Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

Archive for April, 2016

The Best Place There Is

Posted by flyingbk on 04/29/2016

Note: This excerpt is from a sermon I preached recently from Daniel 6. The main focus was on the ironies of godly character. Here is the third and final one; I’ve edited it so that it reads better.

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The best place isn’t where we think it is. Since I’m a nerd, allow me to get a little nerdy on us. My favorite vocabulary word is juxtaposition (it just rolls off your tongue). Juxtaposition is when you put two things side by side for the purposes of making a comparison. What a word. What a great word.

I actually was talking on the phone with a friend (a fellow writer) on Friday. I used that word, paused, and said, “What a word.” And now, some of you are like, what a nerd!

Let’s look at a few verses in Daniel and let’s look for the juxtaposition (all verses from the ESV):

 

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.
19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?

Do you see it? On one hand, you have the most powerful man in the world. King Dariusi is living in the the best place in the world, his royal palace. Imagine the food that was served, imagine the entertainment provided, imagine all the interior decorating, imagine how comfortable his bed must be (featuring the finest linens and perfectly made up for him). Just paradise, every single day, every single night.

On the other hand, you have Daniel entering the lions’ den. This den is an underground pit sealed from above with a stone. I venture to say that this was the opposite of the king’s residence. No good food: they actually had a hole at the top to just drop food into the pit. No entertainment: except looking at how majestic the lions are before they eat you. No interior decorating, no linens, no bed.

Just the hard ground. The opposite of paradise.

And yet, what do we see? Who is the distressed one? Who is the angsty one? Who is the anguished one? The king couldn’t eat that night. He fasted. He couldn’t sleep that night despite how comfortable his bed was. He refused his usual entertainment.

At the break of dawn, he frantically runs to the lions’ den. He has zero peace of mind, he’s freaking out- as verse 20 says, he cried out in a tone of anguish- that word for anguish here means deep sadness- like you’re bracing yourself for the absolute worst news. You’re that scared, you’re that anxious.

How do you think Daniel’s doing?

I bet he slept really well. One preacher joked that he used one lion as a soft pillow and another lion’s mane as a blanket. That might’ve been comfortable.

Daniel was in perfect peace. Daniel was in a good place: no angst, no anguish, no stress.

The grand irony of this passage is that Daniel, in the underground den of lions, is in a much better place than the king, who is in the royal palace. The king has all the power and wealth you could dream of, while Daniel is surrounded by wild animals.

People, don’t let your worldly circumstances rule of you. If you are in a place of prayer, and therefore growing in character, living a life that honors God, nothing will shake you. You can be in that proverbial lions’ den, and you’re good.

We are in the best place we can be when we’re trusting God. We are in the best place we can possibly be when we’re honoring God. After Daniel is proven alive and speaks to the king, here’s what verse 23 says: Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. (emphasis mine)

There it is. But again, please take note: He was in a great place even before he got rescued. That was the rescue before the rescue. This place of godly character- that’s the place of peace, that’s the place of hope, that’s the place of joy.

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Peterson Ch. 2b: 3 things

Posted by flyingbk on 04/26/2016

It’s a “scandal,” in Peterson’s word, that pastors are busy. He provides three prescriptions to become unbusy. These are certainly three things in which I can improve.
1) A pastor who prays.
I want to be a person in this community to whom others can come without hesitation, without wondering if it is appropriate, to get direction in prayer and praying. I want to do the original work of being in deepening conversation with the God who reveals himself to me and addresses me by name…I don’t want to dispense mimeographed graphed hand-outs that describe God’s business; I want to witness out of my own experience. I don’t want to live as a parasite on the first-hand spiritual life of others, but to be personally involved with all my senses, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.
I preached recently on the famous story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den. Daniel 6:10 states, “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously (ESV, emphasis mine).” Praying three times a day was a daily practice for Daniel, and he had most likely done so for over 60 years.

Every so often, my mom gets on my case about my prayer like. She’ll ask me, “When do you pray?” and “How do you pray?” and I’ll reply curtly with deep thoughts like “I’m always praying throughout the day.” This is true, and certainly God’s presence is ever real and near. But my mom is right: There is power in concentrated prayer. There is power in unplugging myself from any distractions and focusing on the Lord. This is what Daniel did, and I need to do it more.

