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 Transition

Posted: October 26, 2011 in personal
Tags: , , , , ,

Hello citizens of the blogosphere,

A few more days and I will be back. It has been a very long couple of weeks and I am definitely suffering from writing withdrawal. We have been in Atlanta and enjoyed a wonderful nine day Pastor’s Sabbatical Retreat from the Vineyard. A wonderful gift for us as we enter this time of transition and change. Now we are an hour outside of Pittsburgh, PA in New Castle, PA and I am sitting in Mcdonald’s listening to people say things like “yinz want that” and speaking with elongated “O’s” when they say words like “Mom”. Wish I had it on tape. I am definitely not in Kansas anymore but if you know me at all…I am lovin the adventure. It is stressful not having a place of our own but I truly believe this is the way for us and I am glad that we are walking in it.

So stay tuned and I will have a few new things to write about that have been brewing for a while.

Blessings!

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,

I was going to just post one more time before we left for PA but I had to remember Steve Jobs. An inspiration to many of us who aspire to be creative and live life with imagination. RIP Steve

I am one of those people who has been blessed by heaven with an unusual gift….the gift of randomness. At certain times of the day I will begin thinking about one thing and then 5 minutes later I have the most random idea or question and I have no idea how I got there…but I did. Call it a gift or a curse. It just is.

Well in one of those moments of randomness I asked Yvette a question that just flashed through my mind: How come black people do not really cater to the fantasy/sci fi genre? Mind you I know there are many African Americans who can get into Star Wars and things like that but from my personal experience as a whole we shy away from that kind of stuff. There are no sci fi/fantasy films directed, produced, or starring African Americans? (Mace Windu and Lando Calrissian don’t count. They were supporting roles) 🙂

Yvette’s response was enlightening. She said because we want reality. We do not have time to delve into make believe. The make believe of fantasy/sci fi seems too far fetched and hard to relate to considering our background of oppression and poverty. I thought about it and I really believe we need to have sci fi and fantasy. I think that is what we are missing. Science fiction and fantasy are vehicles of imagination. Fairy tales and make believe stories give us a window into the realm of possibility. I believe that stories that are reality based and close to real life have value but they can’t offer the same “vehicle of imagination” that leads to creative out of the box thinking.

Maybe in the days when Europe was a hostile, poor, disease plagued civilization it was the make believe stories and fairy tales that provided ways of imagining hope and instilling character that became seeds for the redemption of that culture. I don’t have enough history knowledge to say this for certain but it would be something great to research: The impact of fairy tales on medieval society.

In the meantime I hope someone will take up the challenge of writing a Lord of the Rings or Star Wars type story from an Afrocentric perspective because to be honest I love the stuff 🙂

  • Do you think sci-fi/fantasyfilms help support creative out of the box thinking?
  • Can you name any black sci -fi/fantasy characters besuides Mace Windu and Lando Calrissian
  • Why do you think there are not many black sci-fi/fantasy films?
  • Do you think this would be a profitable venture from a social and financial perspective?