Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Last week I posted the first nine of the ten lessons I learned as a pastor. I left off at the tenth just to keep you salivating for more. Well here it is. Drumroll please! The tenth and most important lesson is…..

Your personal life will affect your ministry more than you know. On the surface it sounds pretty obvious but when it comes down to it not many pastors act like this is the truth. If you look at their hectic schedule, their disgruntled wives, their lonely kids, their bulging waistline, and their non existent life this lesson sounds far from the truth. But underneath it all if our personal life is crumbling and weak then our ministry is crumbling and weak. Ultimately God sees no difference.

For years I lived as if ministry was life but the reality is that ministry flows from my life. What does that mean? It means that ministry must flow from my being (Thank you Bobby Clinton). And this is one of the things that I am focusing on this first year while we are in Pittsburgh. Right now I am using this time to explore who I am in Christ and to actually “get a life”. I am going to work out consistently, play with my kids, be with my wife, look at football games on tv (Steeler Nation!), write poetry,  and listen for God’s voice in the midst of it all.

Some of these things I have been doing previously but it was for the sake of continuing the ministry. Right now it will be for the sake of continuing with my life. Ministry is not my life and I do not want to make it my life. Christ is my life and he is there whether I am wrestling with my son, stocking groceries at Trader Joe’s, or reading the Tale of Desperaux on my Kindle.

And no I have no plans of leaving “the ministry”. In fact, I never left it. The only thing that’s different is my focus. Before it was ministering to an organization. Now it’s ministry to the Lord, to myself, and to whoever is around me. That’s a lifetime calling that will never change.

When talking about race in America we realize and understand that there are more ethnicities and cultures, labels and categories than black and white. At the same time we must face the brutal fact that this is the main divide in America. Whether you are actually black or white does not matter. These are two cultural categories that you are invited into whether you were born and bred in the good old USA or an immigrant from India, Korea, or Argentina. Why? The ugly and brutal racist history of this country has determined it to be so.

In the history of this country white has been associated with: good manners, wealth, intelligience, cleanliness, and morality. black has been associated with: bad manners, poverty, stupidity, filth, and immorality.

There is also the fact that there are two primary cultures in America: white and black. White culture is seen as more reserved, structured, and rational. Black culture is seen as more expressive, loose, and emotional. It is also evident when you realize the different Stuff White People Like and the different Stuff Black People Like

These are just some of the ways in which we are divided. But why the divide? It is all based on man made ideas that categorize and label people in order to justify injustice.

To put it more simply there is no such thing as white and black:

Black: A color based on racist ideology

White: A color based on racist ideology

In my short 34 years of life I have seen some really really dark skinned people but no one was ever the actual color black. The darkest of browns but not black. I have also seen some really really pale people but no one was ever the actual color white. No one is actually the color black. No one is actually the color white. These terms intentionally or unintentionally polarize and dehumanize us and keep us in the same racist paradigm.

It is my belief that to continue to use these terms is to continue the legacy of racism and slavery. African American and European American is the truth of who we are culturally and historically and I believe the more we affirm that aspect of ourselves and less of the racist aspect we will have moved towards true self definition on both sides of the black-white divide.

What do you think? Is there still a black-white divide in America? What do you think about using different terms to describe ourselves? Is it helpful or a meaningless exercise in semantics?

BTW If I use white and black outside of referring to this divide call me on it. Old habits are hard to break 🙂

Life in the Pitt: Week Two

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

So here we are…week two. The new apartment is full of boxes. I am spending  nights there in order to go to work at Trader Joe’s and Yvette and the kids are still in New Castle until we can clear the boxes and make the place safe/clean enough for the kids. All this while I squeeze minutes and hours out of my day to work on my thesis and keep up with blogging.

