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I’m not voting for you

I have campaign signs for two great local candidates in my yard. I am both pleased and proud to support them.

These two candidates sought me out, told me something of the issues that they are passionate about and why they are running, and respected me enough to ask for my support.

Based on my interactions with them, I have the utmost confidence in their integrity.

This morning, however, I took the dogs out at about 7am and found signs for two additional candidates in my yard: signs for candidates who did not have permission to put them in my yard.

This really ticked me off.

Really! What kind of person doesn’t ask permission to put a sign up? What kind of candidate sneaks into your yard after you’ve gone to bed and before you wake up to use your yard for campaigning?

My first reaction (after removing the signs) was that I would like to inflict some retribution. I feel that there should be some punishment for their impertinence.

But after cooling off a bit, I realized something else: this sort of behavior does not convey the kind of qualities and characteristics I admire. Nor does it inspire me with any sort of confidence about the integrity of the candidate.

Sure, it’s possible that the people who actually put the signs in my yard weren’t the candidate themselves. Unfortunately for the candidate, their behavior reflects on the candidate, regardless.

Today, in response (and in protest) to this kind of behavior, I would like to say to the two candidates who snuck unauthorized signs in my yard last night: you lost my vote.

Standing Together In Protest

In meetings, on the phone with friends, through social media: I am in conversation with a great many folks in church leadership. Regardless of context, we always seem to end up (at some point in the conversation) talking about the future of the church – specifically, the future of mainline Protestantism.

A steady decline in membership.

Conflict over church politics.

Debates about worship style.

A love/hate relationship with technology and social media.

Tradition vs. reinterpretation.

Unity vs. purity.

Re-imagining the role of mid-level governing bodies.

Decreasing the size of the denomination’s national staff.

At every level, we seem to be clear that the picture is not all sunshine and roses.

And yet, for all our talk of re-imagining and reinterpreting, how much has really changed. Certainly, some of our church structures are not quite as rigid as they once were. But does it follow that our Christian communities have become more able to adjust to the challenges of a new millennium, or to hear and respond to the needs of new generations?

Oh, there are a very few congregations who have learned to color outside the lines … but where are the congregations who have learned to color outside the page? who are writing on the walls, for God’s sake?

Instead, we see congregations who are jumping ship and pledging their loyalties elsewhere. Or we see church leaders whose response to these disturbing trends is to hold ever-more-tightly to what is old and comfortable to them. Or we see congregations who respond to these trends with fear, which manifests itself in an attitude of unwillingness to change.

Across the Middle East, the last month has seen protesters take to the street: to gather together and march together and to stand together to demand change. They have refused to be deterred. They have refused to abandon the ship. They have refused to abandon one another, despite the differences that might threaten to divide them. They are committed to the end of the old and the beginning of something new: something so new that no one yet knows what it will be. But even the unknown character of that future does not shake their resolve.

What if the followers of Jesus came together in such a way? What if we each grabbed a blanket and a bottle of water, then gathered together (peacefully, of course) on the fly at some arranged location? Or, better yet, at hundreds or thousands of locations around the country? What if we just refused to leave until all of those who maintain the status quo were awake to our call to change? What if we used our time together to tell stories and sing songs and build networks and form ideas and dream dreams and see visions? What if our gatherings signaled something so extraordinary, that we had the whole world watching, just to see what kind of change we would evoke?

Of course, we do have gatherings in thousands of locations around the country. We have them every week. It’s too bad their character is not more revolutionary. Not with the aim of toppling governments and promoting anarchy; rather, with the aim of helping us to shed our Pharisaic hold on the status quo.

As one who plans worship, as one who proclaims the Word, as one who is called to lead by example, as one who is tasked with leadership at both the local and regional levels of church structure … I recognize that I am one of the ones who hold fast to the old ways.

The old ways are comfortable. The old ways take less time. The old ways require less creativity. And some weeks, I feel as though I have limited quantities of both time and creativity.

Isn’t it time that we remember that we follow a revolutionary Lord, who challenged the Temple leadership and criticized the religious regime and was more interested in inviting people into an abundant relationship with God rather than making them “comfortable”?


Movie Madness

When it comes to books, movies, or even television, I love a good story. I love to open myself up to the author or filmmaker as they tell me a story. To be completely honest, it doesn’t even have to be a great story or be particularly well-told. I simply love stories.

I feel strongly that the least amount of respect that a story and a storyteller deserve is to give them the courtesy of allowing the storyteller to present the story in whatever way they have seen fit to present it. All of that is to say: I don’t read the last chapter of a book before the rest and I do not like to watch a movie if I have missed the beginning of it.

As my friend, I would appreciate it if you would not force me to politely watch half an hour of the middle of a movie that I have not seen yet, just because you’ve run across it while you’re flipping through channels and you believe it’s a shame that I’ve never seen it.

I know myself well enough to know that I won’t enjoy watching this out-of-sequence segment (especially with your commentary that is intended to fill me in on the parts that I haven’t seen so that I will understand the parts that I’m watching). And when I do watch the whole movie, my experience will have been diminished by my inability to get lost in the story as it is told because of my previous exposure to parts of the story that I do not yet fully understand in their own context.

I do not doubt that I will enjoy the movie. I trust your opinion that it is a shame that I have not yet seen it. And if you, who have already seen it, would like to watch it again, I will be most happy to excuse myself to go into the next room and read a book (from the beginning).


Cellphone Manifesto

I love my cellphone.

And I love that it allows me to connect with people by voice, text, picture, email or social media at any time that I deem it necessary, pertinent or pleasurable.

However, there are few things that I wish everyone knew. Well, I guess I should say that there are a few things that I wish everyone who had my cellphone number knew.

First: sometimes, I don’t answer.

If I am on the other line, or having a face-to-face conversation, or in an area with sketchy cellphone service, or in the grocery checkout line, or spending quality time with my nephew, or in a meeting, or spending time in prayer … then I do not answer my cellphone.

I do not mean for this to frustrate you or offend you. I do not look at the caller ID and decide that I don’t want to talk to you. I just feel that there are certain times in life when it is rude to be distracted by a device that draws your attention away from the people you are with at the time.

Second: sometimes when I can’t answer the phone, I CAN manage to sneak a quick glance at a text message.

I do not believe that text messages should replace personal interaction, but a text message can tell me whether your call is urgent (which means I need to leave the meeting or the checkout line and call you back right away) or whether you just need a quick piece of information (which I could send to you, without leaving the meeting or the checkout line to call you back) or whether there is an impending natural disaster of which I need to be immediately aware.

Finally: in any given day, week or month, I am connected and available  – often through my various technological devices (phone, computer, etc) for a good percentage of the time. But in a world filled with twenty-four-hour stores and around-the-clock news networks and an internet that never sleeps, I feel very strongly that each of us should be intentional about finding time – every single day – to unplug, to slow our pace, to attend to the needs of our souls.

Of course, it will mean that we’ll sometimes be unavailable when people call or text or email. But if we’re always running … how will we ever recharge our batteries?


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