My (Terribly Broken) Creativity Tap

This morning I sat down at my computer, endeavoring to finish Advent planning and not go week-by-week YET AGAIN this year. I opened the document for the Advent Candle Readings I’m writing and…

The cursor on the screen goes
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
The curser on the screen goes
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
All morning long!

Okay, fine. Worship Materials. We can do that. We do that all the time and have for over a decade, and I have already done most of the planning and the prayers just get adapted from the previous week for advent. We can do this!

Second verse, same as the first!

The cursor on the screen goes
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
The curser on the screen goes
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
All morning long!

Okay, fine. Maybe the coffee has not hit yet. I will not beat myself up about not getting anything done in the timeframe I would have liked and instead open a lengthy blog post draft to work on to prime the tap. I quickly wrote 1000 good words the other night and felt really passionate about the post. Not sure if it will ever publicly see the light of day, but it helps me work through some things I have mulled over and maybe by just writing the tap will open and I can get real work done after.

Fun fact: leaving half a sentence that starts “I do not want to make…” for the beginning of a new paragraph sitting at the bottom of the document with no notes about what the sentence should say and no clues from the previous paragraphs where you intended go with your next thought does not make it easy to resume a piece of writing.

Third verse, same as the first…

The cursor on the screen goes
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
The curser on the screen goes
*BLINK* *BLINK* *BLINK*
All morning long!

At that moment I started writing what you see before you. I had a strong emotion and a thought about something; combining those makes the fingers start pressing the buttons on the stupid RGB keyboard. This event, this place where I cannot, for the life of me, do anything useful but I can write this probably useless piece that I will post to the blog* because I have not posted in months despite paying for my piece of the internet with a real URL but that I actually kind of like and have done some live editing of, I realized somewhere my creativity tap broke. Broke terribly.

When my creativity tap pours, it pours hard. I can crank out a thousand words in an hour or two, I can plan a good and creative worship service in thirty minutes, I can work through questions and thoughts and philosophies I have wrestled with for days or weeks or even years and put the conclusions on paper in record speed.

When the tap pours, it pours with the greatest of pressures and fills many mugs. Thankfully I can usually edit the foamy beer filling those mugs into something drinkable and usable after the fact, no creativity tap needed.

In non-metaphorical terms, I usually just need to copyedit and maybe rearrange to match a “normal” thought process and not my crazy thought process. I get to a point where I do not need the creativity tap and can just work like a happy little worker bee to finish whatever I have started.

When the tap opens, it flows from me.

When the tap opens.

I have resided in this body for nearly thirty-six years. I have considered myself a writer for twenty. I have written sermons weekly for eleven and planned most of the worship services that went along with those sermons. I still, someday, hope to professionally write in some capacity.

But the creativity tap does not open for me without one of three motivators:

One, stress. My Stress/Productivity Curve rises very slowly and then quickly peaks late in the curve. When the stress cranks up, I can crank it out; when the stress does not, I slog through and usually do not finish until the stress cranks up. Terrible for editing, terrible for quality control, terrible for my mental health (and the mental health of my church admins, I have been told).

Two, place. This one could actually work in my favor expect for one thing: that place is outside. November in Iowa does not encourage outdoor office work. Worked great writing my paper in September, not so much now. Unfortunately, too, I have not found an outdoor place for doing work at church and offices without a ton of sunlight and without a big table for a desk I can move whenever I want discourage my creativity.

Three, emotion. This one wins almost universally. If I get a topic that triggers an emotional response in me, especially a strong emotional response but sometimes simple like “I just want productivity this morning!”, it opens the creativity tap and it just flows out of me.

I get inconsistent results with motivators one and two. I have looked at an empty page at 1 AM Sunday morning for a sermon I will preach at 10:30 that same morning. I sat at the table outside writing my paper and wrote 200 words in 4 hours on multiple occasions. Often, I need both stress and place to hit that point of creative flow to actually get work written.

