not more but how

Things always get strange when money comes into it. I don`t know why but it just does.

The idea for this week was to take the money you would spend on yourself and spend it on others. I did that but it was far from a perfect science.

Ultimately I found that I’m still fairly selfish. I’m happy to be generous with others and to give, but when it comes to money I still want for myself.

Here’s what I mean.

There were all kinds of opportunities to be generous and I took a bunch of them. No problem. A couple times I thought, I’m going to get a coffee, then didn’t and spent the money on someone else. Good it worked.

But when I checked my wallet at the end of the week I spent more than I usually do. Great right? More generous than I usually would be.

Well, sort of.

I just spent more. I was generous with other people and gave money away. But in the end I probably only didn’t spend the money on myself twice. 2 coffee’s I didn’t get. In all the other instances I spent the money I wanted to spend on myself and then also made a point of being generous too.

Kind of an odd response, especially considering it was my idea.

I suppose it’s a good first step. I was more generous with the people I my life than I normally would be. But I still felt like I needed to spend money on myself. I couldn’t just for one week leave myself totally out of it and be entirely generous.

I have no idea if it’s good or bad but it’s something for me to think and reflect on. If in the end I only had $10.00 would it go to me or someone else? Or would I try to rationalize why I should split it?

I don’t know.

So we’ll call this week a successful failure. I did it and I was more generous, but I’m not sure I ended up in the space or mindset I was hoping for. I’m going to ponder it some more and hope that I can really start to put others before my need for coffee or whatever else I bought. It’s not about spending more but how I spent what I have.

So many baby steps.

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a short do’s and don’t’s

With the good and bad of the internet practical what do we do?

I talked about connecting and begin authentic. Not presenting some kind of crafty self image but rather and honest reflection. What does all of that mean?

Do:

  • Share in others happiness and brokenness
  • Point people to love, grace, hope
  • Like, retweet and message people often
  • Where possible connect face to face
  • Connect with the number of people you can stay connected to in honest and real relationship
  • Be gracious and promote unity
  • Be open to others. Their beliefs, ideas, frustrations.

Don’t:

  • Be self serving
  • Make every post or comment about you
  • Grasp for attention
  • Make your rightness more important than unity, love, and grace
  • Pick fights
  • Be defensive
  • Connect when you don’t really mean it

apathy, likes and life of compassion

You could make the argument that tools are neutral.

A knife can be used for good or evil. I could use it to provide shelter/food/safety or for harm and darkness. I think this is why you hear people talk about things as a double edged sword. Good and bad.

The internet is very much the same. We talked about opportunity and connections yesterday and how the interest does so much for someone with intent. But wow do we ever misuse it. We abuse this tool in some really powerful ways. Like with so many tools, when we abuse it people often end up hurt.

It doesn’t take much to find the harsh and evil side of the internet. Go read a comments section on YouTube and you’ll get it.

But I think it can also build apathy for us.

“Well I said happy birthday on Facebook, what more do I need to do?”

“I liked all their pictures I don’t understand why we don’t connect better.”

“Of course I love my community I Facebook/tweet/email all the time”

The internet is the perfect space to, with almost no effort, present yourself as someone who cares. This is by no means universal but it’s so easy to do. So easy to like all the right things and share all the “proper” links so every can see and know how great we are. And then be done. No action, no follow through, nothing.

It’s so easy to be harsh and cutting to someone sharing a dissenting opinion when we don’t have to see them face to face. So easy to pick a fight and show how righteous or smart or whatever we are.

So easy to not love.

So easy to try and be right, forgoing unity and grace.

I’ve often wondered how true a representation of ourselves the internet is.

Is it the ultimate who we are when no one’s watching? We can look at things and no one will know. We can be cutting and mean because no one knows we wrote it. Just a screen name. It’s in a space where our local community will never see it. Does our real self come out when we know there are no eyes on us?

I don’t know but I wonder some times.

Facebook is the opposite. A perfectly crafted image of the person we want people to think we are. All the right movies, books and causes. Witty posts all to present some sense of togetherness or wholeness.

We have to be so careful to be consistent. That love dominates our online selves the way we try for it to dominate our offline self. We don’t get a pass because it’s the internet. We don’t stop being a disciple once we log on.

Even if no one knows it us.

worth comming back for

I think about duality a lot. Something that is two ends of the same spectrum.

Grace and judgement. How do we blend them? How do we choose? When?

Stuff like that.

For me the internet is a prime example of this sort of duality. Spend any time in a comments section and you’ll see unfetter anger and misplaced rage.

You can also see videos and read stories of people changing the world. Giving themselves to a cause and making real change.

The internet allows for relationships to grow and develop in a way that I don’t think was present before.

I sent a Facebook to an old colleague of mine who is working in Senegal. 10 years ago that wouldn’t have been possible. I don’t have an address or a phone number. I only found out he was in Senegal because of Facebook.

The chances and opportunities are amazing.

The internet is a tool like anything else. I can be so good and it can be so bad. But with intentionality and love and grace it gives all of us a chance to start, build and deepen relationships with people who we couldn’t before. We can’t take it for granted. We can’t miss these ways and spaces for connection.