Things I am noticing about PGH:

  • Not alot of chain stores. There are still  a lot of Mom and Pop stores and when I get the chance I want to go to every one that interests me.
  • It’s cold. On Saturday I left the house in a T shirt and it was 27 degrees outside. Also you have to start your car up way before you are about to leave because of the ice and frost. Still something to get used to….
  • All of the diversity is centered around the Universities (Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, Chatham) and the East Liberty neighborhood (We are about two blocks down). I think this says something about how to increase diversity in any area. Education definitely plays a major role in our tolerance of other people. At my Trader Joe’s it is like the United Nations every day. Hmmm….

Things that I am loving:

  • Steelers pride. I am now a citizen of Steeler Nation. Boo Ravens!
  • Authenticity of people. Not a lot of people trying to promote the screenplay that they never wrote or handing you the card for their business which they never really started.
  • The cost of living. Things are just cheaper here. Especially rent. Hallelujah! (Angels singing in the background)

Things to do next:

  • Find a place to workout and a workout routine
  • Find a church
  • Get my PA drivers license
  • Get our new PA Bank

Stay tuned for more Pitt adventures….

Yesterday I got hired at Trader Joe’s and I was excited and scared at the same time. I have grown used to being a pastor and in the captain’s chair and now I am entering the world of retail and not being in leadership. As I look back over my time as pastor of VX I realize that God taught me some really good lessons in a short period of time. So here are the ten lessons I have learned as a pastor:

1. Your to do list will never be finished

Until Jesus returns or we fall asleep there will always be uncompleted tasks. It sounds demotivating but it is actually the best way to put things in perspective and not drive yourself to the crazy house or an early grave.

2. This is not the profession for a control freak

To be a pastor means that you are not in control. You are working in the area of relationships and relationships are never something you can control. You cannot control your relationship with others. You cannot control the relationships of others. You are not in control. The only one you can control is yourself. That can be a very stressful thing or a very restful thing. You decide.

3. Be Yourself

After being exposed to so many different personalities in ministry I have concluded that true success from God is not about being a certain type of personality or operating in a certain gift or skill. It is about being yourself in relationship with God. There have been times when I have stood up to preach and I was so prepared and ready to blow people’s minds and it all fell flat. There were other times where I was in pain so much that I had to be authentic and that’s when the Holy Spirit got a chance to flow through me-the real me.

4. Treat people like gold even if you feel like rusty steel

At the end of the day the people that you serve are gold. It is not their gifts, service, or money that is gold. It is them. When they cannot give you anything they are still gold in God’s eyes. When they make you feel like rusty steel with complaints and criticism the only thing to overcome that feeling is to treat them like gold. By doing that you place your humanity and theirs on the same level.

5. Things are not as bad as they seem

Somebody once said “Never write your resignation on Monday morning”. Things are not as bad as they seem. For every complaint about your preaching there is someone else who is blessed beyond comprehension. For every person who is sitting on the sidelines there are others who are out on the field serving with all their heart. It is never as bad as it seems.

6. Jesus gave us boundaries for a reason

We all have boundaries. We all have limits. They are there not only to protect us but to keep us from getting distracted from the truth of who God is. We have limits but God is limitless. When we forget this then we are on a sure road to falling into sin especially the sin of pride. You know what comes after pride don’t you?

7. Lean into discomfort

Whenever I would get really down about our church not having enough money, a leader falling, a church member complaining, a really poor worship service-you fill in the blank-the Lord would gently ask me the question “What did you expect?”. The great men and women of God lived lives filled with pain and discomfort. It is something that helped them grow and eventually blessed others. The pastoral life is not for pansies. It is made for discomfort. Lean into it!

8. Take care of it now!

This is related to the previous lesson of leaning into discomfort. There are some things that you can postpone and there are others that you cannot postpone. When it comes to dealing with people problems I have learned that it is better to take care of it now or it will bite you in the butt later. Bitterness and resentment build up over time. Misunderstandings get wildly out of control. It is better to take care of it as soon as you can rather than avoid it.