Peterson stresses the importance of being “personally involved with all my senses,” and that’s what leads to “tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.” I attend a monthly gathering of regional English Ministry pastors. At one meeting earlier this year, the hosting pastor had us spend five minutes simply closing our eyes and being silent before God. As one pastor at my table put it, “This was the best five minutes of my day so far.” We taste and see God and His goodness when we slow down and focus.

2) A pastor who preaches.
I have no interest in “delivering sermons,” challenging people to face the needs of the day or giving bright, inspirational messages. With the help provided by scholars and editors, I can prepare a fairly respectable sermon of either sort in a few hours each week, a sermon that will pass muster with most congregations. They might not think it the greatest sermon, but they would accept it. But what I want to do can’t be done that way. I need a drenching in Scripture; I require an immersion in biblical studies. I need reflective hours over the pages of Scripture as well as personal struggles with the meaning of Scripture. That takes far more time than it takes to prepare a sermon.

Oof, this is a challenging word. I’ve been in ministry for over a decade now, and I’ve preached many a sermon. I’ve established a nice weekly plan and rhythm when I need to prepare. I’ve got the technical requirements down pat.

But having the Word control me instead of having me control the Word? Ah, there’s the rub. I’m reminded of how in seminary, my preaching professor advised us to read the same Bible passage 30 times (or was it 50? I may be purposely understating the count). Only by reading it so often could we truly grasp the meaning of the text. But I think there’s another benefit: The point is not to get me into the Word, but get the Word into me. And then have that overflow easily be on display on Sunday.

3) A pastor who listens

Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s only for five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance. Speaking to people does not have the same personal intensity as listening to them. The question I put to myself is not “How many people have you spoken to about Christ this week?” but “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?”
When it comes to listening, I’m like a streak shooter in basketball (which I also happen to be). I have my good days, I have my bad days. I have my good weeks and months, I have my bad. And the formula is simple. When my mind is quiet, disciplined, unhurried instead of being distracted, harried, a hot mess… I am better at my job.

The key to better listening is not gritting my teeth and hyping myself up to improve. It’s not saying a quick inquiry for God’s aid before I meet someone. The key is spending time alone with God on the regular, like Daniel, ensuring that I am hearing from him (beginning with his ridiculously grace-filled opinion of me).

The bottom line: There is a wealth of strength and power in stillness. That’s why Psalm 46:10a (ESV) implores us to “Be still and know that I am God.”

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Eyes On Me

Posted by flyingbk on 04/21/2016

It’s something I really need to work on. I was leaving a restaurant in Maywood, and about to get in my friend’s car when it happened yet again.

An older man gingerly walked over. He requested help, and immediately followed his entreaty with “Don’t worry, I’m not asking for much.” He must have noticed.

Fast forward a couple days. I’m at Starbucks in Paramus, and I run into a fellow pastor. We exchange pleasantries, and I head over to the other side and open up my computer. But I’m conscious that his eyes might be on me. So even though there’s a piece of draft-blown garbage that isn’t mine, I take pains to throw it out. I also make certain not to check out any lady that walks by (wait, what?).

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When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the idea of a TV show which focused on my life 24/7. This was pre-EDTV, and would have been the first ever reality show. I was a man ahead of my time. There wouldn’t be people with cameras following me around, but simply strategically placed cameras in the classroom and my bedroom. An enraptured band of viewers would hang on my every word, thought, facial expression. While alone, I used to always ask myself, “Bob, what are you thinking?” and I would imagine what it would be like to share my reply with the audience. I fancied myself to be a precociously deep thinker.

If there was a reality show of my life, then certainly people would know what I do for a living: I’m a pastor. I’ve been unpacking what the word means lately, but certainly there’s a bag full of expectations that go with that word. But this is a good thing. I should want everyone to know that yes, I represent God and I seek to live a life that honors him. This idea is no longer weighty or burdensome for me; it is a privilege that I seek to embrace and I ought to welcome whatever conversations arise from people finding out my vocation.

Perhaps if I was wearing a T-shirt that stated, “I AM A PASTOR,” or if Keeping Up With The Koo was really a thing, I would not have given that older man a dirty look that caused him to qualify his appeal at once. (He just needed assistance in locating his key fob, which I quickly found by one of his rear tires. There was absolutely zero need for my off-kilter facial expression.) I also would be on my best behavior like I was in Paramus. It’s a slam dunk my countenance and demeanor improve.

