now for a better then?

I barter with myself. Do you do this?

Talk to yourself, make little internal deals, usually never follow through. Sometimes it’s small stuff like “if you don’t eat another slice of pizza at lunch you could have a beer tonight” or “I won’t go out with the boys tonight so I can have a few more dollars and will have more money to enjoy going out next week with.”

And sometimes it’s bigger things “It’s already 9pm. If I stay later at work tonight I can be home at a good hour tomorrow and Nolan will still be up. He’s already in bed.” More time working during non-Nolan hours so that I can be home during Nolan hours the next day.

We do it all the time. We trade our present for a better future.

Have you ever considered how much you’ve traded and for what?

Like the ending to every terrible family movie where some absent family leader learns that family is the most important part.

But what about the other important parts? What about the life you were made to live and the relationships you we’re handed to hold and nurture?

I was thinking the other day about getting a part time job. Nothing much but a little extra so things wouldn’t be so tight with me and Sarah. But Nolan is only this old once. He’ll never be how he is now again. I would miss playing swords with our spoons while I try to feed him. I’d miss the look in his face when he hears a fun song on the radio. It’s now or never.

And then I thought about all the other things I’d miss. I’d miss opportunities to pour into others. I’d lose time to engage in community and relationship. I’d lose touch with people I care about.

It’s not just family that loses out when we trade the present for a better future that may never come. How many people do you know that say “once things settle down” and “once it’s all a little easier”?

It’s it ever quieter or easier?

Without the investment now there are people you will never get another shot at investing in. Without the investment in the present there may be no relationships ready for you to be life and light in.

I suppose you could start then. You could purpose yourself to meet people and be broken and messy together in a few days, months, years, etc.

Honestly, why will it happen then? And are the people you will meet in the future really that much more important than the people you could know now?

Is your work/hobbies/sleep/etc. honestly more important than the relationships you’re forfeiting now? More important than the love and grace you were made to share? More important than sharing light in darkness and letting people see heaven for the very first time?

Really?

And why will it be so easy in the future? Why will you then be able to make the change to be other-centred?

Life is all about priorities. We’ve talked about it before. I hope your living your life with the priorities you think you are because the life we’re talking about leading, the life of compassion, won’t just happen.

It’s a choice, a dedication, a sacrifice you’re being called to make daily.

Maybe today is the day you go and try one of these or at least be honest with yourself about your actually doing or not doing.

you can’t go home again

You can’t go home again – Thomas Wolfe

When I got married I found it really difficult to leave home. I was so excited to start my life with Sarah, but I’d lived in the same house for my entire life. I didn’t move out for university or even go away for a whole summer. I was a huge change for me.

Some of the stuff I missed was dumb. I missed not having satellite to watch sports. I missed not having loads of food just there.

But some of it was more.

I missed not hearing dad yell down to our living room “good night boys.” I missed the comfort and routine.

I also knew that this change was important. I knew I wanted, and still want, to spend the rest of my life with Sarah. I knew we wanted to start a family and do life together. That took me leaving home.

And once I left it wasn’t the same to go back. I remember one night I had stopped at home and dad said I could stay and watch the baseball game if I wanted. I’d missed not having it at my new place so I plunked myself on the couch and started watching.

It was different.

That’s one of my honest goals for writing here. I want you to grasp what a life lived the way it was designed looks like. I want you to try it. I want you to see that there is a better way to live and you to have the tools to get there.

What I really want is for you to see that you’re suppose to live in relationship and community. It’s messy and tough and it’s easier to just stay where you are and tell yourself “I’m a good person who cares about others” than it is to be a good person who cares about others. I want to draw you past the easy.

My hope is that you’ll slowly put into practice some of these things and realize you can’t go back. You can’t go home to a comfortable life with you at the centre.

You’ll step into real relationships and build honest, open, supportive communities, brokenness and all. I hope you’ll draw others into this new life you’re finding .

My hope is you’ll embed this life of compassion so deep into your life you won’t be able to go home, and that revelation will excite you.

You know, just in case you were ever wondering why this space is here.

you’re already broken

I’m not trying to make you depressed, I’m saying you already are depressed. – Peter Rollins paraphrasing Kierkegaard

I was thinking the other day about brokenness.

I do this a lot.

I was thinking about community and how we can have community that allows for brokenness. I was thinking about it because I think, to be blunt, the communities most of us are a part of and have built are unable to connect with those who are overtly broken.

And it has nothing to do with them. It’s alllllllll us.

I was sitting in home church and it was the time of the night where we ask for pray requests.

Silence.

This was a room of 6 adult men, mature Christians, and there was nothing. To me this is the problem that our communities face when we invite in people with overt brokenness. We are so good at hiding our damage that 6 of us can sit in a room and say with our silence “I’m good.”

