Monday, June 19, 2006

Truth or Not Truth?

When someone starts a blog they have several decisions to make. They have to determine what level of honesty and exposure they will establish and maintain; what risks they will take with their life and reputation. When that blogger has a congregation of 1200+ and speaks all over the US and much of the world, that decision isn't an easy one to make -- or keep.

So what should this blog be? Should it be a series of platitudes issued by a spiritual leader, full of pat answers, simple solutions, and nonoffensive stories? Should I reveal any personal struggles, weaknesses, biases, foibles? Or should I pontificate from a distant place as if none of the earth's dirt gets on me?

When Rochester hired me five years ago I promised them (warned them?) that I would live my life out loud and out in front of them. I wouldn't hide behind our plexiglass pulpit. I would share the bits of my life that shame me as readily as I would those parts that give me joy. I grew up listening to preachers roundly condemn most of what I was doing (or wanted to do) but they never shared stories about themselves unless they put them in a good light. Even when they "confessed" or "fessed up" to making a mistake it was in a humorous context so that we could all laugh a little and shake our heads saying "Things like that can happen, can't they?"

I don't play that game. An example: Twelve years ago some people called me, asking me to meet them for lunch. I was supposed to hold them a meeting and they needed to go over some things with me. My spidey sense was tingling -- I've never had a good day start with hearing "we need to have lunch." When I arrived the two men said, "We've received a letter about you that makes some rather serious accusations." The letter was unsigned (figures!) but of sufficient weight to bring us to the meeting that day. As one man began to open the letter I placed my hand over his, stopping him. That, alone, shocked him for men don't touch that way outside of Brokeback Mountain unless they're checking for a pulse. I said this: "I don't know what is in that letter. I can't even guess at it. But what you need to know before you even open it is that it is nowhere near as bad as the truth."

They were stunned. I wasn't going to hide behind ecclesiastical robes or reputation. What was the letter going to say? (I never got to find out. They pitched it. We had a good lunch and, later, a good meeting where several came to Christ) Was it going to say I was lazy, greedy, lustful, tempermental, tactless, wishy-washy, or a spiritual cripple? If so -- it was right. I am the least of God's servants and I have never made a secret of that. I am proof of His grace and love -- for He should have left me in the ditch. He had every right to do so. I am also proof of His power for He has done many mighty things around me and through me and I know I don't have the spiritual/physical or moral power to light a light bulb... but He has taken my half a fish and a few crumbs of bread and done wonderful things with them.

Some were upset about me mentioning weight and size in the last column. Most of the emails I got were very charitable and kind. Some weren't. Some thought I shouldn't notice or mention such things. But why? You are hereby allowed to notice bad things about me (there are plenty to choose from, ladies and gents, step right up and take a handful, no pushing, please)! I am a short guy (5-8. I used to be taller but that $#%%$ gravity stole some) with round shoulders and a slight hunch (from birth, uncorrectable) and possessed of a voice that sounds like Mickey Mouse got in the helium again. Two major battles have consumed my life over the last twenty years -- my weight and my anger.

So... I went on a fast. And I am still on it. I gave up meat years ago. While I might eat fish once or twice a month, that's it. I LOVE meat, but I will not eat it again. I had to have something in my life to remind me --every day -- that I was no longer a predator and I would not attack my brethren or neighbors again. It also reminded me that not all food is good for me and I needed to make better choices about what to eat and how much of it I could eat. This is not a diet -- it is a spiritual commitment.

Am I allowed to notice or comment when someone is huge? I think so. I could lie and act like it never crosses my mind but is that the kind of minister-blog you want? Maybe you should go to the card store and read Helen Steiner Rice verses instead. My favorite comedian is John Pinette (his CD "Show Me The Buffet" is hilarious). His comedy centers around his considerable size. He joyfully admits it isn't a glandular thing; he just loves eating. For those who are overweight due to genetics (a very small percentage) I know what you are going through. See above: I'm not a handsome dude and I get teased a lot even now (and I take it because I know it isn't done maliciously. I'm glad my family and friends can be comfortable and secure enough to tease me). If your weight is caused by other conditions such as medication, the inability to be mobile because of an injury or disease, etc. then my heart goes out to you. When I lost the ability to walk for awhile (I'm okay now) my weight ballooned. But if your weight is due to overeating and lack of movement -- change your life. Make a vow. Keep it. I know it's not easy, but it CAN be done.

In the meantime, this blog will continue to be honest and open even at the risk of being unlovely. Because, really, would you want it any other way? Like me, hate me, love me, revile me... but at least you will know who I am before you decide!


At 6/19/2006 04:26:00 PM , Anonymous Jeff Slater said...

Don't change a thing -- your blog is fantastic. Your honesty is refreshing. Your insights and observations are profound and always right-on-target. And your humorous bits are hilarious.

Keep up the good work!


At 6/19/2006 04:30:00 PM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

I prefer truth, thank you for asking, and wish I had the nerve to be so truthful on my own blog.