It’s so easy to drift into an ego centric internet experience. Read what I write (I see the irony), look at my pictures, like my status, all of the me, me, me stuff.

But in reality it’s a chance for a type of compassion that’s new and exciting. The internet is a place and space where we can be about what Jesus was about, love and grace.

Those are stories and experiences people will come back to see and read about again and again.

reallocating

This week I’m asking you to take the money you usually spend on yourself (buying coffee, eating out, new shirt, whatever) and spend or give it to someone. Ideally not a random act of kindness sort of thing but someone you’re in relationship with.

Random acts of kindness are fine, but I’m asking you to leverage this generosity for greater depth and love.

You know someone who’s struggling to cover bills? Help them out. Cover their cell bill this week.

Someone at work having a terrible day? Take them out for lunch, your treat.

You see how this requires relationship.

How awkward and strange to just tell someone you want to cover their phone bill when you don’t know them? You’d need to know them, talk often and understand their life. Know that bills are hard and with Christmas coming up things will be even tighter.

Maybe you say “Hey, I know things have been tough. I got this gift card so you can get your kids something cool for Christmas.”

Or just drop off a coffee on someone’s desk and say “looks like you needed one.”

Spend you actual real money on someone else this week.

And no it’s not a rule. You can buy yourself coffee too or eat out with your family. But if you spend $200.00 on yourself and family this week with dinners out and Starbucks, then pass along a $1.50 Tim Horton’s to a person at work, you’re missing the point.

growth can happen

A lot of these challenges are things I’ve tried before. Stuff my wife and I have done to try in some small way to get better a living this other centred life. Practical things we can do as a start.

While this time wasn’t the first time I’d tried this challenge it was different.

This week we were trying to give a compliment once a day. As I noted on Monday, it’s more than a little sad that this works as a challenge for week. It’s sad on a societal level but more so, and I didn’t touch on this on Monday, sad that it works on a personal level.

It’s a sober reminder of how far I have to go when it comes to living a live marked my love and grace.

It’s sad for those of us who identify as Christians that this could be considered a challenge. That edifying and building up those in our lives isn’t a calling card of who we are.

But as I said earlier, this time was different.

It wasn’t weird.

Every other time I’d done this it was weird. Weird for me and I think at least unexpected for the people I was complimenting. It wasn’t how they saw me.

Not this time.

This time it felt natural. This time it wasn’t a struggle. This time it happened without so much effort and intention to seek it out. I’d reflect on the challenge and think if I’d gotten there and find there were more than just the one compliment I was challenged to pass along.

I often talk about how hard reflection is. We see our brokenness and shortcomings. We see all the gaps and how far we are form where we want to be.

But every now and again it’s invigorating. Every now and again it’s exciting to step back and see that all the hard work and effort and intent have led to some actually change in how I see and approach the world and how people in my world see and expect me to be.

If this is truly a journey then we should see change and growth.

Who knows, maybe all this effort might actually help me be the person I hoped I’d be.

depth, darkness and all

This is going to be short.

More often than not I’ll recommend just listening but when you do speak consider these few thoughts on what to say. You can also check out this, this and this for some more ideas on supporting people in crisis.

Offer honest and real support. Don’t just say let me know If you need anything but tell them what you can and want to do. Say “I want to love you, here’s what I came up with. I want to do this with you.” Make it easy for them to be supported and loved.

Give them space to feel their feelings. People often don’t feel free to honestly explore and express how they actually feel. They think there is a way they are supposed to feel or a response they are supposed to have. Let them know that you’re ok with them being honest. Say “it’s ok to be honest with me. If you feel angry, hurt, flat, numb, happy, whatever. You don’t have to feel a certain way. If you want to talk about how you feel I’d love to listen. I just want to love you.” Let them feel what they feel and don’t try to direct it. Some people feel numb. They don’t really feel at all. They are told they are supposed to be sad but they just feel nothing. And then they feel guilt that they aren’t responding ‘the right way.’ Give space for the real expression of their feelings whatever they may be. Don’t look for one feeling or another but accept whatever it is they express.

Just keep affirming that you want to love them and be there with them.

The only advice I’d share with someone experiencing grief is “be gracious with yourself. Grief is a long tiring process. There is no time table.” Help them feel free to experience the process and not be too hard on themselves.

Love them. No expectations, just a journey you’re happy to go on with them, depth, darkness and all.

what not to say around death

Yesterday we talked about getting in the same space related to death. Briefly we talked about:

How as a society and church we don’t tend to do well with death.

Death is not something that can be fixed.

Death is not purposeful.

And then we ended with the question of what don’t we say?

I have a few thoughts. My list isn’t exhaustive but it covers a lot.

What not to say:

  • Everything will be ok
  • It’s for the best
  • God needed another angel
  • There’s some good in this
  • Don’t worry Gods in control. He’s got a plan.

You may disagree with some of these but overall here’s why I think we need to avoid this lines of conversation.