But emotional motivation just opens the tap. In a weird way, emotion actually clears my thinking instead of clouding and biasing it. It opens me to make connections and see relationships I could not previously. It takes away the doubt and fears of imperfection and just lets me get something on the page — and again, that something usually ends up good.

If that emotional trigger gets tripped, the creativity tap opens.

John Green mentioned something in a video recently that just came to mind. He started talking about his current writing projects and said that he writes to think. In writing this thing that ended flowing out of me like an over-pressurized stout tap, I began to realize I do the same thing.

Actually, I realized it when I saw the video, but it came into focus writing this.

More than once I have found myself in an emotional state, every emotional trigger flipped and every nerve raw, while trying to go to sleep. This happened a lot on Saturday nights before Sunday mornings my last year in Fort Wayne, wanting so badly to just get a good night’s sleep and have the physical energy and “rested-ness” to do good enough a job that next morning that maybe some of the things that eventually lead to my resignation would start to undo themselves and I could find success there again.

That anxiety, stress, and emotion needed a place to go, and at 2 AM I have no physical way to relief an “emotional shitstorm.” More than once I opened Word Mobile, an absolute miserable experience for writing, and just started putting words on paper. More than once I would get a few hundred words of useable writing out of it, and almost always it would taper off the “emotional shitstorm” enough for me to go to sleep.

I write to think, I write to process, and somehow that has broken my creativity tap. For some reason I can now only write and crank out the words when I need to process or think through something.

Unless, again, I have the exact level of stress and/or the exact place needed to open the creativity tap without triggering intense emotion.

I started this out just wanting to vent and prime the tap for the productive work I need to do today, but now I find myself wondering if writing became my therapy, my place to deal with everything in a way that I could also share with the world if the opportunity to do so safely and well ever arose.

We all had and have no place to frankly share what so much of what clergy (and I assume healthcare workers, educators, and other helping professionals) experienced with the pandemic. So many of the spaces we thought we could share ended up unsafe or unwelcoming to “divisive topics” like the politics of an apolitical virus killing people. Writing with the hope of someday have a space to share what I experienced through those writings gave me the ability to write when I could not write anything else.

Writing is thinking to me, more than anything else. So, unless I have something to work out, the writing just does not come to me anymore (if it ever did in the first place).

My creative tap broke in terrible ways. Anyone else?

Peace,
– Robby

P.S.: “Emotional Shitstorm” is the technical term for when you are so emotionally overwhelmed that you cannot function in any meaningful way, the emotions are having an acute affect your physical being in that moment, and the only relief can come from something that acts as a trip or reset for it. Usually, people recommend physical exercise or patterned games without stories (Tetris comes to mind). And no, I did not come up with that; someone wise gave me that language.

* It always feels weird writing future tense when, by the time you read it, I will have already posted it by the nature of you reading it on said blog. Why this feels weird to me, and why I need to tell you it feels weird, I have no idea, but alas I needed to share my thoughts on the matter because of course I did.

Unwelcome Silence

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our four-legged companion and friend Giselle. She became the center point of our lives for many years, including giving us love and compassion during some of the hardest parts of our life together (and when our support system collapsed around us). She deserved to walk the Rainbow Bridge after a good night and a good morning, something not guaranteed to happen again given her cancer.

Yesterday Nora and I got to spend the day together, embracing, crying, deciding to throw everything of hers away and then, wisely, deciding to keep it in an opaque box for when we are ready to welcome another companion into our home. We spent time walking (something Giselle could not do her last few weeks), time laughing about her weirdness, reminiscing how hard the first month with her was. We spent the day mourning and worrying about nothing but mourning.

Today, Nora went to work, and I worked from home because of the snow. I sat on the couch, preparing to work, and I heard nothing. Absolutely nothing. I struggle with silence in general, but this was different. For 6 years Giselle’s breathing through her slightly brachycephalic snout gave a quiet noise to a silent space.

