to what end?

Lent started this week.

Lent leads to two obvious questions in a lot of Christian circles.

“Are you doing lent?”

“What are you lenting?”

But I often struggle with talking about it. This is more of an internal struggle than an external one because I love to hear myself talk. To an extent it’s the same reason I struggle with a lot of social media.

My mother’s voice runs through my head every time I think about posting anything. The question of “to what end?”

I can’t escape it.

That said, my mom and I have never talked about Facebook or Twitter with any real depth. We do however talk about work and life and often the idea of “to what end” comes up. I try to consider it with any important decisions, but Twitter and Facebook aren’t really important so why is it creeping in here?

It creeps in I suppose because lent is important. Perhaps more to the point who I am, my actions and the way I share myself is important.

And what does my online sharing say about me?

What does it say about what I value?

To what end am I posting _______?

Is it to encourage people, is it to draw them into community, is it to love them…

Or am I just saying look at me, look how smart I am, look how much I care, look what I’m doing, aren’t I great? Why does everyone know that I am lenting ______ and that it’s such struggle? Why do I make sure people see all the volunteering I’m doing and all the people I’m meeting?

We’ll most of you have come here through Facebook, so I’m clearly not opposed to Facebook entirely.

I just wonder if we should be more critical of what we post, why we post it, and what it says about us.

Are we commenting to be encouraging, to build community, to support others or because everyone else is and we want the world to know we care to. I worry that the ease with which we can say happy birthday, I’m sorry for your loss, excited for you, etc takes away from our desire to really engage. We miss being in the moment, in the messiness, in each other’s lives as much as we once were.

I think this is where community becomes so central.

Community is where we can go and share because our community knows us. They know why we’re doing what we’re doing. They can call us out when we’re being boastful and showy. They know our intentions and our hearts. They want this type of encouragement and challenge, because we know them relationally. We can lean on them and they will support us, because sometimes we need more than a few likes to get by. Sometimes we need someone to hold our hands, wipe our tears and listen as it all falls apart.

I worry that if we sat and reflected we’d find we pose/share/comment so others see how caring, smart, funny we are rather than to love. That when the option is presented we’d rather comment on a post then send a message, make a call, walk to their house because if we were being honest, part of why we’re doing it is so people know we’re doing it.

It’s not everyone, nor is it always, but if we never think “to what end” it might be happening more than we think. I know it does for me.

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lent, coffee, and a life never the same

I love coffee.

I love coffee with a deep and complex love.

However, despite my love for this rich and life giving elixir, I gave it up for lent a few years ago. It went about as well as you’d anticipate.

I made it through but wow was it ever terrible. I really wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to give it up, how much I enjoy it, and how unbelievably addicted I am to it. I started a new job during that time. I was like a walking zombie trying to make good impression on my new co-workers for weeks without caffeine coursing through my veins.

They noticed instantly when I started drinking it again.

We even joke about it now. They simply cannot believe that I could do it again if I wanted to, nor do they want me to even try.

But reflecting back, I don’t think it worked.

There are loads of reason why people participate in lent but I think this one missed the mark.

I guess there is value in praying more and I suspect I did, but not to the point that I remember or can say with certainty that I did.

I am however acutely aware that I’m not different because of it.

It didn’t change how I saw God or Jesus or my faith at all.

It didn’t draw my closer to God.

When all was said and done Easter came and went and I was the same person I was when it all started.

It was just a couple weeks where I was uncomfortable.

This year I hope it’s different.

I hope that my lent experience will draw me closer to Jesus.

I hope it will show me more the heart of God.

I hope that this will actually change the way I live. That by investing my time, energy and money in this I will be a different person when I’m done.

I want to be a better disciple when Easter comes around. I want to understand what Jesus is calling his followers into and realize that it’s not always easy. I want to act differently on the other side of Easter. I want to be changed by my investment in this process. To be open to Jesus changing me.

I want to see the world in a different way. In a way that won’t allow me to go back to the way it was.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe giving up coffee and chocolate haven’t really done it.

Might I suggest trying something new?

It will be different for all of us, but let’s not lose the power of this time because the tradition makes it easy to coast. Let’s pick something that changes the way we see the world. Let’s pick something that forces us to truly experience the world in a way that we have never had to before, not simply un-caffeinated for a few weeks.

How will this fast change you? How will it make you different when it’s done? How does this push you to be a better disciple? How will your actions be changed?

It’s not that you’ll never take up coffee again, but rather how will this lent make you see Jesus in a way that you can’t be what you were before?

Let’s not pick something inconvenient this year. Let’s pick something that changes the very world around us.

more than just my feelings

I would love a wider breadth of worship music on a Sunday.

I’ve got a bunch of personal reasons why I’d like more variety and why the lack of variety frustrates me. That said, there is more to my frustration than simply my own personal desire for a space and time that reflects my experience.

Essentially this is not just about me. At least, that’s how the story goes in my mind so hopefully there is some truth to it.

There are some really important practical problems with an always up beat worship experience.