This is an emotional experience not one to be conquer with logic or reason. It’s a deeply person, visceral experience that force us to face and engage with parts of ourselves we don’t often have to. Death causes questions and confusion. The problem with these statements isn’t necessarily their factual truth, though some are not true, but rather how little help and possibly how much damage they can do to someone experiencing loss. It’s not the time for ideas and theory, it’s time for love.

Think of all the ways these kinds of statements can be interpreted, especially considering that the person doing the interpretation is in pain. Consider these statements from the position of someone morning loss. They could very easily see it like this.

Everything will be ok –It’s not that big a deal. In a little while this person and their loss won’t be as meaningful or painful to you. It minimizes what’s happening in that moment. “Just buck up you’ll be fine soon. Now isn’t that important.” But that person is trapped in the now, in the full experience of the now. We need to speak to their now not some possible whole future.

It’s for the best – someone how your pain and anguish are for the best. God’s best plan and the best plan for you and your loved one is for that loved one to no longer be in your life. That’s harsh. May dad was in pain for 13 years but even when he passed I’ve never seen it as ‘for the best’. The best would be a healthy dad who met my sons and saw the man I’m becoming. Not one who left years before his time. That’s not the best. Why can’t God just health the person, why is them dying for the best?

God needed another angel – this is so often said when a child dies. It paints God as some kind of selfish malevolent being. He made and gave you a child then changed His mind because He needed it more. He can speak things into existence but needed YOUR child. You don’t need them as much as God does. But make sure you go and ask God for healing a support after He took your child.

There’s some good in this – while I understand the goal, there isn’t. Death wasn’t part of God’s plan. There is no good. Do we think so little of God that He can’t fulfill His purpose unless someone is taken? He’s so constrained that He can’t do good without first horrible trauma. What possible good is here that requires my loss?

Don’t worry God’s in control. He’s got a plan – again, an omnipotent God that can’t do good without causing tram and harm. A God who WANTS bad things to happen to you. It’s part of His plan. Not how I would describe a loving God. Not how I would describe a God of infinite power and grace. God can use pain but when we talk about how God is in control and has a plan we imply that God wanted the bad to happen to fulfill His plan. Like an abusive partner that uses pain and coercion to keep someone under their control.

I talked about God in all of these but they all still apply if the person isn’t a person of faith. In that case there is nothing more. There is this life and that’s it. Saying it’s for the best that someone loss the only life they will ever have or any of the other statements is just a damaging.

The point here is that what you mean and what you say aren’t always the same thing. You can have all the best intentions and still be hurtful. Where you mean to bring healing you can bring greater pain. Be aware of the implications of what you say.

Often it’s better to say nothing. It’s better just to love in presence and in deed.

But if you must say something I’ve got a few ideas for you tomorrow.

death and loss

For something as universal and experience as death you might think we’d talk about it more. You might think we would understand the experience better. You might think we’d be better prepared to love those experiencing a death in their life.

But you know as much as I do that for all we might think when we look at death objectively, rarely is that the lived experience.

For worse, death will touch everyone. It will irrevocably impact your life at some point while you are still alive. Talking with a good friend has brought the topic back to mind.

We’re going to explore death a little.

We’re going to do that because society is terrible at supporting people and sadly the church isn’t often much better.

But we should be.

And we can be.

We will be.

Today we’ll touch on some fundamentals, staring points so we are all in the same space.

Death cannot be fixed.

While I understand how redundant a statement that is we still try. We try to make people feel better. To fix or change what cannot be fixed. Death is permanent. It’s dark and traumatic and often our best attempts to fix the experience end up minimizing it.

So we won’t try. We won’t fix this experience. We’ll be with people in the darkness not tell them the darkness isn’t there.

Death is not purposeful.

We won’t try to render meaning where they is none. This is so important I don’t want you to miss it. Death wasn’t part of the plan. So when we talk about death we have to be careful how we speak. We need to understand the implications of the words we choose.

God can bring good from evil but it’s never His plan. He doesn’t cause evil to happen so He can do good. Evil is a part of our world and death is wholly evil. God can bring redemption out of death but it’s not the purpose of death. It’s not why it happened and God’s ability to bring good from evil doesn’t detract from how evil something is.

It happens because we live in a dark fallen world and people need to be allowed to experience that darkness without it being minimized or overly spiritualized. It’s complicated enough experience loss we don’t need to complicate it with some theological controversy over God’s involvement in death.

God doesn’t want death.

God doesn’t cause death.

God is 100% with us during the darkness, but that darkness and pain are very real.

With that as our start we’ll look at how we respond to death tomorrow. If death cannot be fixed and death isn’t part of some bigger purpose what do we say?

Or rather to start what don’t we say?

a sad state of affairs

It’s sad that I even considered this a challenge for a week.

I don’t know how we got here, I just know we’re called to better.

This week the challenge is to compliment someone each day. Yes you should compliment you family and the people you are close with but if you really want to be stretched compliment people in your life that you wouldn’t normally compliment. Be sincere and honest.

It may be weird and may be awkward but again, isn’t that kind of sad.

Sad that it’s strange and hard and weird for us to compliment people in our lives?

Nothing crazy and outlandish, just make sure the people in your life know that you appreciate them and why.