Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Miley and Culottes

Below is the text I just sent in an email for work because I wanted another way of sharing this message. Each week I send out an email to 300+ church leaders with a list of articles for resources. (If you're interested in being included in that, you can email me at charity.roberson@vbmb.org)

I feel incredibly anxious about all of the comments appearing on my social media about Miley's performance Sunday night. I've learned a new term, "slut shaming," and it's making me really angry. Miley was not the only one who sang about sex...she was crass and maybe she wasn't as smooth as Justin Timberlake or Bruno Mars...but sex was everywhere.  And we shouldn't be shocked by that.

In my attempt to find sources to help church leaders engage in healthy conversations around this, I came across a page for "modest clothing for women and girls." It was a religious company called "dressing for his glory."  Apparently dressing for his glory includes wearing long skirts passed the knee and fully covering tshirts for swimwear, yep that was their swimwear. They even brought back the culotte that they say is perfect for running, activewear and just day to day activities.

There has to be something in between and it cannot just involve a conversation about women, especially lobbing insults at a young woman who is growing up in front of the world and is probably just interested in progressing her music career.  Honestly, I just want women to stop being so angry at and judging of other women.  I want the church to be willing to talk about sexuality as a good thing. I want the church to realize that we should learn from what happened on Sunday night at the VMAs and be willing to engage in some very hard, complicated conversations.

As I say in the message below....I think everyone should read the first article, especially men. It is long and the language may make some squirm but it is a beautiful insight into a woman's life.

"ELM Weekly

I've struggled with what to include in this week's email. I'm overwhelmed with the comments about the VMA's Sunday night, primarily about Miley Cyrus, that are coming through my social media. Perhaps you aren't aware that on Sunday night Miley Cyrus danced around a stage, wearing next to nothing, doing a very overtly provocative, sexual dance with Robin Thicke, whose lyrics to his latest catchy song talk about blurred lines, knowing that she is a "good girl" but "I know you want it" and "let me liberate you." 

Perhaps you'd like to just shut this out and pretend it does not matter to our church. Or maybe it just matters to the youth minister. But the reality is that it should matter to all of us.  Not just their actions on the stage but because this is a time to engage all of us in real conversations about the issues of sexuality and popular culture. We cannot sit behind our stained glass, criticizing what is happening outside without engaging it and offering up something in response that is healthy and whole.

This week's articles are about the issues around sexuality and modesty. The first article while having nothing to do specifically with the VMAs, I believe every man receiving this needs to read. It is long and it may make you uncomfortable...read it anyway. The second is a great overview from Walt Mueller about what we can learn from Sunday night's performance.  This would be great for passing along to parents and to use as a staff discussion. The rest are great articles that address how we have typically discussed issues of modesty within the church. Let's all see what we can learn from Sunday night's performances....

The Only Thing My Double D's Ever Got Me Was Kicked Out of Church by Becca Rose
Isn't it sad? Isn't it shocking? The main thing that taught me to hate and fear my body was the Church. I struggled with eating disorders and self-harm for most of my teenage years. Isn't it sad? Isn't it shocking?
No. Today, in the church culture I grew up in, it's not. It's normal.

Lessons From the 2013 VMAs. . . Disney On Parade, and Whatever Happened to Fart Man? . . . . by Walt MuellerWe need to love those who don't know the truth, live the truth with mercy and grace in the midst of those who don't know the truth, and tell the truth to those who have no idea what the truth really is. The table has been set and a hungry culture is seated and waiting for the Gospel to be served. It's not about a culture war. It's about engaging with and loving individuals.

Is Modest Really Hottest? Rethinking Why Christians Actually Cover Up. by Matthew Paul Turner
The undertone of our definition of “modesty” is shame. Whether the words are ever said aloud or not, how we Christians talk about modesty makes many women feel insecure or shameful about their bodies.
The New Modesty Makeover by Sharon Hodde Miller
So, how can women honor their bodies to the glory of God? I have a few ideas, but with one preliminary caveat. This topic is huge and complex. There is much, much more to modesty than I could hope to address here. Modesty is tied to an extensive discussion about culture and the body, so consider this only the beginning of a longer conversation—a conversation worth delving deeper into on your own."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Messianic Complex

This morning I watched an interview with Bono by Charlie Rose. They talked about the humanitarian work he is doing in the fight against AIDs and the fight against poverty.  Charlie asked him about his messianic complex, because as he said, "You have to have a bit of a messianic complex in order to do what you do.  You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe it is possible."  Bono joked that any person who finds themselves as the front person of a rock band with the streaming lights and the screaming fans definitely has a messianic complex.

While I do not agree with Charlie's description of what a messianic complex means,  I do think the concept is pretty on target and I appreciate Bono's honesty that finding yourself standing in front of people, as they look to you for something, anything, will give you a messianic complex.

I think it is hard to be in ministry and not struggle with a messianic complex.  In some ways, we are all called to be Christ to those around us.  We struggle with Paul's words to be everything to all people, or at least struggle with how we read it.

