programing note

Since we have  a new baby coming this weekend I’m going to be taking a small break. I’ve still got stuff posting 3 times a week but it’s stuff I’ve written in the past in other spaces. It’s all good still. At least I think so.

Think of it as a greatest hits. I hope you enjoy these post if you’ve never seen them and I’ll be back in September dead tired but full of new post.

-Phil

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joy and pain

Tomorrow my wife and I being the process of having our second child. She is scheduled for an induction and we are off the hospital first thing tomorrow morning.

It’s a super exciting time and we’ve got all kinds of emotions right now.

I’m excited for our new baby. Our family is growing and life is going to change again.

Which makes me nervous. I love my life right now. I expect to love life with a new baby but how can you know that you’ll love change?

I’m happy because this is what we’ve wanted and planed for.

But also sad. I’m sad my dad isn’t around. He never got ot meet Nolan and he won’t get ot meet our new child either.

It seems like this should all be simple. Baby=happy, but it’s never that simple. It reminds me of how nothing is really that simple. Father’s day should be fun and festive but I miss my dad and find I’m more sad that weekend than happy. I love Christmas but for loads of people it’s a holiday filled with stress and angst.

This is what I’m talking about when I talk about meeting people where they are at. Be excited and be full of joy in the times when you feel joyful. But be respectful and understand that some people aren’t there. Maybe they’ve lost a loved one or wished they could have what you have.

Don’t be sad or hide your excitement, but if you’re trying to build relationship and love you friend be excited but don’t be fixated. Share you excitement with them, give them space to share their pain if they want then move on. Don’t force a friend to dwell in pain.

Where’s the joy in that?

 

just go do it

Simple and straight to the point: go build a relationship.

Pick a friend that you don’t see enough, that co-worker you’ve been meaning to hang out with, that neighbour you just say hi to, anyone in your life that you’ve thought “I should spend some/more time with them.”

Invite them to your house, invite them out for drinks at the new place you’ve been meaning to try, accept their invitation to hang out finally.

At the core of compassion is love expressed in relationship. So go make or build some. Stop thinking about it and just go and do it.

is God a good God who cares?

I don’t keep up with music like I once did. I suspect there are two really good reasons.

Reason the first: I’d rather buy coffee than music. It’s well documented but I’ve got a connection to coffee that’s deep and fabulous. We’re soul mates.

Reason the second: I don’t get to hang out with my older brother as much as I once did. Years ago we lived together before he got married and then even after he was married he worked at the church my father pastored. Since we lived in the parsonage and I volunteered with the youth group he organized we spent a lot of time together. Andrew is the best kind of indy music listener. Every time we’d hang out it was “hey do you know so and so? They are great! You’d love them.” It’s doesn’t happen as much as it once did.

Tracking back to my point here (I promise it’s coming) I was watching Grey’s Anatomy with my wife and heard the lyric “…my God is a good God who cares…”

It struck me instantly.

I was listening again to the song today (I went and got it after hearing it on the show) and it struck me again. I worry that we don’t present a good God who cares.

I remember my dad telling the a story about a conference he was at. He was chatting with the gentleman beside him and the conversation drifted towards my father’s obvious disability (he had to watch with crutches and was in chronic pain). The man asked what my dad’s sin was, because that’s why he had cancer and was now disabled. Dad, quick as anyone I’ve ever known, asked “well what’s your sin? You wear glasses. Your eyes don’t work? Should we pray for you to be delivered from your sin now so you can see ok?”

What a good God who cares.

I remember talking in our home church about darkness and pain people were experiencing and they would say things like “but I know God is doing this to teach me something” or “I’m going to learn what God wants me to so I can be free” or my favourite “I know God is doing this for a reason I just wish he would tell me why.”

Isn’t it obvious? Because He’s a good God who cares.

Here’s the thing, God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. God uses what was meant for evil for good. Read that again and make sure you the see the super important difference.

It’s the difference between breaking your child’s arm so they won’t climb a try and taking the time they feel out of a tree and broke their arm and talking about being safe and making good choices. One’s a good parent, one’s so abusive they would lose their children.

So when you connect in the honest real relationship which God do you present? When you’re connecting with people who don’t know God what God do they find living in you, flowing out in your actions?