The moment I sat down today, nothing in the house made any noise. The furnace had clicked off, the dehumidifier too. The fridge compressor did not run, I did not forget to turn the vent fan off after my shower, the rain had slowed enough that I did not hear it hitting the roof. The house had no noise at all for the first time in the four years we lived here (whenever I had dropped Giselle off at the sitter, I always either ran around packing for whatever trip we had planned or immediately turned the TV on).

Or maybe I just noticed it for the first time because I did not welcome the silence. I did not want the silence. The silence settled heavy in my chest and forced its weight upon me.

But for a moment I paused, not in exhaustion or boredom or insolence but because I absolutely could not do anything but sit in the silence of a house who had lost its companion.

The moment did not last terribly long — a couple of minutes at most — but in that moment I realized, for maybe the 400th time over the past month, how important her presence and life was to us, just in a different way. Even the days she stayed in the hospital her presence sat here and I did not experience such empty silence until today, her things packed away, her pictures not scrolling on the TV, her slightly louder than silent breathing no longer present.

I hated that silence, but I am thankful for it. It forced me to pause. I had to stop and just sit with her loss, something I did not want to do but I needed to do. After that I could pull the album of her pictures up and remember why she meant so much to us. After that I could see her and hurt just a small bit less.

Her little bandana said, “Please pet me.”

I hate unwelcome silence, but I am thankful for it.

Peace,
— Robby

I Am Thankful for You

Every day I scroll my Facebook feed, seeing faces and memories of times past. I see people who altered the direction of my life, brightened the path when I could not see it, and reminded me why I traveled that path. I see people who made me laugh. I see the poor folks who I feel madly in unrequited love with (and probably have some who did the same with me).

I see you all, and I almost daily grow more thankful for your presence in my life.

  • Some of you have grown in different ways than me and we no longer see eye-to-eye.
  • Some of you I now see eye-to-eye with but our friendships faded away too long ago to reconcile that now.
  • Some of you crossed my path for a brief moment yet we knew each other deeply.
  • Some of you I grew up with and yet never really knew you (96% chance that’s my fault).
  • Some of our friendships ended because they caused me too much pain and I had to draw a boundary for my health, but they existed for a reason and I mourn their ending.
  • Some of you I miss every day and wonder why I could not keep connected to you (again, still awkward, nervous, and anxious).

I wish I had less anxiety to reach out to each one of you and tell you how you brightened my life, but somehow seminary, marriage, pastoral ministry, ordination, and time did not make me less awkward, nervous, and anxious.

I am thankful for you. Even if our friendship/relationship/whatever ended in anger and fury, I am thankful for you. I am who I am today — wounds, pains, strengths, direction — because of every person who has entered my life.

I am thankful for you.

Love,
– Robby

Light Roast

I wonder if we get often miss opportunities when we trying to perform and meet a standard that someone else has placed before us.

Last year, in the week before Prime Day (don’t @ me with the evils of Amazon, please), they had the offer: buy $10+ from a small business and get $10 in credit for Prime Day. I chose a small bag of light roast coffee.

I used to pride myself in drinking only the darkest of dark roast coffee – and only drinking it “black.” I convinced myself real coffee drinkers only drank the super dark stuff and I, certainly, met the criteria of “real coffee drinker.” Before that bag of coffee, I had never intentionally had a cup of light roast in my life.

The coffee arrived and it proclaimed flavors of “chocolate, blueberry, honey.” My mind immediately said, “No, coffee. Coffee flavored coffee.” I brewed a cup and…

Blueberry. Obviously, it tasted like coffee, but I only noticed blueberry. It blew my mind that coffee – without any additional flavors added – could taste that beautiful. I still love dark roast, and nothing restores my soul like a large, black coffee, but that light roast just opened me up to something my performative coffee drinking had walled me off to.