Any minister who has had one of the moments where you know you are the "in flesh presence of God" for a family who is grieving a traumatic event, a church who is searching to find meaning in a national tragedy or who has had a part in the beginning of a beautiful marriage knows how reverent and powerful those moments are.

It is hard to move from those powerful moments, from our own version of a stage with lights and screaming fans, back to the day to day operations.  I cannot tell you how many ministers I come across who are worn out from being available any time someone in their church needs them. They are tired from serving in churches with meetings they must be at every night of the week while keeping up with the expectations of visiting the hospitals every day, visiting the shut ins (including the "Sunday shut ins"), preparing meaningful sermons, counseling church members and people in the community, writing the newsletter all while always being in the church office from 9:00 to 5:00 to prove you are earning your salary. And heaven forbid you say that you cannot do it all.  I mean, you've been called to this, haven't you?  And they are the body of Christ. It is hard to tell them no or challenge their way of thinking. Many of us who are called to the church are there because we were loved and nurtured in the church and thus, it is in our nature to want to please them.

Honestly I think it is a great struggle to separate being the hands and feet of Christ to the church you serve and having a messianic complex.  However, I think it is essential boundary building work that church leaders must do. I think it is important for our own personal health, for our families, for future church leaders, but also for our church members. We have to ask, what kind of Christ are we revealing?  Not just in the pulpit or in Bible study but by the way we lead.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How Important Is It?

One of the first things I wanted to do after my recent move to Richmond was to find a gym.  After my little accident in the fall, it was time to get back to making myself stronger and more healthy.  My new gym is wonderful and has all kinds of fancy equipment and classes.  When you join, they set you up with a meeting with a trainer under the guise of getting to know the gym better and helping you to design a plan for your personal fitness.  Of course, this is not the truth.  It is a pitch with a trainer designed to get you to sign up with them for private training.

After taking me through a round of exercises, my wanna-be trainer asked me a round of questions.  What were my fitness goals? How quickly did I want to achieve them? Of course, I said that I wanted to become stronger after my injuries, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to become all around healthier.  It was not just about a number on a scale but of getting back to a place of eating healthier and exercising regularly.  Because the weight thing was something he could hone in on with a fixed number, he asked how much I wanted to lose.  I gave him the figure that nags in the back of my mind but rarely has ever been a number I've seen when I stepped on a scale.

Then he asked me a question that has stuck with me, "On a scale of one to ten, how important is it for you to achieve your fitness goals?"  Whoa...It is one thing to say "it is important to me" but another thing to rate its importance in my life.  Because if I had to be honest, I'd probably have to say that it gets a lot of lip service but meanwhile my actions do not reflect that it is a "ten" on the importance scale in my life.

Of course, he was trying to pressure me to sign up for personal training.  He said that he would suggest me working out with him twice a week, an hour at a time, at one hundred dollars a time.  Ok..seriously, who just has an extra eight hundred bucks laying around?  I couldn't help but think, "I bet that's what you'd recommend."  I I know he needs to make a living too and so I'm not going to begrudge him or his efforts when he acted like it was crazy for me not to sign up with him right in that moment.

But that question keeps sticking in my mind.  "On a scale of one to ten, how important is this for you?"  I think about it when I want to skip going to the gym, when I want to eat something unhealthy, when I want to procrastinate doing work for school, when I want to spend money frivolously and so on.

I think it's a good leadership question.  What do we say is most important in our lives and in our organizations?  If you had to rate it, what would you give a number 10?  What is most important above everything else?  Do your actions, your calendar, your spending, your commitments show what is most important?

No more excuses.  What is a ten for you?  How do you adjust your life to reflect it?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ode to Singleness

You know those holiday movies where the disfunctional single person who is working too much or trying to convince themselves they are really happy wakes up surrounded by messy kids and a spouse who is a mess by they realize what they were lacking in their life.  So, when they wake up they have this total turn around, or in the really good ones, they realize it is not a dream at all.  They are not longer single.  They are rescued from their loveless, pointless life.  The single character on TV sitcoms is usually the crazy one who is a mess.  Maybe that is true of those of us who are single, but really, we all have a little crazy in us.  :)

For some reason, I feel bad posting on facebook this is one of those days that I just feel really glad to be single with no kids.  Why is that?  It probably says a lot about me but I think it also says a lot about our culture.

So...just for you who wonder what we single people do on a good day....I got to sleep ten hours last night after a very busy couple of weeks.  I have had two cups of coffee while sitting in my chair, undisturbed. I actually had some yogurt with some gluten free "oreo like cookies" for breakfast while I watch "Valentines Day". (Yup, I get the irony of writing an ode to singleness while watching a romantic comedy)  My to do list for the day is to pick up some groceries at Super Target, walk the dog, paint my fingernails, practice my sermon for tomorrow and plan a funeral service for a beloved church member.  And you know what, I love that this is my life today.

I get to sleep through the night, every night.  I only have to do my own laundry.  When I cook or go out to dinner, I get to go where ever I want to go.  I get to watch what I want to on my TV.  When I make decisions, I am the only one I have to consider.  I'm a pretty tame person, I'm a pastor after all.  There's not a lot of crazy partying or dating around.  I just enjoy my life. I know all of that seems selfish, but why? I do have to make sacrifices in my life for other people and for my job, but this is where I find myself in life and I am going to enjoy it unapologetically.

