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Tuesday, November 27, 2012


They say that perception is reality, and I believe that it is.

For example, being a public figure for most of my life has forced me to make peace with the fact that, for the most part, some people are going to think what they are going to think about you, regardless of what you do or say, because they are perceiving you and what you do through the lens of their own unique life-experience, and their own particular world-view, shaped by their own personal history.
It's also been said that we don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are, and I also believe that that is true.
 It's true for all of us.
But when you are in the public eye and you are vocal about a lot of things, and/or you bring about any kind of significant change in the world, it's especially true that at any given time you will most likely be simultaneously liked and disliked...received and rejected...understood and misunderstood.

It comes with the territory, and you really can't take any of it too seriously.

Upon seeing the excellent new film 'Lincoln' the other day, I was struck once again by how greatly adored and severely hated the 16th President was at the same time during his lifetime and administration. The movie dealt with that reality in a very candid and thought-provoking way, and it reminded me so much of the current climate in this country, and the strong feelings that people have toward our newly-re-elected president, for good or for bad. It also made me think about how there seems to be virtually no evolution of perception of him on either side. People see him the way they see him, and that's that.

Jesus performed miracles right before the very eyes of the Pharisees, but they still called Him a devil because he didn't fit their perception of what a Messiah should be or do. When He went to His home town to minister in the way that He had done in so many other places, the people only perceived Him as Joseph the carpenter's son, and their collective and unified perception of Him there was so strong that it totally shut down His ability to connect with the supernatural. The Apostles never did receive Paul as one of them because they saw him and his calling a certain way, and nothing he did or said or wrote could change their view.

I hear from a lot of people in a day. I hear mostly good things...nice letters, affirming emails, positive texts, complimentary Facebook messages...I'm surrounded by a great deal of love these days...but I also get the occasional one that balances out all the positive stuff.

Jesus said to beware when all men speak well of you, and these kinds of letters keep you from having to "beware", if you know what I mean...the kind of letter that articulates a litany of grievances, and points out just about everything negative that could be said about you. I'm not talking about the kind of letter that just deals with a basic offense...I'm talking about the ones that build an entire case against you, pointing out every mistake you've made, and going over your every (perceived) personality flaw.

Sometimes a confrontational letter can be a learning tool that helps you recognize and deal with a blind spot in your life or public persona, especially if it just mentions a couple of issues. But when the list of complaints is just so over-the-top that you can't really even accept it as anything that is valid, you have to believe that the issues that the letter-writer are dealing with are much more about them than they are about you, and you just have to let it go.

In my world I have to remember that when someone takes an unusually high number of issues with me about any and everything, that they may really be dealing with their own authority figure issues, or daddy issues, or organized religion issues, or unresolved hurts from other relationships, or any number of issues that my very life and ministry inevitably bring to the surface in people.

I'm not saying that I'm above correction.

No one is.

And I've received a royal kick in the pants in letter form on more than one occasion that was a reality check for me, and actually benefited me in the long run, once I got over the initial pain that it caused me. But when someone just piles it on, spewing out all kinds of accusations and complaints to the point that you become a lightning rod for everything that they don't like in the world, you have to see it for what it is.

Here's the thing...
People make mistakes.
Pastors make mistakes.
I make mistakes.

And it's easy to harbor an offense at a leader when that leader has failed to live up to your perception of what he or she should be or do all the time. We all have to rein in our unrealistic expectations of one another from time to time to even be able to function together in this world.
But when you let yourself stay offended with a person of influence in your life for any length of time, and then you continue to view that person and their actions through the lens of your unresolved issues with them, they typically will inadvertently play into your perception of their personality, and your paradigm of the way that things are with them.
In the same way that a self-fulfilling prophecy works, when one internalizes and maintains a series of festering offenses, they can't help but look for certain actions and/or behaviors from the object of the offense, and the more they look for, the more they see. Over time they systematically build a case against that person, and when it all finally comes out in a letter or email for whatever reason, they throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.

I believe that everyone has the right to be heard, and I believe in free speech. Jesus even said to go to a brother or sister with whom you are offended and deal with it, so I'm not saying that you shouldn't express yourself when necessary.
But if you are just offended at one thing after another with a particular person...if everything they do sets you off...if they can't do anything right as far as you're concerned...then you probably need to examine what's going on with you, and why you are so unhappy with the world...or with yourself.
As for me, I wasted enough time over the years trying to respond to my critics, and it never profited me anything. I used to spend endless hours, painstakingly answering my complaint letters, item by item, in an attempt to vindicate myself and tell the offended individual the way that things were from my point of view (and I've written some doozies over the years), but it never changed anything for the better. It certainly didn't change any one's mind about me.
So, if I've offended you for anything, I apologize. If something about me needs to change, I'll do what I can to change it. But don't expect a return letter if you send me a ridiculously negative one. I just don't do that any more.
Am I a good pastor? Yes.
Am I a bad pastor? Yes.
Is CHURCH IN THE NOW a great church? Yes.
Is CHURCH IN THE NOW a bad church? Yes.
The answer to questions like these is always "yes"...in this case it all depends on your perception of me or of the church.The glass is both empty and full, depending on how you see it.
My hope is that you will see the positive, but I can't make you do that. I can only do what I do, learn from my mistakes, and try to be the best version of me that I can be.
That's all any of us can do.

I love all with the love that "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things"...I'm in a good place in my life...a real season of restoration...and I live in the now. If you can't forgive me for whatever it is you don't like about me, or for whatever you perceive I did or didn't do to or for you, then that's something you're going to have to work through. My heart is clear, and I am walking in the revelation of the word I delivered last Sunday, so I will simply say...





  1. Joi Pelzer said...

    Bishiop u r Amazn.

  2. Karl McIntosh Cobos said...

    ...enjoyed reading the blog...good words and insights.

  3. Julianne Marchman said...

    Good stuff!