When someone says “I have cancer” do you shame them because of all the sin in their life that made God have no other way to get their attention other than to start to literally kill them or do you step back and walk with them through the pain trying to love them in honest and tangible ways?

Because how you react as a Christian will start to shape how people see God, either as a petulant child causing pain for your love/ attention/ affection or one walking hand in hand through your darkness validating your pain and understanding what it’s like every step of the way.

who deserves it?

I promise I’m not drifting back into some deep discussion of heaven hell and how they may or may not work. This is practical to your life today, promise.

But to start remember that I do like talking about heaven hell and I’m still very confident our view of both really shapes our actions now. If we think hell or heaven for that matter doesn’t exists of course it shapes our actions now right?

But this is more about people who think they are there. People who believe there is an afterlife. Since I find this stuff interesting I end up talking about it with people. I find how people view the afterlife and the stipulations on how you get there fascinating. Well, perhaps better put how your place is decided, how you get to the afterlife is, I think, rather clear.

One theme that comes up over and over and over is the idea of justice.

I was talking with someone about life after death and their understanding about it centered on justice. People have made choices and choices need consequence or outcomes I suppose I the choices are good. There must be justice, both ways.

But I promised this isn’t about heaven and hell but about the right now.

What continues to strike me as odd are people who want and feel there must be justice in the afterlife but seem to have no interests in justice now.

We live in a world filled with injustice. If it’s important enough to choose your eternal fate then perhaps we need to be more involved in justice here and now. But how?

To be honest I struggled with the how. I struggled because the actions that came to mind seemed really devoid of grace. But it changed when I changed my focus.  I was looking that the person creating the injustice not the person to whom the injustice was done.

For example, I was going to suggest you could get connected to a shelter and volunteer. A shelter is full of families and children devastated by all types of injustice. But how do you help find justice for someone in a shelter. Do you help an abused woman charge her abuser? Maybe.

To me justice is about what someone deserves. So what does that woman deserve? Love, grace, hope, stability, etc. Can you offer any of that?

Sure her abuser may deserve something too, but what can you do in that moment to bring justice her life?

With that frame I started to think about what does every person deserve?

Food, shelter, love, friends, community, fun, stability, rest…

So go do that!

Share food with the hungry

Offer a room to someone who’s looking

Be generous with your love

Create a friendship then build it into a community

Take a stressed parent out for dinner and a movie

Offer to do dinner for a family in crisis every Monday night

Take someone’s kids for an afternoon so they can rest

Clean someone’s house while they sit and read a book

Plan a time to bring a group together who have fractured

Share love with someone in prison (Grand Valley Institute for Woman is close by)

Jesus calls us to more than justice. To love our enemy and to give grace to those who don’t deserve it. But if your view of the afterlife is that justice must be served then how can you not begin to seek justice here and now? Give to people what they deserve and then some.

why do we do this?

There’s a central question that I’m not sure I come back to enough. I write like it’s some sort of universal commonality or just a part of human nature at such a core level it doesn’t need to be addressed. But considering how often a write about how to change behaviour and align more with this lifestyle it’s clearly not just there.

Why?

Why live like this?

There’s a possibility that you could read this as some sort of effort to earn heaven, or that by working hard to align yourself with God you’ll be in his good books, blessed or something. But God talks about the idea that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. His favour can’t be earned.

And you’ll hear people say “be a Christian and you’ll be happy and life will be better.” While I appreciate where that’s coming from telling people who love and enjoy their life that it sucks may not be a great start.

So why live like this.

I think there are two reasons.

It’s is not to earn God’s love or grace. Rather it’s an out flowing of what you’ve experienced. I think it taps into a part of you you may not know you have. It’s about depth. We were made and wired and have within us something the resonates, or to borrow from Rob Bell, hums when we connect with God and his love and grace. One way to do that is to share it, relationally. Life isn’t perfect or without pain or suffering but it has a depth that can otherwise be missing. Almost as if happy is good but this is past happy because something in you begins to connect and hum with the world in a way that you may have only found in fleeting moments. This is the source. Like a finely tuned car this is what you were made to do and the way you were made to live. When we share love and place ourselves in spaces to be loving and gracious and receive it back our soul hum as we connect to our source.