We often worry more about the performative version of our actions – allyship, antiracism, ministry, marriage – and miss opportunities that fall outside of the acceptable performative versions.

Do we want people to see “real coffee drinkers” in us or do we want to taste blueberries?

Peace,
– Robby

Remembering Aunt Darla

My Aunt Darla was one of God’s special beloved.  The medical community has words to describe her – nonverbal, neuro-atypical, differently-abled, and more hurtful words – but to us – to me – she was just a loved and special part of our family.  Many people in my family have a special connection to beloved children of God like Darla, and I never ceased to be amazed at the love and compassion that she was shown by people I would not necessarily describe as loving and compassionate otherwise.

That ability to connect with her did not come easily to me, or maybe not even at all.  I always felt that love for her, but that connection was not my gift (which saddens more than a little today).

But in her I saw a special gift I pray for myself: an ultimate vulnerability, a complete lack of mask or deception, fully bringing everything about herself to every moment.  I pray and dream of the moment where I can bring half of my true self to anything; she just naturally did it.

She was a complete and whole beloved child of God, no need for correction nor fixing.  I do not say that she had an easy life – or a pain-free life – but she was beloved exactly as she was.  I could not always see that, but I know it to be true.

Last night my Aunt Darla passed away from COVID-19.  She spent a week on a ventilator but was, ultimately, too weak to recover.  Thankfully my grandparents were able to spend the last moments with her, but most of that time they had to stay away.  I don’t know if she knew what was going on before they sedated her, but I know it had to be very confusing to be without anyone she knew in those last moments awake.

For the past week or so, a verse from Matthew has not been far from my mind: “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” (Matthew 25:40 CEB)

I know Darla was well cared for her entire life – my grandparents, the staff at the facility she lived, the doctors and nurses who cared for her at the end.  Those people are light in this world, a reflection of perfect love.

On Friday my family will be wearing red – her favorite color – and you are welcome to join us, but I more hope and pray that you can find your way to do for the least and the lowest.  Protect the most vulnerable, support the most downtrodden, lift the most beaten, sacrifice your own desires for the needs of those whose needs aren’t fulfilled.

“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” (Matthew 25:40 CEB)

You will be dearly missed, Aunt Darla.  I pray I can someday reflect as much of Christ’s love as you did.

– Robby

“Where are you, God?”: A lament

I wake up almost every morning and look at my phone. My social media reads a litany of pain and suffering. The news reads a litany of ever-evolving chaos and glaringly inadequate response. Fear, anger, sickness, hopelessness; we have almost nothing else to share in this time, they have nothing else to report at this time.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Two white men chased down and hunted a black man like they would a wild animal. The wheels of justice has just now – after months – started to turn after the African American community had to risk their lives protesting to make it start. No one has charged them yet. The Georgia Bureau of Investigations basically said the men had the legal right to perform a “citizen’s arrest” on him and, when he rightly resisted, murder him.

And I have no words.

My savior, my teachers, my parishioners, my God require that I speak out and condemn racism. My dear friend lives in fear of when her beautiful young son can make someone “fear for their life” by simply existing. My heart aches in remembrance of a time when I would have defended these men instead of seeing the blatant racism at work. My soul demands justice, yet justice seems to retreat as racism takes a stronger hold on our nation.

And I have no words.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

The past few days have fill themselves with conspiracies. People I love – and people who serve congregations as pastor – have spread misinformation about COVID-19, dangerous misinformation that threatened to harm the people they served. People want to resume normal life – a life that will no loner exist when this ceases – and that desire has blinded them to truth.

Some of our governments have chosen the economy over the least and the lowest. They demand the poorest and most vulnerable risk their lives to survive. They have suggested churches serve as the “test group” for reopening everything. They have the ability and resources to create safety nets for those most at risk and instead create safety nets for the richest and least at risk.

I have words, I have spoken words, and they have fallen deaf on the ears of those who can make decisions.