I don't know what the future holds and yes, I still hope to fall in love and have to do the hard work it takes to keep a relationship going for the rest of our lifetimes.  But when (or if) that happens, I'm not going to look back at this portion of my life and feel like I was missing something, feel like I was just waiting, feel like that I was waiting to wake up from this dream to realize what my life is really missing.  I know what it is missing but I also know what I have.

So, where ever you find yourself today, make the most of it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Dream Is Dead

I once wrote an article about my attempt at running a few years ago.  I still meet people who say upon meeting me, "aren't you the one who runs."  To which I have to say, "Well, I did.  I mean, I do, kind of."  I've enjoyed running off and on throughout the years.  I have this dream, this hope, that one day something will switch inside of me.  I'll be the amazing runner, able to run 5ks or more and I will lose all of this weight, as some of my friends who have found a love of running.

I've just never actually had that happen to me.  With my recent little tumble down the stairs, I now have very little meniscal cartilage in my right knee and I have to face a new reality.  Running is probably not a good idea moving forward. No more trampoline exercise classes I'd started doing recently.  It's just not smart for the future.  There are a lot of wonderful other things I can do but as a colleague was recently talking about his hopes of running a marathon, I realized I have to let some dreams die.

As I have grown and changed as a person I have had to allow some dreams to die.  I recently wrote about a season of life in which I had "to grieve the person I was never going to be."  I had this vision of what I would become when I grew up and that vision never became reality.  Something much more wonderful came in its place, but I had to allow the other dream to die and give myself space to grieve it's passing in order to move on.

People have to do that sometimes.  Face reality and grieve the loss of what will never be.  Organizations too have to realize when the future is not what they thought or face the fact that the future will never look like the past.  Something more wonderful can spring forth but sometimes we have to let dreams and visions die.  We have to give ourselves space to really grieve but then we can let hope spring forth and allow something new, something different, maybe even something more wonderful than we could have imagined, be birthed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Slowing Down

"Wow, you did good..."  Words you do not want to hear from your orthopedic doctor as he comes into the examining room after looking at your MRI.  Especially not when he is shaking his head and smiling.  If I am going to do something, I guess I just do it all the way.  Including injuries.  Three weeks ago, I woke up late because I was exhausted and did not set my alarm properly the night before.  As I was walking downstairs, carrying my dog in her crate (as I always used to do), I was thinking about a million things and I fell down the stairs.  I'm not sure how it happened, but I destroyed my meniscus on both sides of my knee beyond repair and cracked my bone.  On Friday, two weeks after the accident, I had surgery.

I feel like I have lost an entire month of my life.  October feels like a blur because for a large part of it, I have been having to take it easy.  I'm writing this from my bed, with my knee propped up, hooked to my ice machine.

I'm learning that it is not so bad to be the slow one in the store, the neighborhood or around the church.  I get the chance to speak to more people and more people speak to me because I don't look like I'm in such a hurry.

I'm learning to let people help.  My parents have had to stay with me for much of the last month to help me.  Everywhere I go, I need help because I just cannot do it all.  I have been pleasantly surprised by humanity, with the rare exception, as I've had people open doors for me or offer extra help and concern.  I need to allow others to take care of me...at least occasionally.

Vulnerability is not easy for leaders.  The truth is that some we lead will never be able to fully connect with us until we allow them to help us.  We must wear our confidence and our competence in a manner that allows our humanity to show.  We cannot be authentic leaders without our humanity.

So...take some time to slow down.  Let someone else go first.  Slow your pace.  Allow someone to care for you.  You never know how much it may mean to both of you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Giving What They Want

My little dog, Sophie, has been sick off and on for the last six weeks.  Last week when I took her to the vet, they ran some tests to discover that she had pancreatitis.  It is a very painful disorder that required her to stay over night at the "hospital" to get things under control.  Once a dog has pancreatitis, they are likely to get it again, unless you change their diet.  She now has a low fat food that is made to be easier to digest.  No more people food...at all.

As we drive back and forth to the church I work in, often I would share little bits of my food with her.  She's not really interested in too many people things but she did like meat.  Yesterday when I was eating some sausage links and my eggs on the way to work, she perked up in the backseat with the sweetest little face.  It was like she saying, "Ok, I'm ready for my share of your breakfast....any time now...."  I had to say to her sweet little face that she couldn't have any.  It would make her sick.

It's true that often the things we want are not good for us.  I think this is probably very true of my relationship with God.  I'm wanting, pleading sometimes, for things that God just knows is not the best for me or that this is not the right time for.

This is true in leadership as well.  Often as a leader, we get a lot of pressure to give the people we are leading what they want.  A good leader, however, can recognize that what a group really needs may not be what they want most.  A good leader is willing to stand in the anxiety between desire and need, even if it is more difficult.  I have said that sometimes a leader can measure their effectiveness by the increase of passive agressive behavior in the organization.

May we have the wisdom and discernment to recognize what others need and the courage to offer only that....no matter how unpopular that is.