The second idea comes form Peter Rollins. He talks often about love and the way that love doesn’t work how we think. He talks about how love not as a feeling or even really a thing in it’s own right. Love for Rollins is that which renders meaning. He describes it often like light. While in reality I’m seeing light bouncing back when I look at my wife what is see isn’t light but I see Sarah. In the same way a story that wouldn’t matter told by one you love matters. A moment in time is just a moment until it’s shared with one you love. The love brings life and meaning and depth. Love is not sublime but it’s love that makes Sarah sublime. When you see and share love you almost don’t see love but rather the one that you love.

When we start to live a life marked by love the world actually changes. We experience the world in a new way as we see the world and the people we meet as full of meaning and purpose. Love is what lets us do that.

So we live this way to connect with our source and find that hum in the world and as we do we begin to find meaning in everything because love renders meaning to the previously meaningless.  Almost like God intend it that way and just trying to call us back to it.

the church is a union

Have you ever spoken with someone who is new to a space/community/workplace and had them draw out how much of the space is culture and implied but never spoken?

I remember when I was working for the parks department as a college kid. I was talking with one of the guys one day and we were chatting about what it was like in a union environment (he had worked there before).

It was the most stereotypical union environment ever.

He was new and trying to make an impression and working really hard. But he was getting looks and not good looks. A few days of people kind glaring and then someone kind of half joking says “whoa there, slow down. Leave some work for the rest of us.” Awkward laugh and everyone moves on.

But then he gets the actual “hey there, take ‘er easy.” Stop working so hard that’s not how it works.

This is not every union environment for sure but you get the idea.

The church is a union and not a good one.

Think about it.

Someone who has never been involved becomes a Christian and is instantly part of the group, but they don’t know the rules. This kind of person is dangerous to the church. This kind of person doesn’t get it. They just read the bible and do what is says. That is until they find the church.

“Soooooo, I was reading my bible and just get the sense that we’re suppose to love everyone”

“Yup”

“Why don’t we”

“we do!”

“what about _____________ (insert anyone the church doesn’t love because the list is LOOOOONG)”

“Well we do but….ummm you see….. so God made everything and….it’s not that he hates people but…ummmm”

Or how about:

“I was thinking about love and grace and service and I think we’re just to consumeristic you know?”

“yeah totally”

“Why doesn’t that ever seem to apply to peoples work?”

“ummm what?”

“well if we’re not suppose to be consmeristic and taking advantage of people how you work for ______? Like, they take advantage of people and screw people all the time for money?”

“No, no, no it’s not like that. God want us to work and use our talents. Have you read the story about using your talents and not burying them? Read it, that’ll totally explain. But yeah don’t be consumeristic that’s not good Christian stuff.”

“But your work perpetuates that?”

“No it’s different don’t worry. And what else would I do, quit? God wouldn’t want that.”

And on and on we go.

No that one’s a metaphor.

No it’s all cultural.

No……

I don’t even think we hear ourselves.

It’s not every church and it’s not every Christian but wow are there a lot of them.

We’ve taught ourselves every sort of trick and reason to not live the way we know we’re called to. As if there are some sort of loop holes for us to live like everyone else and still be living the life God set out, we just need to find them. As if God is sitting up in some cloud saying “oh look there, they finally found out how to sin and it not count. I can’t believe it took them so long to find the loop holes! It’s not like I ACTUALY wanted them to live this way.”

We’re like children and I suspect we all need to grow up a little and take some responsibility for our misses rather than justify them. Maybe the problem is that so many of us aren’t children, we’re adults acting like children.

Like with everything you can’t change it all at once but I think I like most could us to do some growing up.

it’s cries out

There’s this great idea about how deep calls out to deep. It’s in Psalms

Now I’m not a theologian but it speaks to me. I speaks to the type of life were talking about here. This could be entirely not what if actually means but to me its about community and shared experience.

It’s like shared interests on steroids.

I love basketball and baseball. I might like talking about them more than watching or playing them. I get excited and energized when someone knows the stats and wants to debate if Kobe is as good as the perception or do RBIs actual mean anything. We connect.