Our governments have all but said these decisions will unnecessarily kill people, but the economy needs the sacrifice. Our market economy – not the makers, not the producers, not the laborers, but the market that declares values on nothing more than speculation – demands a sacrifice, and the weakest and lowest will serve as that sacrifice.

We can protect human survival of the least and the lowest, yet we protect the economy.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Exhaustion has taken me. Though so many other things – much more important things – weigh heavy on my shoulders, the hours and energy I must exert to keep a church going have drained me. When I feel guilty over only working 50 hours this week – and that exhausting me – I know burnout has come.

And I have no solution. I have no alternatives aside from scrapping our entire worship service and creating something less – which also will take energy and creativity I do not think I have.

God instructed the Israelites to plant gardens in their exile, but I do not even know what seeds and vegetables look like in this exile from what I know. I cannot till ground I do not see, I cannot sow seeds I do not have, and I cannot harvest something I would not even recognize.

But I will stay in this exile for as long as the safety of the people I serve requires. I just do not know how I will survive it.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

I do not hear your voice, God. I do not see your hand. I do not know how to keep sharing your Word in this time. I do not know how to speak as a prophet in this time. I do not hear your calling me in the night, I do not hear you calling me to your temple, I do not hear your calling me at all.

I thought I had experienced a “Dark Night of the Soul” previously, but I realized now I had heard God calling me. God did not answer my question of “Why?”, but God did keep calling me to continue on, preserver, and fight for the privilege of sharing God’s Word and Christ’s sacraments.

Now I do not hear God. I believe God does not call people to simply survive and for churches to simply survive, but I only hear that call. God has stopped making God’s presence known to me.

I need guidance now more than ever, yet God’s voice has left me.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Other voices have not. When I post this, someone will try to fix it. Someone will admonish me for not feeling God. Someone will say, “It will all get better.”  Someone will lovingly ask me how I am in a week, expecting things to get better and unprepared to hear that nothing gets better right now, just varying degrees of bad.

I need to lament, and my lament will not end. My pain has not lessened, my frustration has not lessened, my exhaustion has not lessened. I have no end in sight; I find myself exiled from all the things I know and all the self-care practices I have used. Even if I could take a vacation right now – which I cannot – I would spend that vacation in my house in which my living rooms serves as my office and my pulpit.

Someone will have the answer to my lament because they cannot bear to sit with my lament.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

I lament, and yet, like the psalmist, I continue to ask God for relief.

Come, Lord Jesus, come. Please, come to me and speak to me again.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Opening Too Early

I will start this by saying that, if I have unfounded fears, I will very publicly eat my words.  I, like everyone else, pray that this all declines and life can resume.  I want to, in four weeks, say, “I was wrong, and my fears were unfounded.”

But my observations of history, the current trends, and the words of experts make me thing that we have not found the end of this and a second wave will happen as we open back up.

I first must say that I do not have an argument against everything people have said about the downsides of closing.  Yes, closing has exacerbated socio-economic problem.  Yes, closing has exacerbated mental health issues.  Yes, limiting elective surgeries – and declaring some necessary surgeries elective – has exacerbated and risked lives.

No one can – or will – argue the truth of these issues.  They are real.  We may wildly disagree on how to mitigate these realities, but we all know they are real and serious.

When someone says that we should not reopen too soon, they do not argue we should ignore these realities or sacrifice those suffering from these realities for the good of other people.

Our concern lies with the second wave because the second wave will also exacerbate these things, likely exacerbating them longer than if we had just stayed closed long enough.  Opening too early will not have a lasting positive effect.  It will temporarily relieve it, but the ensuing wave and closing will re-exacerbate everything, and for longer because the second wave is always worse than the first and will force a longer closing.

I must address something else.  I have seen zero debate about this.  I have seen virtue signaling, accusations of “vileness” and “hatred,” name calling, and blinding anger.  And, as a confession, I have been as guilty as anyone.