Ya know, I really liked those pretzels that tasted kind of buttery so I tried to go online to buy them as I couldn't find them in a store. They only sold them in bulk cases. Do you reckon they went out of business when the airlines quit giving them out?

I feel sad for Anonymous. I've struggled with my weight and my self-image all my life.

Thanks for making me laugh with your entry today. I needed it.

At 6/19/2006 06:10:00 PM , Blogger That Girl said...

I love your insight... I've grown because of your thoughts.

Unfortunately, you're a better man than I... I'm more of a chicken and have hidden. Email me if you would like to see where the princess went. Although, I may have already told you... in that case, please disregard this message.

At 6/19/2006 06:43:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truth or Not Truth? Let's go for truth.

Truth: Almost everyone who responds to your blogs is dripping (and I mean dripping) with praise, compliments and gush at just about everything you say. They tell you how right you are and how fantastic you are and how you should write a book. Is it possible that that makes it hard to recieve criticism or disagreement about something you've said? We want truth, right? We want honesty, right? That means for everyone, right? Not just preachers who have a congregation of 1200+ members, and his loyal followers,right? Then that means the responders who disagreed with your post (I was not one of them, by the way--I emailed my comments directly to you) have the same right to be truthful about what they observe and what they feel.

See, you can be as open with your own life as you want. You can point out your own sins and weaknesses. You can be as transparent as you want to be. But the truth is, that doesn't make it okay to be insensitive to others weaknesses or failings.

We say we want truth. But to paraphrase a famous actor, I'm not sure we can handle the truth.

Melissa Wiley

At 6/19/2006 06:52:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same anonymous as before...
I appreciate your unapologetic honesty. It lets me know exactly who you are, at least as much as you can tell about a person on a blog. BUT (I guess you could say I am going to "but-whack" you here, pun intended) while your honesty may be perfect, your perception may need some work. To say someone is overweight is one thing, but were they really the actual size of York, Nebraska? I like to use hyperbole and sarcasm from side to side, but there are times when that is what I need to fast from...when my seeking a laugh or trying to drive a point home is at the expense of the feeling of others. But, hey....if that is who you are, then at least you admit it. That's better than pretending. And, after all, this is your blog and you can say whatever you want. Many of your posts I enjoy and pass onto others. Happy flying...

At 6/20/2006 12:20:00 AM , Blogger Keith Brenton said...

What's the point in having a blog if you can't be yourself?

What's the point in having a preacher if he can't tell the truth?

Big people are big. Small people are small. Truth is truth. Sin is sin.

We all got strengths. We all got flaws. When we let our flaws become a nuisance to other people, a bit o' grumbling should be expected. When we share our weaknesses to the glory of the One who gives strength, well, a bit o' acknowledgment is probably going to follow.

Consider this mine, Patrick.

At 6/20/2006 10:32:00 AM , Anonymous Christopher M. Gallagher said...

Excellent blog! It is my humble opinion that people fear and become upset with things in others that are really a part of themselves. Keep blogging, keep writing, keep meditating and keep preaching!

Just remember, "You been here four hour, you go now!" (John Pinette)

PS - Remember always to find humor in yourself. (John Pinette rocks!)

At 6/20/2006 01:43:00 PM , Blogger Lee Hodges said...

It is possible to be honest and not real. Thanks Patrick for being both. Thanks for the warm fuzzies and the burrs you place under our saddles from time to time. We need them both.

At 6/20/2006 02:51:00 PM , Blogger CrazyJo said...

I'm a not-so-thin woman, but I got a kick out of your last post anyway. If that makes me a partner to insensitivity, so be it I guess. I do like your honesty. You are not a perfect man, no one on earth is, and I would be worried (and not reading) if you tried to present yourself as such. And depending on the size of York, NE, that comparison may or may not have been mean! lol

At 6/20/2006 09:21:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

When we accept each other and realize we are at times insensitive and other times down right mean, we can begin the conversations that will help us grow to be like Jesus.....

In the meantime we have to look hard to find the places where we can be real without condemnation...

At 6/20/2006 10:06:00 PM , Blogger TCS said...

"keep it real man" from some movie.

I remind myself that somepeople that EVERYTHING too serious.

At least you weren't belly-whacked or Breast-whacked.

At 6/21/2006 02:10:00 PM , Blogger Joel Maners said...

Hey! Stop butt-whacking me!


At 6/21/2006 06:16:00 PM , Blogger Broken Messenger said...

Like me, hate me, love me, revile me... but at least you will know who I am before you decide!

I'm a new reader and I like you already, Patrick. Though I have only read two posts so far.... :o)


At 6/27/2006 01:13:00 PM , Blogger Niki said...

Sensitive bunch out there, huh?

Keep posting friend! Fat people don't like fat jokes, but really...calling someone unchristian for comments like that? People need to lighten up.

BTW, I hope I never whack you or anyone else on a plane - regardless of my big body parts.

Feel free to step on my toes...I can take it. Like your family, I know your intent is not malicious.

At 7/04/2006 04:04:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth is always the best way to go. Would you rather someone get mad at you or judge you or be mad at yourself for changing into something you are not???


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