Alas, there is no reality show. I’ve accepted that it would not garner any ratings; I’m just not sexy enough. But there is one whose eyes are on me. In Psalm 17:8 (ESV), King David prays, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” It’s a prayer that he’ll know will be answered. And we know today that it’s the truth because Jesus died on the cross and temporarily lost his status as the Father’s apple of his eye. He lost his Father’s gaze so that those of us who believe in him can now and forever be recipients of it. It’s not a burdensome gaze either; sure, God is looking to see that I give the right looks to people, but He is also forever smiling down on me too.

These dirty, skeptical looks I give when asked for help by a stranger need to be a thing of the past. And the way they’ll disappear is when I remember who’s actually looking at me the entire time.

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Peterson Ch. 2a: The Unbusy Pastor

Posted by flyingbk on 04/19/2016

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We continue our series with a look at the first of three adjectives Peterson advocates: “unbusy.” He pulls no punches when it comes to stating his utter distaste for the word “busy”:
THE ONE piece of mail certain to go unread into my wastebasket basket is the letter addressed to the “busy pastor.” Not that the phrase doesn’t describe me at times, but I refuse to give my attention to someone who encourages what is worst in me.
But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.

So tell us what you really think, Eugene… He writes that busy pastors are vain. He uses the example of a doctor; if we go see a doctor, and he’s chilling out and just reading a book, we will not conclude that he’s a competent doctor. But if there’s scores of people in the waiting room, we feel like we’re in the right place.

Such experiences affect me. I live in a society in which crowded schedules and harassed conditions are evidence of importance, so I develop a crowded schedule and harassed conditions.


This is especially the case in the New York/New Jersey area. For those of us who live here, we don’t just wear our busyness as a badge of honor, we wear it as THE badge of honor. There is no more preeminent medallion, whether we are investment bankers, lawyers, stay-at-home moms, and/or students. It’s a tried and true equation: Busyness = success. If you’re busy, you possess validity in people’s eyes. If you’re not, well…

Thus, there is ever the temptation for the pastor to appear busy. Consider that there are many people (including God-fearing, faithful churchgoers) who constantly ask, How do pastors spend their time? I’ve been asked that question, and it’s always tempting to immediately rattle off various to-dos and obligations. It doesn’t occur to me to mention that I spend time praying, thinking, and reading because that’s just not busy enough. If a pastor does not seem busy, he will be looked down upon, even by his more loyal supporters.

(Somewhat related: This really just happened at the Panera where I’m writing this. A worker came up to me and said that a customer was complaining that I had my feet up on the seat across from me. It’s one of those small private booths, and my shoes were off. See? It’s just not cool to relax.)

Peterson then writes that busy pastors are lazy. Lazy in that they don’t know how to prioritize, and therefore allow others to set the agenda for them. Therefore, they end up acceding to the manifold, scattered demands on their time. Which leads to two questions:

How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?

Piercing questions indeed. He provides three recommendations to put an end to this scandal and stem the tide of busyness. That’s for next week.

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I was delighted to read yesterday that the book Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick garnered the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. I chose read this book at the beginning of this year based on Tim Challies’ recommendation. It is ever urgent in our day and age to understand the origins and philosophy of ISIS, and Warrick’s book is the perfect place for anyone to begin. He crafts the just-right blend of character development, punchy narrative, and even occasional levity and irony. It’s eminently readable (I finished it in less than 4 days), and he’s equally tough on both the Bush and Obama administrations. The Pulitzer is well-deserved.

I certainly plan on the reading the Pulitzer longform winners.

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On a lighter note, THORRRRR, I mean Noah Syndergaard (whom I wrote about last week) was once again dominant in the Mets’ win over the Phillies last night. Here are some ridiculous bits of info:
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Um…is that good company?
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Just an overflowing cornucopia of pitching goodness.
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So Thor throws 100 mph, and is yet able to locate it on the edges. Goodness gracious. And on that note, finish your journey with the 2nd GIF in on this page. Good night, everybody.