Accusing each other of disregarding the needs of the least and the lowest without actually naming their ways and simply angrily repeating your concerns – or worse, parroting the talking points provided to you by people who care not at all about the least and the lowest but benefit greatly by those least and lowest returning to work – will not help and will only sow divisions in this time of isolation.  And frankly, it does not move us to a better understanding of what we should do.

I will not say much publicly on the issue as I have been doing, but I will covenant with everyone that when I do, I will address what I see, why I disagree with it, and do so without accusations and name calling.  I ask that you do the same.

We can get through this, we can find a path that addresses the pandemic and the societal problems exacerbated by it, and we can do so without hatred, but we must actively and intentionally do so – and maybe sacrifice our own desires and needs in the process.

Peace,
– Robby

Let Me Lament

If you read this and you hear yourself echoed, know I feel your love and I understand why you try to make things feel better.  I get it, I truly do.

But please, let me lament.  Let me be sad and angry at things.  Let me not be okay with the fact that things go wrong.  Let me want to do better and struggle with the reality that I cannot.  Let me feel frustration when things outside of my control derail my effort.

Let me be not okay.

I appreciate you wanting me to have a healthier relationship with my own inherent inadequacy.  I appreciate the love you show me when I get really frustrated and want to quit.  I appreciate you wanting me to see the good in my work.  I appreciate you wanting me to know God loves me and my offerings.

I really do appreciate it.

But I need to mourn and lament.  Every week something new goes wrong.  Every week something inside my control and something outside my control fails.  Every week I have to fix something in service that threatens to derail the service.

Every week something negates – at least in part – my hours of work and labor.

I do not need public reminders of my status of beloved amidst of my lament.  I do not need suggestions on how to do my ministry differently amidst my lament.  I do not need to hear how you have an easier method and explain why I made the conscious decision to not do things that way.  I do not need to feel like I need to apologize for my frustration amidst my lament.

I need to lament and mourn.  Please, just let me be not okay with this and let me be frustration when things that should work do not.

Peace.
– Robby

I Am Weary

I have grown so weary.

It was supposed to get easier after Easter.  For some pastors it did.  My problems seem to not stop.

When do I get to rest?  When do I get to breathe?  Why am I so worn when I am not anything but a worship leader?

My therapist told me to not minimize my own struggles, but how do you not?  All I do is put together a worship service.  I do not go to hospitals and care for patients, I do not risk my life to stock groceries and check customers out for garbage pay, I work from home – a quite comfortable home – and have no schedule.

Why am I so weary?

Why do I put in so much effort?  Do I actually do something more than people who put in less?  Do my offerings match the effort I put into them?

Why do I worry so much about it?  Why can I not just be okay with enough?  Why can I not see my offering as enough?

If I actually put this into the public, someone will tell me I am enough and to not beat myself up.  Someone will try to make me feel better.  Someone will read it and wonder why I wrote this to complain.

Maintaining my pastoral identity – and my professional identity – makes me weary.  The amount of work I must put into to maintain my identity as a pastor makes me weary.  The energy I must give to be myself in this time makes me weary.

Nothing just works.  Zoom meetings randomly decide to not let me in.  Facebook crashes.  I forget to change a setting on my router and lose the service halfway through on Easter – a service I put many hours and much stress into.  On-the-fly corrections do not really work in this space.  Flexibility has gone from ministry because I cannot just change someone last minute.  Everything must be planned and executed, and then something not working will destroy all that work and planning.

I just want to stop.  I just want to be done.  I just want my home to no longer be my chancel and my office.  I just want to preach again in my physical pulpit.

I want to be seen.  I want people to understand the sheer volume of work I do – work I never excelled at and clearly should not do professionally.  I want people to see that I am making an offering that will be insufficient by the world’s standards but is so much more than I could be doing.  I want people to see how much I struggle to balance my need for a sustainable ministry and my call to provide a full worship service – and not chastise and scold me for it.