I am not good, I’m broken.

I think as church folk we’ve been taught to hide our brokenness because our happiness and our completeness ties directly to how well we know God.

If we are a good Christian we will be whole and complete, so when we say we are broken we are saying “I’m a bad Christian” or “I don’t know God”.

Think about it. Look at the songs you sing at church. God is great, God saves, God fixes, etc. So if you have been in community for years and are still not great, saved, fixed, etc. then you must not know God.

So we hide.

But what does that mean for someone overtly broken?

My dad was disabled. He walked with crutches, then a wheel chair. He was in constant pain. He couldn’t hide it. His brokenness was out there for everyone to see and I guarantee that’s part of why he connected so well with people as a pastor. There was not façade or mask. You could go and share your brokenness because you knew he understood.

For me that’s what our relationships and community need to look like. Open about our struggles, sharing our brokenness so that the people we are in relationship with can share theirs. Setting the precedent that you’re not perfect and your life is messy so that other will feel safe inviting you into their messy lives. Give space for those who feel like they can’t hide their brokenness to connect and feel like they aren’t the only one whose life isn’t perfect.

This starts with us. It’s long beyond time we stop hiding and saying everything is ok. Your already broken, it’s just a matter of how long you want to run from it.

giving blood or prayer?

Prayer is good, giving blood is better – The Basketball Jones

I was listening to a podcast the other day about basketball. At the start of every episode they drop an often silly little quote. But this day I was struck by the quote above. I don’t know who said it first or what their original intent was but it got me thinking about prayer.

I worry about the way people pray. I worry about why we pray.

A few months ago a friend texted my wife and I. She was pregnant and was rushing to the hospital fearing that her child wasn’t well. She asked that we would pray, so we did.

Later that night we heard from her again. All was well, “God is good” she texted back.

A prayer was answered and God is good.

But what if it wasn’t all well?

I struggle with prayer a LOT. I struggle with the idea that we ask God to just step in and fix things for us. I struggle with the way we pray because it seems to treat God, as my father would say, as some kind of spiritual vending machine. Put in the right words, add tears and bingo God fixes. This gets to my struggle with why we pray.

I worry that we pray so that we don’t have to do anything. I worry that most of us pray so that we can be absolved of our responsibility and our role. I worry that prayer for so many of us has become the copout to real and messy relationships.

I sat at home and said “God please be with my friend. Support her and her husband. Bless and protect their child” and then just moved on. My part was done.

Sometimes I really suck.

What if it didn’t end up ok? What if there was a problem? Good thing I prayed. Maybe it was all ok because I prayed, I don’t know. What I do know is there are LOADS of times I’ve prayed for good things to happen and they didn’t.

What if she lost the baby? Her and her husband alone in a hospital room. I bet that’s how God planed for us to live and how community and love are suppose to work. I’m sure they would have felt better sitting there knowing that I prayed.

But hey, I was done, I prayed.

That’s why I worry about prayer.

I think prayer is so immensely important. But if your prayer leads you to feel done after you’ve prayed I think something is missing. If a friend in turmoil causes you to pray and then move on, you’re missing it. If you connect with God in prayer and aren’t moved to action, what are you praying about?

Is giving blood really better than prayer? No, but if you’re prayer doesn’t lead you to also ‘giving blood’ then I think you need to take a real deep look at your prayer.

 

 

looking beyond

Whenever I think about forgiveness I think about grace. The two just seem to go hand in hand.

So after talking a little about forgiveness I’ve been thinking about grace.

Grace is hard, I think we all know that. We are taught that we must get justice. People need to get what they deserve.

But that’s not what we’re called to.

So why do we act that way, aside from the obvious?

I was chatting with my home church on Tuesday and we talked about an idea that I think is worth some pondering. We tend to look at the sin, or the fault, and not the person.

So perhaps then the issue is the way we look at sin then.

We look at sin the same way we look at crime. While it may all be crime, some is worse. We rate it.

Yes lying is bad but murder is worse.

But what if sin was binary? A yes or a no. Would grace be easier?

Consider two people for me. They are in every way the same. They are literally perfect. Blameless in every way they could be but for one.

Person one is a compulsive liar. He lies all the time about everything.

Person two is murderer. It was a bad choice he made years ago but still a murderer.

Which will it be easier to show grace to? Be honest it’s person one because while we know both are bad we rate murder as worse. We don’t see the person or God in person two. We have trouble looking past the sin to see the exact same person behind it.  A person made in God’s image, needing love and grace and forgiveness.

I could make the argument person one is worse because they keep doing it. They keep sinning where person two sinned once.

When we live a life of compassion we called to see what God sees, and God see us beyond our sin.

to late

Sometimes we miss things.

A moment, a chance, an opportunity. Once they’re gone they’re gone.

