Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

So Many Colors . . .

Both the wife and I are pastors.  We are pastors in a denomination that believes and preaches diversity . . . the need for congregations to be diverse.  Both of us would be quick to admit that since we entered the ministry over thirty years ago, our denomination has done a remarkable job at becoming more diverse . . . or at least attempting to be diverse.  We recently were having a conversation about how churches have preached and begun to embrace diversity.  We remarked at how much the “church” has shifted in welcoming people of different colors, races, cultures, and sexualities into the fellowship.  We nearly broke our arm patting ourselves on the back at the success we have been a part of . . . and, it is true . . . our denomination has become more diverse . . . after all, a lot of our congregations in the denomination have an unofficial motto of “all are welcome.”

At least on the surface it appears that we are beginning to get this diversity thing down; but, I am not too sure.

On the surface I think that we are trying really hard to accept people who are different from us . . . different in the way that they look, different in the culture they come from, different in the way dress, different in the way that they express their sexuality . . . it is a form of acceptance of differences, but in the end, I think that we—the “church”—are still missing the boat.  I don’t think we are as diverse as we might look. Yes, the “church” has begun to remove the physical barriers that separate us . . . color, race, culture, and sexuality . . . but, the reality is that the congregations we worship in are not as diverse as we think they are.  They may look diverse, but when it comes to living one’s faith . . . well, I think that most congregations are still pretty homogenous.  We may look different, but we think a lot alike when it comes to our faith.  When it comes to congregational theology, we are not too diverse.

The bottom line in life is that people are different.  People look different.  People also think differently . . . primarily because of the same reasons we have those difference in visual and physical diversity . . . we are raised differently . . . live in different cultures . . . so, why wouldn’t we think differently?  Yet, I have rarely encountered a congregation that was not pretty homogenous when it came to their faith and theology.  Even more eye-opening was that undercurrent that expected people to believe and think in the same way.  I say “undercurrent” because it is not consciously expressed, but it is there none the less . . . present in non-verbal cues . . . present in the silence.  I think that churches and congregations have learned to accept those who look and act differently, but struggle with those who think differently. 

Thinking differently . . . believing differently . . . it is all a part of being diverse.  Yet, I think that the “church” fails at this level of diversity . . . fails to the point that it is killing the “church”.

It is sad when the diversity of thought dies.  Many years ago, singer/songwriter Harry Chapin sang to this idea in a song titled Flowers are Red.  In this song a young child is coloring in his kindergarten class . . . coloring away and using every crayon color in the box . . . colors everywhere!  The problem was that it was not time for art . . . after being reprimanded the teacher told him he was wrong in his coloring:

She said, "It's not the time for art young man
And anyway flowers are green and red"

"There's a time for everything young saw
And a way it should be done
You've got to show concern for everyone else
For you're not the only one"

And she said, "Flowers are red young man
And green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than they way they always have been seen"

Of course the child disagreed:

But the little boy said
"There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in the flower and I see every one"

Being a child . . . well, the child bends to the teacher’s way of thinking.  Bends so that he can fit into and be a part of the class . . . to avoid being lonely and left out.

Eventually the child moves to another town . . . begins a new school.  At the new school the teacher is different . . . tells the children to color away . . . use every color; but the child cannot do it . . . he replies:

"Flowers are red, and green leaves are green
There's no need to see flowers any other way
Than the way they always have been seen"

I think that there are many who have grace the doors of many churches and congregations to experience the same sort of reception to their coloring outside of the lines . . . of considering all the colors of the rainbow . . . of thinking for themselves.  I think that they are the ones out there identifying themselves as the “spiritual but not religious” . . . those on the outside longing for the fellowship of God’s family, but finding no way to be welcomed because they think differently . . . think outside of the homogenous boundaries found in most churches and congregations.  And, that is where I think that the “church” is failing the diversity test . . . failing it miserably.

Oh, we give it a lot of lip service . . . but, we fail.

If we are going to truly be the family of God . . . we have got to embrace diversity completely . . . we have to accept it all . . . not only the way that people look and act, but also the way that they think.  It is one thing to say that all people are welcome at the table for the meal, but it takes a little more effort to want to sit at the table and actually relation to one another . . . to talk . . . to dialogue . . . to learn and grow . . . to come into conversation . . . to hear.  It is to want the best for one another . . . isn’t that what love is all about?  Wanting the best for the other?