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The best trade ever

Posted by flyingbk on 04/14/2016

December 17, 2012. It’s a date that will live in infamy for Toronto Blue Jays fans, and one that will forever warm the hearts of Mets fans. That’s the day Mets general manager Sandy Alderson shipped off freshly-minted Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, along with Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, for Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, Wuilmer Becerra, and… Noah Syndergaard.
First, let me say that I freakin’ love R.A. Dickey. If you haven’t yet read his book, stop everything you’re doing and go do so. In general, I hate memoirs because they tend to be self-aggrandizing and unverifiable. (Note: If you write a story about what happened when you were three years old as if it’s completely authentic, I will not read your book.) But Dickey’s tale is told masterfully and with much vulnerability. He testifies to God’s healing power and what happens when you (and your spouse) take time to hear God’s voice. Dickey will forever be situated aboard my Mount Rushmore of favorite Mets.

But sadly, he’ll also be fondly remembered by Mets fans for being cashed in for d’Arnaud, already a top catcher in baseball with the potential to be a star if he can stay off the disabled list. Becerra, a lottery ticket at the time of the deal, still possesses the potential to become a starting outfielder in the bigs. And of course, I’ve buried the lede:

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Syndergaard is a 6’6″, 240-pound Norse God. His fastball easily ticks at 100 miles per hour, and he’s able to throw pitches that impel a fellow young stud hurler to guffaw maniacally, and an all-time great to bellow his moniker. He’s on his way to becoming a perennial Cy Young candidate with perhaps the best arsenal of any starting pitcher. According to this blog, the Mets have already won this trade and the gap should only increase in the years to come.

(Quick: This year’s Mets have gotten off to a slow start, but they’ll be fine. Mets fans love to go immediately into suffering mode, which is quite the unbecoming look. As Aaron Rodgers once said, R-E-L-A-X. Sure, every game counts, and their playoff odds have taken a hit, but it’s a looooong season.)

As sports fans, we love these kinds of trades where one team absolutely fleeces the other. And whenever a trade takes place, fans of both teams quickly take to social media and crowdsource concerning whether their club got the better of it. The most boring deals are the ones that seem completely fair, and they quickly fall off the radar. But if there’s a hint of legalized burglary, the trade becomes all the rage.

For those who believe in Jesus Christ, we also get to make a plethora of dandy trades. Consider:

• We trade our sorrows in exchange for God’s joy.
• We trade our sins in exchange for God’s forgiveness.
• We trade our despair in exchange for God’s hope.
• We trade our impulses for control in exchange for God’s perfect sovereignty.
• We trade our meaninglessness in exchange for God’s purposes.
• We trade our pain in exchange for God’s healing.

• We trade our fear of physical death in exchange for God’s eternal glory (and we get glorified bodies too! That’s a real 2-for-1).

Alderson acquiring Syndergaard and d’Arnaud for Dickey (basically) should go down as one of the best trades ever. But for those of us in Christ, we get to make the best trade ever, each and every day.

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Peterson Ch. 1: The Naked Noun (+ book review)

Posted by flyingbk on 04/11/2016

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The first chapter of Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor is a short one titled “The Naked Noun.” It’s the appetizer for the main courses to follow. He writes:

A healthy noun doesn’t need adjectives. Adjectives clutter a noun that is robust. But if the noun is culture-damaged or culture-diseased, adjectives are necessary.
“Pastor” used to be that kind of noun – energetic and virile. I have always loved the sound of the word. From an early age, the word called to mind a person who was passionate for God and compassionate with people. And even though the pastors I knew did not embody those characteristics, the word itself held its own against its exemplars. Today still, when people ask me what I want to be called, I always say, “Pastor.”
In my last post, I alluded to the peculiar nature of my job, which simply begins with the nature of the noun itself. ‘Pastor’ evokes much more than, say, ‘engineer’ or ‘work in finance’ or even ‘doctor’ or ‘lawyer.’ At times, while cobbling together an online dating profile, I opted for a different choice than ‘pastor’ for my occupation: ‘manager’ or ‘director’ or ‘teacher’ were my choices. I should’ve used ‘leader of men’; that would’ve been totally sweet. It’s a word with a cavalcade of baggage attached, for better or for worse, based on one’s experiences in the church and with religion.

