Telling people what to do and how to think

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Last week I fell upon an article that was critical of cargo shorts.  Yes, I’m not kidding.  And critical as being kind.  When I say critical, I mean the author was relentless in their criticism of cargo shorts.  They had nothing positive to say about them.  I guess the fashion police have decided that cargo shorts are out of style now.  The readers were told that instead they should wear chino shorts (without any pockets too).  Needless to say, I decided to wear cargo shorts that day just because of reading that article – yes a little passive aggressive, but seriously, a war on cargo shorts?  Who in their right mind wears shorts without pockets?  Where do you keep your keys, or wallet, or phone, or anything else?

I think my reaction is a typical reaction though.  It’s typical of a lot of people who are told what to do or how to think.  We do the opposite of what we are told because we’ve been told what we can’t do.  The funny thing is, the people who make these rules only encourage people breaking them the more they fuss about them.

Maybe it’s childish.  Then again, maybe it’s childish to expect people to follow a rule from some self-proclaimed expert in some field on something so subjective as fashion.

I’m aware of this reaction too when it comes to religion and politics.  I try to stay away from the should’s and the have-to’s.  They usually don’t turn out well. One of the worst things you can do if try to force someone to act a certain way or believe a certain thing.  It’s far better to have natural buy-in.  But that requires a bit more effort and patience.  And the willingness to be flexible and listen – you don’t get 100% of what you want, but that’s ok, you’re moving along in the right direction.  And you might have to change too, which is probably a good thing too.

I can share what has worked for me and I can talk about what I see going on around me, but I know that as soon as I turn to proclaiming what people have to do or what they should do, I know there will be resistance.  And probably rightly so.  That’s me trying to force people to be different – to be like me.  And they aren’t me and they shouldn’t be me.  You should be who you are, not someone else.

In the meantime, I’ll just go right on wearing my cargo shorts and not caring if they are in style or not.  Because for me, practicality is more important.  If fashion is more important for you, great, more power to you.  How about this – you let me where what I want to, and keep your opinions to yourself unless I ask and I’ll do the same.  Believe me, you don’t want to hear my thoughts about Chino Shorts and how ridiculous they look.  Let’s let each other live with that.  And no, I’m not holding your keys or phone for you since you decided to wear shorts without pockets.  Your wallet, sure, but there’s a holding fee.  You can call it the price of fashion.

Founders Square

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Well, that’s what I’m calling it anyway.  It’s the square that is dedicated to the founder of Reykjavik, Ingólfur Arnarson.  He was a viking who saw the smokey bay and named it after that steam.

Today you can still see the steam coming up from the ground.

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It’s a nice open square.  And there’s a pole dedicated to the founder.

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Don’t ask me to translate, I don’t know Icelandic.  But regardless, it look pretty cool.

Back to…

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I took last week off from posting anything on social media.  No travel blog posts, no theology, no politics, no prayers, no tweets. No nothing. It was like a vacation.  Only it wasn’t.

We moved back to our home after being away for two years.  I needed the time to unpack (still not totally done, but a good way through).  I’m also working on my Approval Essay (really important essay for concluding seminary).  That’s coming along well.  It’s due Sept. 1 – So I’ll be working on it until then, continually tweaking and changing things as I see it.

Taking time off from social media was nice – a breathe of fresh air.

I’m also realizing that I might be doing too much.  Or maybe I’m just feeling a bit weighed down.  I like posting travel blog posts.  They are fun.  I enjoy writing on theology and politics.  I enjoy creating unique tweets on the bible.  I enjoy all of this, but I’m wondering if I’m just feeling like there has to be a faster way to do this all.

I’ll keep playing with things and see how it works out.

In the mean time, I’ve restarted most of it.  I’ll get back into a groove soon.  It will have to if this is going to continue – classes start next week.  So I better find that groove quickly.

Until tomorrow…Peace.

Iceland’s unique way of governing

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This is the residence where Iceland’s Prime Minister lives.  It’s in the heart of the capitol city and as you can see, there is very little protecting it.  It’s approachable.  You can walk past it without anyone worrying about what will happen.

It’s a breathe of fresh air compared to so many other nations that separate their elected leaders from everyone else.

Of course, you could say that Iceland is different – there are only about 350,000 people on the island, it has no defenses, most people probably know each other, etc.

Yet, I can’t help but be impressed.  I think it sets the tone for so much in the way of governing.  The same could be argued for religion too and other organizations.  The more approachable the leadership is, the more trust that leadership has in the people they are leading.  It makes for a solid community that is open for debate.  The point isn’t conformity here, it’s community.  I find that the places that separate the leaders from the people are more interested in conformity – it’s safer that way.  Just an observation.