Over the years, as a pastor, I have come to realize that my role in the process of faith is not to try and sale people a “package” . . . a “one size fits all” package; but, it is to assist people in discovering their own relationship with the God who created and loves them for who they are.  My role is to be a companion on the journey, not the trail boss.  Because of that I ask more questions than give answers . . . I discuss more than act definitive . . . enter into conversation.  I have found that it is in the conversation that the answers are discovered . . . not for me, but for others.  As a pastor it is arrogant to think that I have all the answers and the only way.  Hey, there are so many colors in the rainbow and I want to discover every one.  Pastors should be open to the Spirit in its many forms and shapes and movements.  Pastor should learn to accept diversity not only in the way that people look and act, but also in the way that they think.

I am sure that to some this sounds like blasphemy . . . but, is it?  Or is it just another way of thinking?  Is it diversity?

Someone once said that “united we stand, divided we fall.”  The whole story of God is one towards restoring the family . . . of bringing all of creation back into relationship with God and one another . . . of accepting who we are in the face of God and one another . . . of being that diverse gift of life God meant us to be . . . of being family.  There are so many colors . . . shouldn’t we want to experience and know every one?  There will be no Kingdom of God until we can truly embrace diversity in its wholeness . . . in its holiness.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Even Introverts Gotta Play

My introversion kicked in today at work . . . I had had enough.  It was time to drop out.  I have been working non-stop for the past four weeks at both of my jobs . . . every single day for the past month . . . and, unfortunately, I still have another two weeks to go before I might get a whole day in which I am not doing one of my two jobs.  Both my jobs involve interacting and being present to PEOPLE.  People drain introverts . . . and, around 11:00AM this morning, I had had enough.  My body started to shut down.  My mind was becoming muddled and muddied.  I was tired . . . worn out . . . at the end of my rope.  So, I took the afternoon off . . . a small reprieve before finishing this marathon of extraversion that started a month ago and will end in another two weeks.

I realize that most of you who are extraverts won’t understand this, but that is one of the major differences between extraverts and introverts.  Extraverts are energized by people . . . introverts are drained.  It is not that we introverts dislike people, it is that we just prefer and need our alone time.  That is where we introverts get our energy . . . that is where we find our groove . . . that is where we find what we really love doing.  It is just the way we are wired.  Unfortunately, it has been a long, long time since I have had my “alone” time.

I was reminded of this in an article that appeared in the “lifestyle” section of MSN.com talking about 22 Fun Activities for Introverts.  I’m kind of a sucker when it comes to articles about introversion . . . especially when it is something that might be helpful; so, I read the article.  True to its title the article (by an introvert I am assuming) listed 22 activities that introverts would probably enjoy.  Of the 22 activities, I am solidly embedded into six of them: photography; writing; solitary outdoor activities (hiking, bird watching, etc.); reading; traveling alone; and, when I was more physically active—running.  These are six things that I enjoy doing alone . . . doing by myself.  Of the 22 suggested activities, I am involved in approximately 25 percent of them.  The others I had a little more difficulty with.

Now, keep in mind, these are activities to be done alone . . . by one’s self.  The 16 activities I do not do:

  • ·      --Listening to podcasts.  I have listened to podcasts, but I have not made it a regular part of my “alone” . . . probably because I feel as if they are a lot like a telephone call or a one-sided conversation.  I have a good friend in Michigan who loves podcasts and is a BIG introvert.

  • ·        Get artsy . . . draw, paint, and so forth.  The wife got all the artistic skills in the family . . . I mainly draw conclusions and paint myself into corners.  Not much “artsy” in my bones or DNA.

  • ·        Learn to play a musical instrument . . . if it is not the “play” button to my Zune, it ain’t going to happen.  I have attempted to learn musical instruments in the past, but I have no sense of rhythm and a person has to have rhythm to play an instrument.  I admire those who can play instruments.

  • ·        Cook or bake . . . I can do both . . . fairly well; but, cooking and baking is not something I find relaxing or entertaining . . . it is something I do out of necessity and survival.  If something happened to the wife, I will continue to exist on something more than cereal.

  • ·        Create a YouTube channel . . . actually I have one.  I created it when I needed a place to place a few Carol King videos I recorded in Missoula in order to put them on my Facebook page.  This one intrigues me, and I have often contemplated actually doing this or podcasts . . . but, that is what we introverts do . . . we contemplate these things for a long, long time before jumping in with two feet.

  • ·        Puzzles . . . do puzzles the writer suggested.  I am lousy at puzzles.  I remember the day I was really proud of myself when I finally completed a puzzle in about six months.  I was beside myself with pride at my accomplishment.  When the wife asked me what I was so happy about, I explained that I had finished the puzzle in less than six months . . . the box said three to six years.  She let me down softly.