At my current church, where I interact mainly with peers, there are a few who choose to always address me as ‘Pastor Bob.’ Most do not, and it doesn’t matter to me either way. But when I was a youth pastor, I insisted on my kids addressing me as ‘Pastor Bob’ or ‘P-Bob.’ To me, it was a way of teaching them respect, and the importance of obeying the biblical mandate of submitting to authority (including bad authority, which hopefully didn’t include me).

I have learned to embrace the name, and what the word calls to mind (I agree with Peterson regarding the passion and compassion). I want to live up to that name, and all the expectations that come with it. Peterson continues:
 The culture treats me so amiably! It encourages me to maintain my orthodox creed; it commends me for my evangelical practice; it praises me for my singular devotion. All it asks is that I accept its definition of my work as an encourager of the culture’s good will, as the priest who will sprinkle holy water on the culture’s good intentions. Many of these people are my friends. None, that I am aware of, is consciously malign. But if I, even for a moment, accept my culture’s definition of me, I am rendered harmless. I can denounce evil and stupidity all I wish and will be tolerated in my denunciations as a court jester is tolerated. I can organize their splendid goodwill and they will let me do it, since it is only for weekends.
I love the holy water reference. As he writes, much of the culture’s benevolence is just that: full of good intentions. But the insidious temptation for a pastor is to blithely accept it and allow people to maintain that felicitous distance. It’s to give in to the Ned Flanders caricature of the happy but non-threatening and ultimately harmless man.
But a good pastor closes that distance. Like Jesus, he invades the lives of people and refuses to simply be nice. He challenges their preconceived notions of Christianity and exerts force in pulling them away from the poles of legalism and license, and the perils of the prosperity gospel (“If I do good and serve at church, God will bless me.”) and religion without relationship.
The essence of being a pastor begs for redefinition. To that end, I offer three adjectives to clarify the noun: unbusy, subversive, apocalyptic.
I look forward to unpacking these words in the weeks to come.
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Yesterday, I took a full Sabbath day in which I took public transportation to Citi Field and watched a Mets game by myself. I love to do this about a couple times a year. I read on the entire subway ride (there and back to New Jersey), I jump around to various vantage points throughout the game, immerse myself in each pitch, but also have plenty of time to ponder the meaning of my life.

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While on the 7 train, and right about the time of first pitch, I finished Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. I intentionally chose to read this book because I know I need to develop a better heart for the poor. One way to do so is simply to learn more about them, to better understand the circumstances they face. I guess you can say, mission accomplished. This book is a searing look at the plight of those who constantly get evicted and the financial, mental, relational toll it takes on them. It’s a book straight up my alley: half social science (with all the statistics and footnotes you could want), half well-written narrative (Desmond planted himself in inner-city Milwaukee and took great pains to get to know people and win their trust for his reporting). There are memorable characters whose stories break your heart. I feel like this book would make for a great 6th season of The Wire with the right mix of institutional failure, salty language, tattered relationships, crime and brokenness, and the one character whose perseverance makes you smile (hey Bubbles!).

I highly recommend it.

 