And I want to be enough.  But I am not.  God makes me enough, somehow, but I am not, and my offerings are inadequate.  I want people to just hear that, not try to fix it, not try to explain it away, but just hear my struggles and empathize with them.

I am weary, and I do not know how to not be weary.

No More Heroes

I recently had two thoughts.

Thought 1:  I have grown weary of “thought leaders” and famous pastors.  Nothing new – I rant about that all the time – but they keep getting shoved in my face.  One, in particular, has “Stuff That Needs To Be Said” at the top of his website.  I also have pastor friends and colleagues who have started calling themselves “prophet” without disdain and bitterness in their mouths, a la Biblical prophets.

I decided to start discounting everything written by someone who calls themselves a prophet and everything written by people who have no humility.  Did I make a healthy or good decision?  Maybe, maybe not, but I just cannot do it anymore.  No one has exclusive knowledge of the will of God and no prophet wants the job – just ask Jonah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.

Thought 2:  I idolize Fred Rogers.  Literally have a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood coffee mug sitting right beside me.  (Nora got it for me, and it features Fred switching from blazer to cardigan if you fill it with hot liquid.  I love it and will drink “church coffee” sometimes just to use it.)  I want my pastoral ministry to mirror and mimic his television ministry in terms of love, vulnerability, authenticity, and intentionality.  I do a thing – I think we all do – where I look at my ministry and I compare it to my exemplar, in this case Fred Rogers.

Guess how I see myself stacking up?  I am a grumpy, curmudgeonly pastor for 33 years old; Fred certainly was not.  I certainly do not live up to the image of Fred Rogers, even if I wear the cardigan and have a warmth of curmudgeonly attitude.

I will always fall short of the example of a man lifted to be about a quarter of a step below Jesus, especially since my ministry will always look radically different than his and I have responsibilities I think he would have struggled with given his attitudes and personality.

Breath Break: As I got to this point, this wonderful song started going through the headphones. Prepare yourself for the Early-00’s music video goodness!

I realized, in a moment of clarity, both thoughts come from the same coin.  Humans have this problem with deifying other humans.  We lift people to god-status and allow them to direct us as if they have a special link to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  Oddly, but unsurprisingly, the people we place in those ivory towers tend to benefit – richly – from our deification of them.

But what about people like Fred Rogers?  Yes, he got to do something amazing for his entire career and had people to support him, but he wanted almost nothing to do with the fame it gave him.  Should we not try to live up to his standard?

We forget that everyone is fallen and sinful, even those we lift as great.  I bet, if we had a conversation with Joanne and his sons, we might see a man, lovely and wonderful, but just as flawed and broken as the rest of us.  And, if he had the humility I believe he had, he would want nothing more than for us to be the best versions of ourselves, not a version of ourselves that matches him.

In my younger years, I had a wise attitude – even if it came from a place of hostility and arrogance – that I would have no heroes.  Every human fails us, and, if we cannot live up to the example of another human, we do not know the fullness of their humanity.  Yet, as I grew up, matured in faith, and became good at a ministry, I decided to cast idols in the forms of humans instead of being the best version of myself.

I did this with a pastor and author, recently, and I had a friend very aggressively destroy that idol – from personal experience – for me.  I forgot how much I value humility and lifting other voices in my colleagues, and I wonder why I could not see the absence of those things in my idols.  (I know why I idolized this person – and I still think they did something I want to learn from – but these things mean to much more to me than success.)

And again, the ones who will not fail us as idols want nothing more than for none of us to idolize them.  True prophets do not want the role of prophecy – and give all honor to God.

No more heroes, just good people we learn from and see as human – flawed and loving all the same.

No idea if this makes sense – and this is a first draft – but I recently made myself a promise that I would write and blog more, and they can’t all be zingers. Thus, I published…

Peace,
– Robby