Yesterday I went to the Secretary of State’s office and picked up a handicapped parking placard. It’s incredible how difficult the process can be. Not in terms of complexity, just that both times I have had to get one of these I’ve had to endure lectures from doctors (and others) about not abusing it, only using when I really need it, that just having MS isn’t good enough reason, etc.
As if I would have any interest in parking in a handicapped spot when I’m healthy enough to walk.
Hell, when I can make the walk easily, or even passably, not parking in one of those spots is one of the most exciting parts of my day. Just try to get me to use that pass on days I don’t need it.
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When I was younger, I had a lot of answers. Now I’m older, and I have a lot of questions. The few things I feel like I know, I know with more confidence than before. Here are things I know from experiences I have had that have radically changed my view of God over the years — my real game-changers.
Most people who get diagnosed with terminal cancer are almost certainly going to die.
No matter how much you pray.
If you’re not aware of this on some level, I’m so, so sorry to bear the bad news. But it’s critical that you know this.
There will be exceptions, of course, and I’ll pray as hard as anyone, but if your theology depends on God healing some particular person, this is probably going to get harder.
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One of the things I have learned is that I have nothing to protect. Everything in me I seek to protect and defend is false anyway. My ego, my sensitivities, my vanity, my guilt and regrets — none of it is going to last. It’s all on the way out. Shining the light on it helps it die the death it deserves.
I have also learned that those who ask receive. If I want grace, I have to ask for it. If I want people to love me and forgive me and extend grace to me, I have to remind them regularly that I am like them — a person who makes mistakes and is hurting and afraid and needs love. Wow, do I hate admitting this about myself.
But because all of these things are true of all of us, and we’re scared to death of those dark realities, most of the time we invest in covering it all up. Ironically, this leaves us open to judgment from others as the wall we build around ourselves keeps them from seeing us as human in the same way they are.
We reach past that by opening up those wounds so others can see them. As we do that, we minister to them (serve them) by affirming they are not alone in their hurt and suffering and woundedness.
We all need grace. I try to extend mine to everyone at all times. Here are some reasons why I need yours.
I’m a flawed person.
I am a flawed pastor, flawed teacher, flawed therapist, flawed husband and father. As charming and charismatic as I have learned to be when I’m “on stage” in some way (by which I mean simply being looked up to in one of my roles as pastor/teacher/therapist), I can be equally cold and aloof when the spotlight goes off.
It’s not because I don’t genuinely love people. I love you more than I can say and everything I say in all of my roles is 100% true.
It’s just that I’m tired.
I love people, but you wear me out sometimes.
It’s not your fault, it’s just my own limitation.
If you haven’t heard that from a leader before, it’s probably just because I’m the only one stupid enough to write it down.
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Anyone who has ever painted or drawn knows the experience of dropping out of the world of words and time. A state of reverie takes over; there is no sensation of the passing of hours. The voice inside our head that allows us to talk to ourselves falls silent, and there is only color, form, texture and the way things flow together.
There is a theory to explain this. Language is centered on the left side of the brain. Art lives on the right side. You can’t draw a thing as long as you’re thinking about it in words. That’s why artists are inarticulate about their work, and why it is naive to ask them, “What were you thinking about when you did this?” They have given it less thought than you have.