Friday, February 21, 2014

Living in the "Clue" house

Marcie and I were talking about my collection of musical instruments (which is not insubstantial):

  • Three guitars (one acoustic, one electric, and one dobro-style resonator—though it is currently unplayable, and needs some repairs)
  • A bass (also acoustic, but NOT an upright bass)
  • A banjo
  • A fiddle (yes, a fiddle, NOT a violin)
  • A mandolin (also in need of repairs)
  • A lap dulcimer
  • A strumstick
  • A balalaika (I don’t know if this is playable or not, but it’s neat!)
  • An electronic piano/keyboard
  • A collection of percussion instruments (a djembe, a tambourine, and a handful of shakable instruments)

I also have been promised one of my mother’s spinet pianos, though we’ve never had room for it.

Specifically, we were talking about where we would keep this collection should we actually want them to be available for use. My internal response is always, “We’ll keep them in the music room, of course” (though we’ve never had a room we could designate as such, and I rarely mention this response to Marcie!).

This brought to mind my other rather large collection—books (probably around 4000 volumes)—and the fact that we would probably do well to have a room for these as well! And of course it would be nice, if not quite necessary, to have a designated room as an office/study.


In short, I’ve figured out that I want to live in some version of the “Clue” house: the house implied by the board game Clue, which I played often as a child. The rooms in the Clue house include:

A library

A study

A conservatory

A kitchen

A dining room

A lounge

A hall

A cellar

A billiard room

A ballroom

We could do without the last two; maybe the billiard room would be a small den, and the ballroom could become a family room. It seems pretty obvious that such a house would likely have a second story with at least four bedrooms (maybe five?) and a couple of bathrooms.

Do such houses still exist? What sort of house would YOU live in?

Monday, February 3, 2014

One way to strip your pastor of his dignity

Thom Rainer, the president of LifeWay, recently posted this great piece on his blog: "Fourteen Sentences that Brought Joy to Pastors."

He's right; these sentences would, indeed, bring joy to any pastor. Why? Because they represent the combining of love and dignity in how the pastor is treated. Pastors (and their family members) deserve to be treated with the same love and dignity that those in their congregations expect from them—and these sentences are prime examples of how to do that.

Unfortunately, I recognize a need to dwell on the other end of the spectrum.

I was recently asked to write up my process for preparing a sermon, and Marcie read over it after I was done. She asked me, "When you put all that down on paper, do you think, 'ugh, I don't want to have to do that every week'?" No, I don't. I'm not averse to the sermon preparation (though it IS hard work), the difficult discipline situations, or the hard work of mourning with those who mourn and aching with those who struggle. It's not the possibility that the church may fold, or the drudgery of church budgets and hand-wringing over giving and attendance numbers that make me second-guess whether I want to be a pastor again.

The one thing that does is the people who live at the other end of that spectrum, and the words that they say to people like me.

Pastors are usually resilient people, thick-skinned people, and gracious people—but we are vulnerable to hurtful words just like you are. We are wounded by thoughtless statements, the same as you.

And yet (here's the great irony), my experience—and the experience of other pastors, as well—is that people will say things to pastors that they wouldn't dare say to anyone else. Things so tactless that they wouldn't dream of saying them to the their most disliked co-worker or neighbor. Only someone with absolutely no inhibitions would normally have the gall to say them.

I'm talking about things that, if they were said to anyone other than a pastor, they would probably get punched in the nose (or slapped in the face). Some examples?
  • There are the standards that most pastors eventually get, like, "It must be nice only having to work one day a week."
  • One guy told me once, "I was wrong about you—we made a mistake when we called you here. You're not the right guy to be the pastor of this church."
  • I was recently told, in response to a comment I made on Facebook, "It's pretty clear that your gifts are somewhere other than in pastoral ministry..."

These are just a few that come to mind; there are others (some of them even more hurtful).

Maybe you meant well. Probably so. You were just being honest, right? If you can't shoot straight with your pastor, then who can you be straight with?

But here's the thing you need to know when you say this sort of thing to a pastor: you've just undermined him entirely. In a sentence or two, you stripped him of his dignity and took away his confidence. With a brief word, you armed Satan with a memory that will be re-played in his head over and over again for years.

If your goal was honesty, you probably over-stated. But if your goal was to try to drive him out of the ministry, you probably hit your mark. And every time he faces another situation in which he doubts his effectiveness, his usefulness to God, or his calling to ministry, your words will ring in his ears—along with the words of others who carelessly said similar things.

This is not "normal" behavior for Christians. Don't be a church "pod"! Show some inhibitions.

For pastors who have had such hurtful words said to you (which means, for all pastors):

These words are not the sum of your ministry. They surely have hurt you more than was intended. I know that they will haunt you. Perhaps they have even traumatized you.

The benefit of doubt that the Gospel of grace urges us toward means that you believe that these were not meant to cut to the quick as they did. Try to hope all things and believe all things about the ones who said them, and to love them in spite of their caustic words.

You do not do what you do for the approval of men.