Monday, August 23, 2010

There have been times when I have wanted to run away. More specifically, I have wanted to run away from my job. And during those dark days, when I could see nothing but gloom and struggle, I wrote the novel to go along with the desire.

Many pastors, and others in compassion related work, have shared with me their desires to run, or the results of when they finally did. Most left their "jobs," but several, left their spouse as well. This is a story line in my book, The Runaway Pastor.

Many pastors who have "run" tell me later, that if they could only have had some time--the chance to step away and breath and feel, they believe they would have stayed in their ministry. And for some of them, they feel they might still be living with their spouse and their children. But the opportunity was not available. With most of them, there is substantial melancholy about their new life direction. "Life is easier," they say "I don't think I would have lasted much longer...but sometimes I wonder about what might have been had I been able to step away for a while, with the hopes of staying in." By the end of their speaking, their eyes are gazing far away, to some world that never was.

I am writing to share good news. Thanks to the kindness of the gracious congregation I pastor, and to a Clergy Renewal Grant from the Lilly Endowment, I have been given the opportunity to step away. Beginning this Sunday, and extending through mid December, I will be relieved of my duties, and I have been provided with means to attend a conference, take time away alone, then time with my family, and finally time away with my wife.

While I have not been The Runaway Pastor in reality, I now am afforded the opportunity to be the step away pastor.

Besides a sermon in Kiev, Ukraine, loving people wherever I am, and learning and networking for all I'm worth at a conference; I am not going to put many expectations on myself while I am away. But I will write. What I will write, I don't know. But if you are interested in following along--should I make it worthwhile--you will be able to track me at my new blog, Step Away Pastor. The actual address/URL is .

I'd love for you to sign on as a follower and sign-up for RS feeds. It would also be cool if you tweet or facebook, to pass these along when you read. I'm probably finished blogging on The Runaway Pastor for a while. Now, I'm being obedient to a call to be the step away pastor.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Struggling with a "Big Tent Christianity," and despairing over national division.

Last week was a synchro-blogging event for a thing called Big Tent Christianity. The idea is for Christians to come together and accept each other in a sort of "big tent" way. I got a bit cynical on one of my attempts, and sarcastic on another. Then, I was just plain defensive, trying not to offend anyone by who I let in my big tent. Finally, I just got sad and discouraged.

And my thinking went beyond the church and its tent. I despair at the division in my country, in our churches, and in seemingly every venue of human endeavor. We are thwarted from progress or from maintaining the good by the dark powers of division.

A great deal of blame goes to the media when it comes to our national bifurcation. Tension sells. And there are plenty of millionaires on TV and radio and the internet who create tension 5 days a week. In doing so, they create for themselves a very fine living...thank you very much. (I said "living," not "life.")

Saddest of all, the church and the state are tag-teaming in ways that are unbecoming to both. In the name of God, God's children are learning to rage at God's children. Hot button topics are used by left and right to polarize people--who are typically good at loving--into separate camps. Armed camps. Armed with words and threats and visceral anger.

Big tent??? I fear church people aren't even capable of loving those in their own congregational tent. Why go for a big one, when the spirit of the age--which we so gladly embrace--is the spirit of divide and conquer? It is all too common for people to judge the spiritual lives of others based upon their political opinions.

Thanks to a gracious grant and a sabbatical, I will be out of our country during the fervent peek of the approaching election cycle. What bliss. I will be seeking to live under the reign of God. People have lived under this reign for millennia. But today, many are exiting its blessings, in favor of hatred and division in the name of--and while waving the flag of--a kingdom of this world.

I am grateful for my country. I complement those who become active in the political process, so long as they follow Christ's teaching. A few beatitudes come to mind. Blessed are the peace-makers, Blessed are the meek, and blessed are the pure in heart.

As much as I love my country, I must reserve the right to love each of its citizens--no mattter their politics or religion. I must insist on this love. And I love citizens of all other nations, no matter their political, religious or ethnic persuasion. I can't help it. Sit down and look in the eyes of another human being. Hold their children in your lap. Listen to a father's dreams, or witness the twinkle in a mother's eye. Share your stories with them, and you will love matter the flag waving outside of their nation's capitol. You have to love them. It is what Jesus does.

I like big tents. There probably is one. I just despair of finding enough people willing to get along to populate it.

Check out Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 and choose a kingdom.