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!