in the world.

If you’re interested in investing in this ministry, please let me know in the comments section.  You don’t have to leave your actual name, but you do need to enter your email address so I can get back to you in a more private way. )

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