Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

To Have Opinions AND Respect the Opinions of Others

One lesson we learn early, that in spite of seeming difference, men are all of one pattern. We readily assume this with our mates, and are disappointed and angry if we find that we are premature, and that their watches are slower than ours. In fact, the only sin which we never forgive in each other is difference of opinion. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sandi, how is work going?

I am supposed to be on vacation this week, but the trip I was to go on was cancelled, so I have been doing some work on upcoming Parlor Conversations, a special worship service,  checking in with some folks who are ill...  

But, how is it going? How do you feel about your work?

Well, sometimes there are wonderful moments and sometimes I feel as though I am banging my head against the wall.

Banging your head? Isn't it pretty much expected that your congregation think like you? How can you possibly change how you think?

Absolutely not! They, the congregation, couldn't think like me any more than I could think like them. In fact, the congregation doesn't think or believe the same.

But, how does that work?

I'm not sure what you are asking, but, I don't paste political stickers on my car nor do I talk about how I vote.  In fact, I don't even have Purdue stickers on my car, even though the congregation mostly knows I am an avid Boiler.

I have spent time learning about myself. For instance, I am a high innovator and an extreme Feeler (MBTI). Even though I will never be able to speak or think adaptively or as a Thinker, I know I have to work as hard as I possibly can to reach toward center or I will alienate people.  I cannot please everyone, but when I have been created as I am, I have to work hard not to be viewed as a crazy, radical, and touchy feely woman.

Sandi, why can't we allow one another to be different? To have different thoughts, opinions, ways of working, and beliefs?  I cannot be who I truly am, except when I am with a few close friends for fear of driving away business. I believe... My husband, is much more outspoken than I and I am constantly reminding him that I have to make my living in this community! And the church! I haven't been to church for a long time. I believe in Jesus, I consider myself to be a Christian, but not a "Church Christian." I don't want to be a part of a group of people who are so quick to judge another's behavior, yet behave in ways that can shock even me, and I am very open!

I was not only caught off guard, I was shocked. You see, I was sitting in my doctor's office when this conversation took place, and by office, I don't mean the waiting room.

But, then my doctor turned the light on, stood up and said, "I wish we could continue talking, but I've got to get back to work. It was nice to talk to a pastor who isn't ready to tell me how wrong I am to think and believe as I do."

Just as I seldom talk to my congregants about what I believe to be true regarding "hot issues" I have never expected my doctor to speak to me about some of her own personal struggles. Yet, a few days ago I was wishing for someone I could share some of my heart's burdens, why then should my doctor be any different? 

If this video is any indication, others are struggling with similar questions.

A few weeks ago I preached on several parables from Matthew. One was the parable of the weeds growing among the good seed (Matthew 13:24-30). Another was of the nets being full of both good fish and bad. (Matthew 13:47-49) Now, I do not pretend to be a theologian. I don't even pretend to be a Biblical scholar! Still, in my understanding these passages ask me to consider that God will do the sifting of the good from the bad, not me or any other human being.

I read these passages to say there are, and will continue to be, both good and bad sitting side by side any given Sunday morning, AND that is OKAY! It is okay because scripture tells us that God will take care of it in the end.

I did not know how to respond to my doctor any better than I know how to respond to others who ask similar questions. Thing is, those who ask me these questions are normally not those within the church who live and worship with an attitude of black and white.

I admit to being a bit unconventional as a pastor. Every week, instead of a scriptural type blessing I offer:
The Living Christ asks you to take him with you from this place as you go "out there".  And as you live and work he encourages you to laugh and to love, and then to laugh some more! 
To listen and to learn. 
To have opinions and respect the opinions of others. 
To do simple things like saying, "Please and Thank You." 
To be honest. 
To be a friend. 
But, most importantly, to be the unique and gifted child you were each created to be!
Besides these two parables, I cannot forget Jesus' teaching regarding judgement, Matthew 7:1-5.

I just began to write, "I am sorry, I cannot..." but then I stopped myself. I am not sorry that I believe I cannot know what God will judge as being good seed and weeds because I should not be expected to know!

My hope is that one will deal with his/her log before pointing out the specks in my eye, it also means I do not point out the specks in their eye if they "know" and choose to live in a black/white world. I may at times feel frustrated, just as I frustrate them. Yet, I know in my heart God asks me and them to "listen and to learn, to have opinions AND respect the opinions of others..."

Until we can listen to one another, and truly listen...this world will continue to be a place of unrest. If the church cannot even model Jesus' teachings, then why are we shocked and angered that our nation, the world cannot listen?

We cannot change the world, but we can each change ourselves and that is a beginning. So, to my doctor I would say, I do not know why some seem to be judgmental, but I know I am called to love them, to respect them, and to listen...even if they criticize me, do not seem to respect me, or if they do not listen. I cannot change them, I can only change myself and to the best of my ability, I will "laugh, love, and love some more, listen and learn, have opinions and respect the opinions of others, say please/thank-you, be honest, be a friend, and be the unique and gifted [and greatly loved] child God created me to be"!!! Hallelujah and Amen!

No Stones To Throw - Mike Banta

Lord, I have journaled about judgement before, and sadly, I will most likely journal about it again someday. I admit, to not knowing who might be good seed and who might be considered weeds. I have often thought that I will be very surprised by who I meet once I get to heaven. Lord, help me know how to respond to those who are angry with the church, the denomination, our nation... It is difficult for me to say, "Hey, deal with the log in your own eye before pointing out the specks in others!"Lord, please, heal my heart and the hearts of all those who believe in you, whatever path they may be walking. I so believe that if your people pray, you will hear our prayers and heal our land. AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi


  1. When I started reading this I thought you'd read my post "Sunday Skipping..."
    As someone who preaches and proclaims the gospel...I struggle in the same manner as your doctor.....I do love people but I am at a point where I'm not so sure I believe in the institution any longer or even really want to be part of it. I still want to believe that this experiement God has been conducting does have positive effects on folks...I want to believe that people get what I once got from it......thanks for the post.....I love your blessings.........might steal it sometime with your permission. Have a wonderful day...and laugh often.

  2. Praise be for grace and for the Giver of Life who loves all of us.