9. How to deal with change

Pastoring in the 21st century is full and ripe with change. What do you do with it? Let it steamroll you flat. Try to avoid it like the plague. One of the things that I  learned during our pastoral sabbatical retreat is that every change requires you to grieve. It requires you to let go of the past in order to take hold of the future. Whether that’s an old member who has left the church or something as simple as redoing the order of service. We must grieve it. Maybe not in the form of big boo hoo tears but we must go through a process of adjusting to the new reality

And the last one…drumroll please…. Actually we will save that for next week. So stay tuned (subscribe to the blog and you will get updates in your email) and I will give you the the tenth thing I learned as a pastor. The most important thing that I have learned in my ministry journey….

This post is dedicated to Katelin and Kristos. You can check out Katelin at By Their Strange Fruit and you can check out Kristos at Words Cover Me

My son has a book of Berenstein Bear’s stories and the last story in the book is really insightful. It’s called the blame game. Basically the two bears are always blaming each other for what happened and never fixing the problem at hand. Broken vase. Blame game. Broken window. Blame game. Are we doing the same thing when it comes to the issue of race?

There a few things that I want to say about this:

It is true that pointing out the problem only makes things worse. To continue to harp on the same issue without offering a solution can make be exasperating. This has been the case when it comes to race relations in the United States. It seems that around every corner there is a racist. A racist comment or remark. A racist TV show. A racist employer. Race is everywhere and at the same time many have become desensitized to the issue of race.

It is also true that talking can be a prelude to action or a postponement of action. Much of what is offered as a solution is usually talk. It is the case of having a meeting about the meeting that we are going to have about the meeting 🙂 This was the case even on a presidential level with the infamous Beer Gate incident with Henry Louis Gates and the Boston police officer. I think this is helpful but is actually a symptom of a larger problem: racial issues are not just about individual attitudes and actions. Racism was a building block in the culture and institutions of America for hundreds of years and therefore it cannot just be solved by individuals getting together talking. So talking about race is not helpful when it comes to completely eradicating racism because 1) It can be a postponement of action and 2) It can be myopic and narrow by focusing on individual attitudes and actions.

While I do think pointing out the problem is helpful to a certain extent I believe that at this stage in the game (post MLK jr., Civil Rights legislation, Affirmative Action) the legacy of racism and slavery in this country (the actual problem) needs more solutions than whistleblowers. I’m taking my cue from the  Berenstein bears and have resolved to not play the blame game.

So in this post I am going to throw some things out on the table as possible solutions:

1. Relationships formed on the micro and macro level. There are plenty of relationships between individual African Americans and Caucasian Americans although these need to be beefed up as well (just because you know the person’s name does not mean that they are your friend 🙂 There also needs to be two way relationships between African American institutions and European American institutions especially in the area of private institutions such as the church. To address issues of race while we live, work, play, and worship in individual silos is counter productive and breeds suspicion and resentment.

2. Resources and knowledge shared across cultural and socio economic barriers on the micro and macro level. Individuals, schools, churches, businesses etc. One of the biggest things that I have noticed after being a part of a multiethnic church was how much I was not exposed to certain things just because I was black. My family was not economically disadvantaged. My parents were not drug addicts or criminals. I just did not have exposure to different ways of doing things in the area of finance, food, education, vocation etc. because of my ethnicity. At the same time it is a two way street. I also believe many in my congregation were not exposed to certain things because of their ethnicity. I believe a true solution to racism is contributing value from both sides of the color lines.

3. An accurate history of racism for the common person. After studying racism and hearing certain comments made about the history of racism in this country and the current state of race relations I truly believe that the average person  does not have a 1) clear idea of what has been done to African Americans in this country 2) that Martin Luther King Jr. only scratched the surface 3) After King’s death there were alot of setbacks that have led to the issues we face today. I also believe people do not know how much 1) Our country’s economy was based not just on slave labor but on the justification of slavery 2) the extent to which that situation has not changed

If someone could come up with a video or a book  not more than 150 pages long that could really paint the picture for the common person and offer resources then we could go a long way in educating people about racism.