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The Tagline

Posted by flyingbk on 04/07/2016

My last tagline was as vanilla as it gets. I don’t even remember exactly what it was: something like “links, musings, and other stuff.” As boring as boring can be. So of course, when boring happens, overcompensation ensues. Hence my new tagline. Allow me to explain.
My favorite band is Red. For me, they’re the ideal mix of hard rock (but not too hard), infrequent screaming (but not too much), emotion (mainly angst, which I’m becoming famous for in my circles), and wonder. Oh, and they bring it in concert every time (I estimate that I’ve seen them 7 times). The title of their last album, their magnum opus Of Beauty and Rage, succinctly sums up who they are and what their music is about. It’s the story of many of our lives; we’ve been through lots of stuff (sorry, I don’t swear) that enrages us, but we’re also able to step back and see the beauty in it all.
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The opening track of the album, “Impostor,” inspires the first sentence of the tagline. As a pastor, it’s my high calling and privilege to represent Christ, especially on Sundays. I put my best foot forward with a warm smile, heartfelt prayers, and lots of handshakes (LOTS of handshakes). The peculiar nature of my job is that when people find out what I do, the common reaction is admiration and respect. Just yesterday, a long lost college friend found me on Facebook and used the tried and true “?!” when asking about my vocation. (By the way, these exchanges are always very encouraging and remind me that yes, I should be humbled and thankful for the call God has placed on my life.)
But while my actions come from a genuine place, that place is ever plagued by darkness. The “real me” possesses a sin-soaked heart, and much more selfishness and pride than any virtue. I’d rather do evil than good. In short, I am an impostor.
As the chorus of the song goes: Tell me that you were never real / You need another soul to steal / You’re my impostor /You tell me you were never really real. There’s an impostor within me, and he will always be there. I put my mask on each day in a half-hearted effort to suppress it, but I know it’s like putting lipstick on a pig (I had to use that line since we’re in an election year). The second sentence of my tagline is also a reference to the song. (But I probably chose that word because it’s also a sweet card in Dominion, the best board/card game ever.)
masquerade
However, do not mistake this confession for a problem. There is no lack of peace with this apparent contradiction. In fact, the gospel teaches us that there is only hope for us when we acknowledge the paradox. I always go back to Tim Keller’s definition (cited in many places, including The Meaning of Marriage):
“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
It’s when we realize the first half that we can grasp the second half. So yes, I’m an impostor rife with wickedness and depravity who puts on his mask, aftershave, and hair cream every morning. But Jesus didn’t come to die for the godly (Romans 5:6); he came to die for someone just like me.
So I dance every single day with all the other masks, actually secure with the mask I wear, as I long for the day when the mask disintegrates, and I am given a glorified body. Until then, “I drink from your gaze, a new masquerade.”
FOOTNOTES:
Here’s a performance of “Impostor” live in concert. Cool tidbit: I was at this concert. Not-so-cool tidbit: No, that’s not me head banging in the first row. Although I’m sure if you panned out a row or two…
-For great food for thought on Romans 5:6, read the fourth paragraph here.

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Peterson I: Foreword

Posted by flyingbk on 04/04/2016

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I had been meaning to read The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson for quite some time. Usually when I put off reading a book, the reason is always the same: I know it’s going to be one that requires thought and meditation, and I ain’t ready for it. As much as I read, a lot of my reading is shallow; I read while being distracted, whether it be checking social media, watching sports, or lying in bed dreaming of sleep. But because I knew that this book requires engagement and drinking deep draughts, I procrastinated.

Thankfully, I believe it was appropriate that I read it to kick off 2016. This is a book that is just full of great wisdom for ministry. This is one of those books that I desire to go back to time and time again. So what better way to do so than to blog about it? So each Monday, I will be blogging my thoughts as I peruse this book anew. Here’s Part I, with choice thoughts concerning the Foreword.

In the Foreword, there’s a Q&A with Peterson. Here’s one excerpt:

Yes, and my job is not to solve people’s problems or make them happy, but to help them see the grace operating in their lives.
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Sometimes I think all I do as pastor is speak the word “God” in a situation in which it hasn’t been said before, where people haven’t recognized his presence. Joy is the capacity to hear the name and to recognize that God is here. There’s a kind of exhilaration because God is doing something and, even in a little way, it’s enough at the moment.

When I first came to my current church, there was the perpetual temptation to make people happy. If someone was sharing his/her problem with me, my immediate impulse was to figure out how to make them feel better. It’s as if my job as a pastor is to morph into an Advil, to take away the pain temporarily for 12-24 hours (or at least until the following Sunday!).

But I’m reminded now of the principal theme from Lee Eclov’s Pastoral Graces (another book I need to re-read): A pastor’s main job is to hand out grace. He ought to have pockets brimming with grace candies so that they simply fall out in his conversations.

Many times people don’t need a quick fix, or a prescribed solution. They just need their sight adjusted to see God and his ever-efficacious grace at work. I pray that I will remember this going forward.

I’ll end this post with another quote from the Q&A.

A second thing about praying in community is that, when I pray in a congregation, my feelings are not taken into account. Nobody asks me when I enter the congregation, “How do you feel today? What do you feel like praying about?” So the congregation is a place where I’m gradually learning that prayer is not conditioned or authenticated by my feelings. Nothing is more devastating to prayer than when I begin to evaluate prayer by my feelings, and think that in order to pray I have to have a certain sense, a certain spiritual attentiveness or peace or, on the other side, anguish.

Amen.

 

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