Pretend–October 31, 2011

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Dressing up in costumed apparel of a character of our choice, often with frightening possibilities. No, I’m not talking about the US Congress. Of course, I mean Halloween.  Halloween is today, and for me, a time when I enjoy the festivities of those around me, although I don’t participate to any great degree. It’s not that I’m a nudge or have some theological opposition to the holiday–because quite honestly, bizarre outfits are common in our day and age and you don’t have to go any further than organized religion if you want to see the devil at work.

No, it’s not about religious reasons or even not wanting to don myself in ghoulish garments.  It’s just that I don’t like to pretend. It is my great lamentation about our society–that dissatisfaction with our present circumstances causes us to contend that something else would be better than what we have and that we have some sort of God-given birthright to have more than we currently possess.

It’s more or less the “American Idol” philosophy of talent: “I don’t have to be that good; I just have to be able to dress up like someone who is good–look the part.”  All I need is to have a dream, be dissatisfied with my present life, want better circumstances for my family and arrogantly demand that someone make me famous so I can haul in the loot.

We have become a generation of pretenders. There’s nothing wrong with doing that on October 31st.  It’s kind of fun. But when the desire to acquire a position we have not earned permeates the other three-hundred-sixty-four days of the year, it is not only boring, but eventually becomes ridiculous in its unrighteousness.

I ate lunch with a man and woman yesterday who might have every reason in the world to pretend.  He was a graduate of Yale Theological Seminary–and I’m not talking about the people who make the locks.  These are high-falutin’ theologians who just might think they created God. She had a Master’s Degree and every reason to be proud of her status and position. Yet they found themselves in a little town in South Carolina, serving a small church and working in a hospice, respectively. You might think they would be disgruntled, dissatisfied or feel cheated that their education and status had been placed in such miniscule confines.–because after all, that’s what we love to do.  We love to classify jobs and positions in America according to status instead of productivity. Dare I say the average worker at a McDonald’s on the dinner shift actually is much more efficient and energetic than a CEO at a large company? But we don’t honor work; we give respect to position and the trappings of affluence.

We pretend. We pretend that money makes us happy. We pretend that people who make large sums of cash are actually more important than those who don’t. We pretend there’s a color barrier so we don’t have to interact with a racial mixture which just might cause us to expand our thinking. We pretend.

Not so with my two luncheon companions. He extolled the joy of pastoring a congregation filled with emerging people who are growing in their understanding of one another and trying to become more spiritually and culturally diverse. She rejoiced in the opportunity to aid those about to cross over the great divide between this plane of existence and the next, sharing that she felt purpose and value in performing her task.

Yes, America loves to pretend. It is a country that believes that we bring what we dream while disdaining where we are to get help to achieve our goals so that we might truly, in the end, possess more.

It is the opposite of what really makes people happy.  Actually, the way to be happy is found in the lifestyle of my two new friends from South Carolina.  And here it is: bring what you’ve learned to the place where you are to help who you can, to give yourself the purpose you desire.

That’s it.

So please … go! Dress up! Rejoice!  Bob for apples (if people still do that). Drink some punch.  Trick or treat.  Scare yourself and everyone else to death. Have the time of your life.

But get up tomorrow and do yourself a big favor and stoppretending. Life is not what we want. It is wanting the life that is already here.  Who knows?  Maybe that is just another way of pretending. But it is a way of doing so that doesn’t require that you to imitate anyone else … or scare the world around you.

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Here comes Christmas! For your listening pleasure, below is Manger Medley, Jonathan’s arrangement of Away in the Manger, which closes with him singing his gorgeous song, Messiah.  Looking forward to the holidays with you!

Jonathan sings “Let”

Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan and his partner, Janet Clazzy, play “The Call”

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