Yes, ministry can be brutal. One of the most sobering statistics I found in my research is that for every twenty pastors who enter the ministry only one will retire from ministry.

I had no idea how many pastors struggled with depression and frustration regarding their ministry roles. You write that 80 percent of pastors (and 84 percent of their spouses) are discouraged in their ministry roles, that 40 percent say they have seriously considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months, and that 70 percent say they don’t have a single close friend. Those are some really astounding and sobering numbers. And yet, this reality is so rarely talked about—in church, at conferences, in books. Why do you think that is, and why is it important that we change that? Why must we talk about failure, (or the sense of failure), among ministers?

SOURCE:  Pastors and the “F-Word”: A Conversation with J.R. Briggs.

I think there are a lot of pastors out there that would love to tell their parishioners the truth but are afraid of the consequences.  Many churches and denominations directly hire and pay their pastors. For the most part they expect the pastor to preach what they currently believe to be truth.  They aren’t looking for someone to come in and teach them a “new truth”.

The more I studied theology in the past twenty years the more I realized that there are vast differences between one Christian denomination and another. And within those denominations are churches that are even more scattered across the theological landscape.  Getting back to the topic of pastors, they risk their jobs by studying outside their groups theology. If they say the wrong things they may very well be shown the door.

When I was a member of a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church I became a pretty close friend of the pastor. Being that I did not restrict my studies to only Lutheran practices I read very widely. One of the books that deeply influenced me was Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution. This book spent a lot of time looking at the words of Jesus and his messages to us. I was so impressed by the book to buy a copy for the pastor. I gave it to him and was anxiously awaiting his thoughts. A couple of weeks later I asked him about the book and he made a snide comment about the author and would not go into further explanation. After a while it became obvious to me that he did not bother to read more than a short snippet. I simply couldn’t understand how he couldn’t have been influenced by the messages in the book.

What I learned from this encounter is that many clergy simply will not go outside their hierarchy when it come to their studies. They simply will not read things that might disagree with their current practices. I guess the reason for that is because they fear for their jobs.  It is certainly depressing to see the statistics above. Pastors should be free to give us a dose of their wisdom without fear for their jobs.

This is a sad part of current day Christianity…

NYC – The Wrap…

August 9, 2014

I have spent the last several Saturdays giving you a pictorial report of our visit to NYC.  This is finally the last post and is made up of some of my favorite pictures not included in earlier posts.

As usual click on any picture to bring up a larger gallery view.

 

Many of us are too busy or distracted to sustain a life of compassionate engagement. We live lives of hurry, worry and striving, finding little satisfaction in our manic work and recreational activities. Instead of being free to create beauty, nurture relationships and seek the greater good, many of us feel stuck in lives dictated by the need to pay bills or maintain a certain often consumptive standard of living. We can’t have it all—the prevailing level of consumption, a life of deeper meaning and relationships and global equity and sustainability. To realize these good dreams we must adjust our values and practices and seek creative solutions.

Few things in life shape us more than our choices about how we earn, spend, save and invest. Most of us will spend a third of our lives at income-producing jobs. How we choose to manage those earnings largely determines whether we are free to serve the greater good. Yet, rarely have religious communities, in particular, done well at addressing money and work as areas for discipleship—other than the occasional sermon about giving. Perhaps we unconsciously tend to separate money and work from the center of our spiritual lives, making an artificial and unhelpful distinction between what is spiritual and what is temporal, and thereby less important.

SOURCE: 3 Beliefs that Change How We Perceive the American Dream | Mark Scandrette | Red Letter Christians.

By far the biggest advantage I have found in my retirement years is that I now have as much time as I want for compassionate engagement. This third of my life is very fulfilling indeed. We Americans are just too obsessed with financial success. As the quote above says we find little satisfaction in things that we know should be more important in our lives. Our obsession for more and more drives us to idiotic  self-centered extremes.

Yeah, we need to pay the bills but are we really spending our money on things that really matter? Are we just too prone to the suggestions of advertisers who convince us to spend so much to bleach out our teeth to an absurdly unnatural color? Do we spend too much time coveting what our neighbor has instead of trying to find what is more important to our lives? How we spend our money says a lot about us as people.  All of us should stop on a regular basis and take an inventory of what we are doing with our lives.