I won’t be posting next week, here’s why…

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  1. We’re moving, so you know, we’ll be a bit busy.
  2. Since we’re moving we won’t have internet access for a few days.
  3. I just want a break from posting – so think of this as an internet vacation.  Even though I’ll be doing plenty of work.
  4. Besides moving, I am working on my Approval Essay.  This is one of the most important “essays” I will ever write.  It’s one of the last key things in my seminary experience.  So, I kind of need to focus to finish it up.

See you on the other side.

Moving on…

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Sunday will mark the end of my internship at the church I’ve been assigned for the last year.  I will have completed four years of seminary (I started part time, so as far as the seminary is concerned I’ve completed three years).  I have one year of classes.  Actually I have two semesters.  I graduate on May 19, 2017.  That’s not too far away.  We’re in countdown mode here in the Best household.

The end of the internship means that we move.  We move back to our home.  We’ve been packing all week in preparation.  We have mixed emotions.  We’re excited to get back to our home – the home we left just over two years ago.  We are excited to be in the daily lives of family and friends that we left two years ago.

We’re also a little anxious about it – we left two years ago.  A great deal has changed in that time.  We’ve changed.  They’ve changed.  The world has changed.  We don’t know what to expect.  We do know that it won’t be just like it was when we left.  It can’t.  It never is.

We’re also a bit sad.  We’ve experienced this before.  We felt the same way when we left Finland last year.  We are sad to leave a place that we’ve called home for a year.  We’re sad to leave the friends we have made along the way this year. We’re sad to make the kids move yet again and have to establish and re-establish new friendships all over again.

But we knew this was deal when we signed up.

We’re also feeling a bit of something else.  We feel the closeness to the end of this journey of seminary.  By March we’ll know what region and synod we’re being assigned to.  Will it be our home synod?  Will it be the synod we’ve been in for the last year?  Will it be somewhere else that we have never thought of?  We don’t know.  The whole journey of seminary is full of great big giant question marks.  Going through this process is not for everyone.  You get comfortable with not being in control, with only knowing what the next year holds.  I think it’s actually a grace that seminarians experience.  When we don’t know, we turn to the one who does – God.  We are given faith to trust that God has our best interest in mind and will send us where we need to be at any given time.  It’s a leap of faith.  It’s also scary.  Yet here we are, following a path where I can’t see very far down the road.

Moving on is not easy.  It can wear you down.

Moving on is not easy.  But there are benefits.  Benefits like figuring out that we have a lot of stuff that we can get rid of.  For the last two years we have had to live in small spaces.  Which means you make decisions about what is truly important to keep.  We’ve found that the prints and pictures that we have are some of the most valuable things we possess – they remind us of our times in the locations we have been.  They remind us of the people we have gotten to know.  They remind us of how small the world is.  They remind us to pray for the people in these locations.

Moving on is not easy.  But it’s what we are called to do this weekend.

We’ll start unpacking on Sunday, arranging our house.  We’ll familiarize ourselves with our house.  We’ll re-establish long time relationships in person.  We’ll settle in to a routine in a short while.  There will be a new normal for us.  Then again, some of the old normal will stay with us – the normal of recognizing that we aren’t ultimately in control.  And we’ll take comfort in the trust that we have, in the faith we have been given.

Moving on is not easy.  But it’s what makes up life.  There’s a popular saying that the purpose of life is to be happy.  I don’t agree.  Think that’s a bunch of BS.  The purpose of life is to experience as much as possible and to be who we are called to be.  If all we pursue if happiness, then we miss out on so much of what life has to offer.  We should experience the “bad” things too.  We should experience sadness, anger, sorrow, pain, and more.  Not because they are enjoyable, but because they remind us of what and who are truly important in life.  And yes, we should experience the “good” things of life too.  They make life enjoyable.

Moving on is not easy.  But it is an important part of life.  And I wouldn’t have it any of way.

To the good people of Duncansville, Hollidaysburg, and Altoona, Pennsylvania I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I do not say goodbye, because goodbye means we’ll never meet again – and we can’t be certain about that.  We don’t know what the future holds.  Thank you for allowing our family to be a part of your lives – through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  You’ve blessed us in ways you can’t imagine.  We’ll take that with us as we continue our journey.  We hope you’ll take the blessings we have given you in your journey.  Thank you, until we meet again.

Can we stop making Jesus something he wasn’t? Please.

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Jesus would vote for my candidate. Jesus would have banned cargo shorts (I haven’t heard this one yet, but I’m sure it’s coming given the war that is being waged against these shorts lately). Jesus would do this.  Jesus would do that.  All because we want to use Jesus to support our belief and way of living and thinking.