And sometimes they aren’t.

Sometimes a moment is there, over and over and over and we just won’t take it.

Like the old saying, better late than never, sometimes a chance is just waiting for us to finally take that step. I think this can play out in a whole bunch of ways but today I want to talk about forgiveness.

Have you ever been scarred? Not just hurt but deeply and in a sense fundamentally wounded?

I’m not talking about the time I had terrible service and then refused to go back to a local restaurant for years. I was frustrated and upset by how my friends and I were treated. But that’s something different.

I’m talking about something that touches you in the deepest most inner parts of who you are. The kind of scarring that rattles you loose of your grounding and causes you to start to question life. This is about betrayal.

Is that ever a hard place to forgive. Bitterness is just so much easier.

And maybe for you it’s never been that deep. Maybe for you it is something far less dramatic. But did you forgive?

Perhaps more interesting, did you do anything to help the other person forgive when it was you who caused the scar?

I’m reminded of a very specific instance in my life. I was scarred and wounded on such a deep level not only did I not want to forgive I knew I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I had known these folks for YEARS.

But things were said and action taken that I swore I would never let go. I could not and I would not forgive. They had made their choices and so this was the outcome. And God worked on my heart to soften it.

So I tried to forgive.

And much like I thought, I couldn’t. I wanted to let it all go but every time the topic came up my pulse quickened, I got harsh and difficult, and I relived that pain over and over.

But I kept trying.

More than a year passed and I was approached.

“I’m sorry Phil.”

And I was released.

We don’t know all the people we’ve hurt and all the scars we’ve caused, but we do know some. Sometimes what people really need is to know that you are honestly and truly sorry. Help give them the tools and the space to be gracious and forgiving, even if it’s too late.

how I feel doesn’t matter

Check out the two links below real quick.

Link one is to a now old pop punk kind of song. Just listen for 30 sec then you can leave complaining that it’s too loud or that people today don’t understand music or whatever else you may think.

Link two is a cover of the same song and it’s great! So skillful and elegant.

It’s so much about take isn’t it? It’s so much about how you choose to look at something.

Two songs with the same ‘sound’ interpreted an entirely different way. They just looked at the same thing differently.

We do the same with people too.

How easy is it to forget how much perspective matters, how much our choice and filters change who and what we see?

That person is a mess; Loud, obnoxious, unapologetic, and in your face. Or you’re having a bad day and their bright, bubbly personality is too much for you to take.

Think about how two people looked at the same music and experienced and expressed it differently?

When I was getting married my dad gave me some advice on being a good husband. He said I can’t let my day or situation dictate how I interact with Sarah. I don’t get to be short, harsh, or impatient with her simply because I had a bad day.

I choose how I’m interacting and having a bad day doesn’t mean Sarah deserves a jerk for a husband that night.

To that point I choose what perspective I’m taking with people. Do I see God in them? Do I see what God sees in them? Do I choose to love them as they are, to see the skill and elegance of what God has made?

I suppose what I’m saying is a person trying to live a life of compassion will choose to see God in everyone and will then choose to act towards them with grace and love despite how they are feeling that day.

Our expression of love doesn’t change based on how we are feeling and it may help us to live that way if we choose to see people as God does.

they don’t deserve it

At 6:45 this morning I was driving in to Cambridge where I work thinking two things.

I HATE the morning.

I don’t have enough coffee.

If you know me you know I need a very specific level of caffination to function properly. It also needs to not be 6:45 am.

It’s become an ongoing joke now for a committee I sit on. At the start of the meeting half as a joke and half as a request to know if I’m going to be productive yet they ask “how’s your caffeine level?”

If you didn’t know me and meet me at 9am you’d probably think I’m kind of distance, disinterested and perhaps a little cold. The reality, I hope, is that I’m not those things but in the morning I need a long while to get going. I need some coffee and I need some time.

The people I work with are so gracious. They know I may not seem super engaged or be offering a lot of helpful insight to start but that it’s coming.  They offer a lot of grace.

And most of us are good at being gracious with people we know and especially people we like. It’s easy to be gracious when they ‘deserve’ it.

But we’re trying for more.

And it is sooooo frustrating.

Who honestly wants to give up their right to be upset or just be right?

Who doesn’t like it when people owe them?

Who choose to not make people see all they did wrong and get what they deserve?

Who honestly shows grace to that person who yelled/ cut us off in traffic/ should know better/ is an adult/ went to school for this/ choose this as a job/ or whatever else that means they truly don’t deserve grace?

We try to.

Every day, in ever relationship.

Good luck, I know I need it.

answer your own prayer

Ok today we are back to the sweet spot of this space, stories.

This week we talked about broken relationships in home church. We talked about where we see them in our daily lives. There were a few examples of people in their work place or their extended family, standard stuff.