Consumption must not take the place of things that should have a deeper meaning in our lives. All we Christians, and for that matter most other religions, tell us to take care of each other. That is what is important. The greater good should outweigh our frivolous desires in life. Our churches should be there to help guide us through this moral entanglement but too many of them, at least according to Mr. Scandrette, are themselves caught in the financial morass. It just may be time to stop and take stock on our lives both spiritual and temporal….

2014-08-04_09-16-05WASHINGTON AP — The United States declared Sunday it is “appalled” by Israel’s “disgraceful” attack on a United Nations school sheltering some 3,000 displaced people in southern Gaza.

Related Stories US ‘appalled’ by ‘disgraceful’ UN school shelling Associated Press US ‘appalled’ by latest UN school shelling in Gaza

In language that was rare in its directness and severity, the U.S. denounced the attack earlier Sunday, which killed 10 people. The statement released by the U.S. State Department noted that the school had been designated a protected location.

SOURCE:  US calls Israeli attack on UN school ‘disgraceful’ – Yahoo News.

This is the second and last day on this subject or me. I will keep this one short and to the point.

It is nice to finally hear that the U.S. at least at some level is saying “enough is enough” to the Israeli bombing in Gaza. They have now killed over 1,900 mostly citizens in Gaza. The Israelis call it a war but by most standards it would be called a slaughter.

The U.S. was very quick to condemn Russia in the  Ukraine because they might be supplying some of the rebels with weapons. They then followed up  this condemnation with some severe sanction proposals.  I hope to hear a like-minded thing for Israel. At least we could limit the number of new bombs and missiles we send to them to replenish their arsenal. If Israel won’t listen to reason maybe they will listen to us taking their weapons away?

 

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Aug. 5, 1861: Needing cash to finance the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Revenue Act — imposing the first federal income tax. Lincoln and Congress agreed that all incomes over $800 would be taxed at a 3 percent rate. Lincoln knew that taxes would be unpopular. But he recognized that America needed to pay for its wars.

SOURCE: Today in history: The federal income tax is born – The Week.

“The Week” which I believe is British in origin is becoming a daily read for me. Here is a quick quote from them.

The federal income tax is born…

America Stands Alone…

August 6, 2014

2014-08-03_10-52-27I just finished watching a Shields/Brooks segment of the PBS Newshour where Mark Shields made the statement that “America stands alone in its unflinching support of the current actions of Israel. He mentioned that almost all of the EU countries and other developed nations are condemning the atrocities that are being put upon the Palestinian people. Even though I have for the most part boycotted this area of life, his statement got me to thinking about it. So, here goes. As they say fools rush in where…

The latest toll is something like 60 Israeli soldiers killed and over 1900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, killed!  It seems that whenever and Israeli soldier is killed they think they must kill 50 people in revenge. With this almost indiscriminate bombing I can certainly understand why there is so much hatred of Israel in that part of the world. The Isrealis seem to have almost no sense of “collateral damage”. They seem to deem it totally acceptable to bomb schools full of children and U.N. facilities because another very crude “rocket” was launched from that general area.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not have any sympathy for Hamas who has been inciting much of this violence. They are a very small minority thug organization who if they had the power that Isreal has would be doing worse to their enemy. To hold all the people in Gaza accountable for Hamas’ actions is kind of like us nuking Atlanta because the KKK bombed a government building somewhere.

2014-08-05_08-26-47This whole debacle seems very much like a “David vs Goliath” but this time it is a Jewish Goliath. The response to a crude missile being fired into Israel they destroy yet another Gaza neighborhood, women children and all. I recently saw a report that Israel is asking the U.S. to ship them an emergency supply of bombs and missiles as they are quickly running out with their current vendetta. At least a “cease fire” might actually come if they do run out of bombs and laser guided missiles.  The U.S. currently give them about $3 billion a year of our military hardware. What are the limits to where we as a country say enough is enough with the disproportionate killing in the Middle East?

Why are so many of our politicians, including the current president, sitting back and saying nothing? Why do we continue to send them our bombs to kill so many innocents along with a few bad guys?  Is there nothing they can do that we will find unconscionable? Yes, I agree that they have a right to exist but there are limits to what they need to do to convince themselves that they feel safe.