Except for the fact that this is a bunch of BS, I get it.  This has been going on for a long time too – ever since Jesus walked the earth.  The Jews in Jerusalem wanted to make Jesus an earthly king who would set them politically free from Rome.  That was just the start.  Ever since then, I would venture to guess that every generation has tried to make Jesus into something he wasn’t.  What could be a better support for yourself than being able to claim that Jesus would be on your side or for your beliefs or way of life or whatever.  It’s divine affiliation.

I’ve been holding onto a an article for some months now.  It’s an article that claims that Jesus was a protester.  There are even scripture references to back up the claim.

The problem with this is the idea that we can define Jesus by our modern day terminology.  We think we can make Jesus into some kind American partisan political person.  He wasn’t.

I have several problems with the idea that Jesus was a protester.  Protesters gather together, identify what they feel is an injustice, sign petitions, make signs, shout slogans, maybe even do a march.  Some protesters think they are really making a different by getting arrested.  For them, it sends a statement.

But Jesus wasn’t a protester.

In every single example given in the article, Jesus didn’t sit by passively waiting for someone else to make a change – he went and did it.  Protesters get upset at what is happening.  Transformative figures go and change things.  Jesus was a transformative figure.  You wouldn’t find Jesus out protesting or marching or anything like that.  You did find him actually making change happen.

Jesus didn’t make this change by petitioning government and government officials.  He didn’t go and lobby the Roman Senate and emperor to change this law or that law.  He didn’t protest at all.

No, instead, he went where the problem was and did something about it.  When the five thousand came to hear him, they were hungry.  He fed them.  When the wine ran out at the wedding in Cana, he made more.  When he was sleeping on the boat and the disciples feared the storm, he calmed it.  When the disciples were out in the boat all night and caught nothing, he told them to change what they were doing and they caught a boat load.  He impacted lives directly because Jesus message and his entire being was and is life changing.

That’s not to say that protesting isn’t important.  It can rally people.  MLK used protests very effectively, but I’m willing to bet that it was just one piece in his overall strategy, not the whole thing.

Of course, maybe the point of the article is to redefine what it means to be a protester.  In which case, let’s be clear about what a protester is.

Here’s a definition of protester that I found when I googled the word – a person who publicly demonstrates strong objection to something; a demonstrator.

According to that definition, Jesus was not a protester.  He was so much more.

Which brings us to the bigger point.  Can we please stop making Jesus into something that he never was?  Please.  I’m sorry to burst your bubble here.  Jesus was not a Democrat or a Republican. Jesus was not an American.  Jesus was not someone who lived in the 21st century.  Stop trying to make him into any of these things.

You don’t have to be a jerk about it

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Oh man, here we go.

That’s the typical response I get when I start to hear people shoving scripture down other people’s throats.  It’s the response I get when I start to hear the circular logic that is employed to try to prove something.  It’s the response that goes through my head when I start to hear so many political “conversations,” if you want to call them that.

Thom Shultz wrote an article back in May that talks about this in relation to religion – Talking about God without being a jerk.

At the end of the article Thom talks about Doug Pollack about his conversational method.

His approach today begins with listening–and asking “wondering questions,” which tend to invite people into comfortable conversations. Now he finds himself in friendly, spiritual conversations with all sorts of people, including those who some pious Christians would find repulsive. He’s learned to embrace them with “radical acceptance,” even though he may not always endorse all their behaviors. That’s an approach he says he learned from another great conversationalist and faith sharer, Jesus.

Amen!  it’s not about shoving your version of Christianity down people’s throats.  Or your political ideology and beliefs either for that matter.  Orthodoxy of belief is important, however, how can you ever get people to believe something if you can’t even talk with them, listen to them, and hear where they are? You know, people are similar in a few things – they all believe that what they believe is correct.  You might want to hear them out for a bit.  That doesn’t mean you have to agree or take on someone elses’ beliefs.  In fact you could walk away thinking the person is completely wrong.  That’s ok.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

Stop trying to fix people, or correct their beliefs if they aren’t open to listening – you are wasting your breath.  Jesus didn’t say go and beat people into submission.  You’ll get much further in life and with faith and politics if you stop, listen to people first, and hear their questions and beliefs.  You might be invited to offer your insights.  You might not be invited to offer your beliefs and insights though.  That’s ok.  It’s not your job to convince anyone.  Stop worrying about being right and getting everyone to buy into your version of right.  Jesus never said “blessed are the people who are right and convince others.”  Start caring for the person you are there with.  Be non-divisive so that others may not divide and separate you.  Be forgiving so that you can receive forgiveness as well.  Be considerate and respectful.  Listen and try to understand.  And when you walk away, ask yourself what you learned.  Maybe you learned that you don’t ever want to talk with the person again.  That’s ok too.  But we really don’t need to be jerks.  Even when someone is a jerk to us.  How you response will say more about who you are, rather than who the other person is.

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