  • ·        Take an online class.  Not the way that I like to learn.

  • ·        Learn to knit . . . as long as there are stores where I can buy my clothes, I will never ever learn to knit . . . I’d probably poke my eye out with one of those needles.

  • ·        Play games . . . primarily video games.  Nope.  Not happening.  Not happening because I believe that if humans created the game, then humans should be able to kick the game's butt.  I got tired of getting my butt kicked.  The only game I play—by myself—is solitaire on the computer when I get really, really bored.  I have play it 1,365 times . . . I have won four percent of the time . . . this is why I do not play games.  I am a poor loser when I am playing by myself.

  • ·        Garden . . . ha!  This has always been a “family” activity that becomes a “John” activity . . . I do the weeding, I do the cleaning . . . I do it all.  It is not pleasing . . . it is work.

  • ·        Watch movies . . . I used to do this, but just haven’t been motivated to do it even though I probably have over 2,000 movies sitting in the closet from those years I spent the weekends away from the family with no cable TV.  Now, if I start to watch a movie, I catch myself sleeping before it even gets to the middle.  Has nothing to do with being an introvert . . . I am getting old.

  • ·        Meditate . . . nope, not me.

  • ·        Get handy and fix things . . . hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . . again, not me.  I am better at breaking things than fixing them.

  • ·        Volunteer with animals . . . I love animals, but I already have enough pets in my life . . . I’ll give my loving whenever I’m around dogs and cats, but I don’t want to spend my spare time taking care of other people’s pets.  I pick up enough poop in my own yard.

  • ·        Learn a new language . . . shoot, I need to learn the one I speak.

  • ·        Build models . . . seems a little ridiculous to spend time putting together a plastic model, sit it on a shelf and let it collect dust . . . then I have to dust . . . sounds like work.  Now, if it is to build models like Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Gisele Bundchen, or Heidi Klum . . . well, they can hang out on my shelves any time they want.  That is the type of modeling I admire . . . but, if two are involved is it really “alone” time?

I might get into the areas of podcasts and YouTube . . . not to listen and watch . . . but to put out there for others to listen and watch.  I guess I have to think about whether or not I have something to say or video worth other people’s time.  Plus, I do not find much rejuvenation in many of those activities . . . lots of work and frustration.  Now, the six things that I do . . . well, those are a whole other ball game.

Lately, photography is my number one choice.  I love taking pictures . . . lots of pictures.  You have to take lots of pictures to get a good picture.  I always tell folks that you have to take hundreds of pictures to get one good picture.  I take my camera most of the places I go when I am not working.  I believe in attempting to tell a story with pictures.  Right now my primary picture taking involves birds and my grandchildren.  I use Facebook as the place to share my photos . . . I also post my bird pictures at http://revjmk.tumblr.com/. 
Writing . . . well, you are reading my writing.  I also write a weekly column and newsletter for the congregation I serve . . . http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=70af6bc8e224ee30770a5ebd5&id=713e91220e&e.  I also write a weekly sermon . . . http://homileticdump.blogspot.com/2015/11/take-away-stones-john-1132-45.html. And, I blog.  I think the writer got that one right.

I like to do outdoor activities.  I enjoy going on hikes . . . even with others even though I lag behind or get way out in front . . . but, I enjoy these by myself.  The problem is that the wife does not like me hiking by myself.  I enjoy critter creeping and taking trips by myself.  I just like these by myself.

Reading . . . I have always loved to read.  As a kid I was one of those who read under the covers with a flashlight.  Still love to read . . . read every night before I go to bed.  Reading leads to better writing.  There are tons of books lying around the house . . . I appreciate books.

I guess I appreciate articles written by those who think that they are helping out introverts.  The author of the MSN.com article assumed that he or she is helping us introverts out, but I think it is a little overwhelming the number of suggestions.  I will admit that I have dabbled in a few of them, but at my age I think I have found those areas that bring me the most satisfaction and energize me the most.  It really doesn’t matter because most introverts will figure it out on their own . . . after all, it is a personal, individual thing.  Again, something that extraverts don’t understand.

Which brings me back to the fact that I am even writing about this . . . as an introvert I needed to get off by myself, spend a little time alone, and play.  Play with words.  Play with ideas.  All by myself.  Even alone, we introverts know how to entertain ourselves.  We are not bored.  We are not lonely.  We are not shy.  We are not weird (though others might think we are).  No, we are just introverts.  Even introverts need time to play . . . even if it is playing by themselves.

Trust me . . . you will like us better if you just let us play by ourselves.  Everyone will be happy.  It is amazing how much better I feel . . . I really needed this time.