But when deep cries out to deep its that on a new level.

My depth and experience connect with yours. My pain and your pain commune in a way that doesn’t totally make sense but also totally does. How do two broken people being broken together begin to feel whole in a way that a broken and whole person who spend time together doesn’t?

Our depth cries out for understanding and connection. It cried out for community and love. It cries out for depth. Real, honest and true depth.

What does your deep cry out for and who’s depth needs yours?

I am not just my pain

Overt pain makes people do weird things.

When we know someone is in pain we can act really really dumb. Sometimes we try to fix it (see here for my thoughts on fixing people pain). Sometimes we try to bring meaning to it (again see here for my thoughts (for those of you not clicking, my thoughts are not so positive on these two options)).

The third thing that often happens is that the person in pain become, to us, defined by their pain. Like in a bad movie when the friend who just lost someone walks towards their friends all talking in a circle. As he approaches the whole group being to shh each other and frantically stop talking about him. Then we he enters the conversation everyone smiles super weirdly at him.

You following with me? It’s as if they cease to be a whole person and are simply their condition.

It’s when every time you see a friend it’s the first, and often only, question about them and their life you ask. Or it’s the one topic you awkwardly avoid. They become their pain, no longer a person with depth or complexity but “that’s they guy with cancer” or “his dad just died.”

It happened to me with some relationships. After my father passed away people didn’t know how to ‘handle’ me. It was all weird and awkward. The authentic relationship was gone. Some of it was their own discomfort with my experience. They couldn’t understand what it was like and didn’t know how to talk to me anymore. It’s was all weird small talk like we’d never meet before or it was like some terrible therapy session every time.

Unfortunately they never said “hey, I feel super weird. I don’t know what to say and I feel like I should say something but… I dunno. I just want to love you and be here for you.”

Honesty and being vulnerable.

We lost for a period of time the space and opportunity to be real, for me to share if I was hurting and the space for me to not share and carry on as friends if I didn’t want to.

It’s a strikingly hard balance to find. Trying to show the appropriate care and love while not minimizing or over doing the situation.

Couple ideas for those you connect with in pain.

Maybe not a great idea to start every conversation with that over caring, intense face and the “how are you really doing?” question. Let it be organic and natural. Don’t run from the topic if it comes up but don’t push it as the start EVERY SINGLE TIME. Leave space for the conversation if they want and if they don’t that’s ok too.

Be honest that you want to care and aren’t sure how. Be honest that you’re not sure how to or if you should bring up their pain but you’re willing to talk if they want. Be open and vulnerable about your own awkwardness because you want to help and love them but want to do so in a way that works for them.

And maybe that’s it right there. Make it about them. Are you feeding your need to know and curiosity or are you honestly trying to love them?

Because if you’re trying to love them, like in any good relationships, open and honest communication is a great staring point.

yes I can

So if you need to be taken advantage of to be generous (as I claimed on Wednesday) how do you do that?

Are there ways you can place yourself in situations to be taken advantage of? Is that even a good idea?

Of course it’s a good idea!

Sasha Dichter has an intriguing idea that I think will work for this. He talks about simply saying yes to everyone and everything. Pick a time for how long you’re going to do it and go. An hour, a day, a week, whatever.

Can you give me a ride? Yup!

Can you spare some change? Of course I can.

Can we talk for a minute? Sure.

Etc……..

Is it possible the person asking for a ride could just take a bus and has all the means to do so? Yeah.

Is it possible the person asking for money may use it for drugs or alcohol or actually be rich driving some sort of expensive car or whatever reason you were told not to give money to people pan handling? Yes.

Is it possible the person wanting to talk will talk your ear off for an hour and take all your energy as you listen to them babble about how their kid should have made the rep soccer team but didn’t and it’s because the system is against them even though your fairly sure there is not soccer system? These things could happen.

BUT…

It’s just as likely this person may need a ride to get to a job interview.

It’s just  as possible this person hasn’t eaten all day and won’t eat without your help.

It’s just as possible this person is dying on the inside and needs someone to listen and love them before they just give up.

Yes people will take advantage, but let’s be honest, is it really all that bad even if they do?