But as this discussion is going on I get a text from a good friend. They work with youth and a youth they know was being sent back into a ‘volatile’ situation as she put it. She wondered if we could pray for the young person.

As all good Christians do I said yes.

But is that enough? It is enough to simply think good thoughts and ask God for good to happen?

And then God kicked in and it dawned on me I should check in with my friend. How was she doing? Yes God wants to bring help, peace, and safety to the young person but what about the darkness and stress that my friend was left with?

You’re probably better at this than me but I can really easily miss that side. A gentle, caring person asks for us to remember someone in need but who remembers them? Who’s sending the text on their behalf to ask for someone to pray?

I struggle with prayer a lot. We’ll talk more about I’m sure in the future but there was a thought Rob Bell once said that has stuck with me and I think is just so core to the life of compassion.

He said “what if you are the answer to your prayers?”

Read it again.

I’m thinking to myself that I should pray not just for the young girl but my good friend. I was thinking it sounds like she’s had an awful day and probably needs a little peace and light and hope in her life today to.

But what if that peace and light and hope was supposed to be me? What if God’s answer to my prayer for my friend was for me to love my friend?

This all took 45 seconds in my mind and I sent back a text saying “what can I do to help?”

She said like most “there’s nothing you can do”

But feeling like I needed to answer my own prayer here and not abdicate my responsibility and my relationship with this friend and hope God would do something I pushed. I said “Bah, nonsense of course there’s something I can do. Dinner? Bottle o’wine? Vent?”

“How about tea and a visit with you and Sarah?”

And my prayers were answered.

God has placed us in relationship and community to be the answer to prayers. He can and at times does intervene in a supernatural way. But I think He likes to use us. I think He likes to partner with us and have us share Him. Share His light and love and grace in the darkness that comes into people’s lives.

Your life of compassion is one where God is calling you to be an answer to peoples prayers in your relationships and your community. Maybe next time don’t ask God to fix it but what does he want you to do to help bring light into the darkness.

church in our culture

I was talking with a good friend about faith and how it all plays out.

The conversation drifted a little and got more and more meta. We talked about what the reasons are for why people are, in our opinion, more egocentric then they should be. We went back and forth on reasons why people care and think more about themselves than perhaps a Christ follower should.

And this lead us to an interesting discussion and the part that I think is really worth highlighting.

We talk about culture.

We talked about how our society is so individualistic and we are taught to think about ourselves. Then I noted how a lot of church does that too. Jesus came to save ME. Jesus is MY best friends.

“So which came first” he asked.

Did society infiltrate the church and shift our views to be more individualistic OR, did the church begin to take a more individualistic approach at some point that has now permeated society.

I have two thoughts and to be honest the second if far more important than the first.

Lets start the less important one.

I’m not sure which it is but both are kind of scary.

If it’s society that shaped the church that’s a big problem. If we have allowed the church to be shaped by the society it is in and to become individualistic because that’s what society is becoming we really missed the be in the world but not of the world call.

BUT, if the church has shaped the society it may be worse. If the individualism and lack of care and support for our neighbour came because the church focused so much on your salvation rather than the redemption of everything and your call in it, we screwed up BIG.

Either way, it’s not great.

That leads to my second, and far more important thought.

I don’t really care.

Society shaped church or vise versa I don’t care. We waste so much time debating how the world has gotten as bad as it is.

No prayer in schools, TV and the internet have ruined relationships, no one really cares anymore, etc…

We are where we are and how we got here is so much less important than where we are going and what we are doing to bring God’s grace into this world.

We are to love others with the same unconditional love God shows us. That’s relational and is done in community. We can spend some much time looking back that we never just do in the NOW what we know we are called to. It’s not complicated.

Is it harder than it was when people really cared or whatever it was like back I the day? Maybe I don’t know. Doesn’t really matter because we’re not back in the day we’re in the here and now and wishing for the back in the day won’t bring it back.

Sure let’s look at structures and why’s, but it has to be as we are acting TODAY and moving towards the clear call of a Christ follower.

So what will you do today to make your life more like Christ’s? What will you choose to do today that will help your life be more compassionate?

This space has loads of ideas in past posts, but so there are no excuses a few more:

–          Bake cookies for your neighbour

–          Spend some time on the computer researching a cause in your community you want to get behind and then connect with them

–          Plan a compassion activity for your home church

–          Review your budget to find more money to be generous with

–          Hand write and mail a note to someone needs to know they are loved

–          Educate yourself on the reality of poverty in this area

Pick something and do it today. Engage in community. I don’t know how we got here but I promise you it’s not where God wants us to be right now.

So take part in His plan to redeem everything. Jump in where God is moving and shape where we go as opposed to simply lamenting what we’ve lost.