So those are my solutions (I am actually working on the third one). In the next post I will pinpoint the problem. What do you think? Do you have any solutions you want to add?

It is early Monday morning and we have just spent nine days in Western Pennsylvania

We arrived by plane on Thursday October 20th and have been staying at my Mother in law’s in New Castle, PA. The kids got to meet and play with their cousins on this side of the world and Kaydon is excited about moving to Pittsburgh. I do not think he realizes what he is saying but he likes the pictures he has seen of the bridges, hills, and the Duquesne and Monongahela inclines.

I have been spending time at Mcdonald’s and the New Castle library working on my thesis and beginning to learn a new skill which I will tell you about in an upcoming post. All the while I have noticed a few things:

It’s hunting season (you don’t see that in Southern California)

It’s football season (these fans are serious out here. Go Steelers!)

It’s not Pittsburgh (I have never seen roadkill that big. 3 deer on the highway. You don’t see that in Southern California either)

On the Monday after we arrived we began looking for an apartment and getting twisted and turned around on Pittsburgh streets. It is nothing like LA. There is no grid. Just rivers and bridges and hills and diagonal and curved streets. Very easy to get lost.

We drove around different neighborhoods including Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Garfield, Friendship, East Liberty, Bellevue, Brighton Heights, and the Southside. We started focusing on Bellevue and Brighton Heights and we thought we had a place but somebody beat us to it and placed a deposit on it 😦

By Wednesday we were definitely frustrated but something interesting happened. We were sitting outside the Brighton Cafe and a lady comes out and starts fixing the umbrellas for us. We both obviously assume she is the owner or manager. Yvette then asks whether she knows anyone who is renting a place. Turns out that this lady and her husband not only own the cafe but also two barber shops and five other properties.

Yvette goes on to look at two available properties and we decide on a two bedroom in Point Breeze right down the street from Trader Joe’s. And yesterday I just applied and got called in for an interview on Tuesday. I really hope I get the job as it is only two blocks from our new apartment.

So to sum up week one in our Pittsburgh adventure…I love this city!

Here are some things that I am noticing:

  • Hills. Lots of hills. Steep ones. Beautiful but also a challenge when the snow and ice comes.
  • Bridges. Love the bridges. Love the inland waterways. Never really liked the beach in California but rivers….I can do rivers!
  • Lots of black and gold. There is such hometown pride. We went to church yesterday and people wore their Steelers jerseys! Never seen anything like this.
  • Quirkyness. I never realized how much I was addicted to quirkyness. The curvy streets, the accents (yinz, elongated “o’s”, Steelers pronounced “Stillers”) the hills and bridges. Even our apartment (the outside is a bright reddish pink. our master bedroom looks like it used to be a living room) is on the quirky side.

So that’s week one. Now time for a move, an interview, and some winter clothes. First snow was this past Saturday 🙂

In a few days we will be leaving on a plane to Atlanta for a nine day retreat and then on to Pittsburgh,PA.  Yes it is official. .This means I will be out of the blogosphere for a while. That’s until we get settled. Once we touch down and get things in order then I will be back with new posts, contests, and new plans (can u guess them?) since I will be seeking to create a larger platform for the ideas in this blog.

In the meantime, here is a preview of upcoming blogposts. Pick your favorite and I will dedicate it to you. Just comment below and if you have a blog or twitter give me your url or twitter handle and you will get free publicity from yours truly. So here they are:

Racism: Pointing Out the Problem or Being a Solution

Life in the Pitt: Week One

The Book of Ramon Explained

Manifesto of a Race-Transcending Prophet

Black or African American: What’s the Difference?

The Case for Reparations

The Confessions of an Ex-Pastor: Ten things I learned as a pastor

So there u go. Think of it like dedications on the radio except no mushy love song. Just tell me which one is your favorite and if you have a website, blog, or twitter handle I will mention it in my post. If you don’t get into the top 7 don’t worry I will still mention you in later posts.

Blessings,