Enough said. I will get off my soapbox now and try ignore such things for as long as I can before chiming in again.

 

2014-07-11_07-59-24Apparently, the new iPhone 6 will incorporate a more advanced vibration motor that could offer better tactile feedback to users, depending on the app they’re using or the area they tap on the screen.

SOURCE:  Secret iPhone 6 feature uncovered? – Yahoo News.

I have had my iPhone 4 for about three years now and am for the most part very pleased with its operation.  But one areas that needs improvement for me is the vibrate mode. Since I am deaf I rely exclusively on vibrate to let me know when text messages come in. The current vibrate mode is rather weak and sometimes hard to detect especially when my mind is on other things.

While the ring mode has dozens of options, the vibrate mode is limited to two short bursts only. So, I was pleased to hear of this new secret feature. Yeah, I am one of those guys waiting for iPhone 6 to do an upgrade. I guess there are millions of us out there. I know Apple phones are more expensive than some of the competitor but given its overall features it is well worth the price.

A Political Quiz…

August 4, 2014

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This is an interesting quiz that is said to melt down politics to its essentials. They say over 22 million people have taken the quiz.  I showed it above with my answers tagged. Can you guess where I ended up in the spectrum.  Liberal you say??  You betcha…..

To take the quiz yourself just click on the image above…

I want to bring over a slightly edited archive post from one of my other blogs at RedLetterLiving.net for this Sunday’s post. It is from March 13.
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I’m not sure who brought up the concept but it is about how churches are actually more like clubhouses than anything else. They are buildings that are built almost exclusively for their members comfort. Yes that comfort does bring in some to hear the message but that seems to be very secondary at best.

I had a recent round of comments on this topic and it stirred up some heated words. It seems that calling a church a country club strikes the nerve of many Christians.  I think the ounce of truth in it is the reason.  Everyone wants to think that their church is somehow different from the others. They want to think that  what they give in weekly donations is for the greater good of God. But, facts simply don’t bear that belief out.  The majority of what they give stays within the church’s hierarchy.

When I was giving regularly to the small church I once belonged to I never deemed that the money I gave actually went to God’s work here or earth.  Being a regular member on the church board I realized that 99+% of what I gave ended up paying the mortgage, utilities and the pastor’s salary.  Did I feel guilty about that? No, not really. I know that this small church was struggling, and still struggles after almost ten years, to keep the doors open.  There is nothing wrong with needing a clubhouse.

But what is wrong is when we fail to recognize the fact that we are really not doing much in the community besides holding down a property.  We try to rationalize that giving a few families a turkey and canned goods during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays somehow meets our community obligations.  Being a church is supposed to be about showing God’s blessing throughout our communities. It is supposed to be about others and not ourselves.  When we finally acknowledge that fact and diligently plan on making  community support happen is when we turn the corner from clubhouse to church.  Sadly too many small churches fail to ever reach that point in their congregation’s life.

I am often accused of painting with too broad a brush in these types of posts so I want to  recognize that there are many churches out there that are very much valuable contributors to their communities. They run soup kitchens and food banks in the areas.  They open their doors on cold and windy nights for those who are homeless. In other words they act like they are followers of Jesus Christ. I celebrate every one of those churches.  But at the same time even those churches must be constantly tracking their allocations of funds.  It is impossible to give too much to your community instead of yourself.

Everyone needs a clubhouse that you can go to weekly. Where everyone know your name as the old Cheers TV show used to say. That is a valuable part of Christian fellowship but we must constantly remind ourselves that is supposed to be very much secondary to being our brother’s keeper and helping God’s kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven.

NYC – 911 Memorial….

August 2, 2014

We spent a morning during our recent visit to NYC at the 911 Memorial. The original estimated cost of the facility was about $1 trillion but was eventually cut to $500 million. Like the Vietnam memorial the reflecting pools with all the names are soberly impressive. The new towers themselves are nice but not nearly as big as the WTC was.

Except for the ticketing area the museum is totally below ground and it is BIG. It takes several hours to just manage the path through it. I heard that it was designed by committee and since they couldn’t decide on what to put in they put everything. The cost is $24 per ticket which is pretty pricey. We were there two weeks after it opened so it was crowded. Don’t try to just show up if you want to see the museum. Get on line and buy an advanced ticket or you will likely wait for hours.