I think that we teach theology, expectations and actions in our worship. And if I’m right then perhaps we should spend more time critically thinking about the worship we present at church.

If worship teaches theology was does it teach?

That God makes us feel good.

That God will come.

That God fixes.

That God changes everything for the better.

This theology will directly impact expectations. However I’m not particularly worried about the expectations of the church. Those are absolutely skewed but the church, for the most part, knows when it’s being serious and when it’s being more rhetorical.

For those new to our spaces however, this may pose a problem.

What does it say to someone who comes to church broken and looking, sings songs about how God will comes, how he will fix and how everything will be better. Then reflects back on their life months later to see the same brokenness present. What happens when they see that their life isn’t perfect and mended? What happens when they stand in a service look around at all the other “happy” people and realize they are alone? What has to go through their mind?

What didn’t I do?

Why doesn’t God love me like them?

Why isn’t God fixing it?

Does God even care?

Is God even real?

Maybe it’s a step to far. But I doubt it.

If every Sunday we drill the theology of happy people living happy lives because God has made it that way this expectation will happen.

All because we couldn’t be open and honest without pain. All because we want to be happy on a Sunday rather than real.

And this leads nicely into my last thought (almost like I planned it).

In worship we talk about doing a lot of things; raising hands, bowing our knee, giving over our lives, trusting God, etc.

How many of them do we actually do? Some church are better than others but there aren’t many where people literally bow their knee when they say they are bowing before Christ.

We just talk about all the things we do and then wonder why we can’t get people involved in each other’s lives. Why we can’t build spaces that people feel safe to be open about their doubt and pain. Why we can’t get people to volunteer or to give back to their community or talk to their neighbour or do literally anything that would bring them closer to being like Christ.

It’s so pervasive it’s almost like there is something happening every Sunday teaching them and encouraging them to say one thing and do another. Something teaching them to hide the honest reality of their life because somewhere it’s being reinforced that the honest expression means they don’t know God or worse God isn’t even there.

Thank goodness we’d never do something like that every single Sunday…

our love has a limit

For something that is supposed to be so naturally human we struggle with love.

Not the idea, we get it. But being love to someone? We struggle.

We understand that Jesus loved everyone and called us to do the same. We understand that He died for us in large part because He loves us. We know the verses that talk about how we are to follow His example and how people will know we are His disciple by our love.

We get it as an abstract concept but when it comes to real life it really breaks down.

This seems to be the underlying issue to me. While we would say “Jesus has called us to love everyone” we follow that up with a really reasonable and practical “expect _______.”

Of course we don’t say it that way. Let’s be honest, we’re more clever than that. Our brains wouldn’t allow for that kind of a statement. We need a better frame to allow us to accept that “love everyone but _____” proposition.

We talk about accountability.

We talk about holiness.

We talk about how we cannot condone sin.

We talk about plain reading of the scriptures.

We talk about justice.

We talk about when Jesus said “go and sin no more.”

But here’s the problem. We aren’t the woman caught in adultery and we aren’t Jesus. We are the religious leaders of the day. We are the ones dragging people in front of Jesus hoping He will condemn them. We are the ones using the law and the rules to dehumanize and belittle people.

We are the ones who refuse to see all the ways we’ve missed Christ in our own lives and point out the flaws in everyone else.

Yes Jesus tells the woman to go and sin no more. But it’s Jesus who tells her. It’s when she meets and connects with Jesus she leaves with the call to sin no more.

We are the ones in power, we are the ones trying to maintain the system, we are the ones raging against the outside world hoping it conforms to us and condemning it when it doesn’t.

We could be Jesus in this story.

But too often I think it’s just too satisfying to be right rather than to be love.

commitment is another word for action

Life gets in the way. Or I suppose obstacles get in the way of the life you want.

This week it was sickness.

Sarah has been sick for the past few days. Nothing major but enough that she sat on a couch for two days. Now if you know Sarah you’ll understand that Sarah simply doesn’t sit. She is the energizer bunny incarnate.

She just keeps going and going and going.

It’s tiring just to watch.

So I stepped into her shoes the past few days.

She is amazing, I don’t know how she gets it all done. I did not get it all done.

But that’s just life right?

Things pop up, life is chaotic at best often.

I missed a few days of writing. I missed a few days of work.

Life.

I didn’t connect this week like I had planned. There was time. I’d do it later in the week i said. But there wasn’t time later. I’ll get a great chance to connect with some of my work mates today and at our work Christmas party tonight. But that’s only once. I wanted more for this week.

But I didn’t put in the effort when the time was there. There were chances on Monday and Tuesday that I didn’t take.

I put it off.

Then life happened.

Then nothing happened because I didn’t do it.

I suppose my reflection on this week is the continuing realization that this stuff doesn’t’ just happen. That we need to make an effort. Purpose ourselves to love and be the people we are made to be.

Compassionate living is an amazing life. It’s full and deep, but it takes commitment and in this situation commitment is just another word for action.

people don’t like Chrisitans

Churches can be really insular places.

It’s counter intuitive to say the least. Churches should be one of the most loving, welcoming places in the world. But we all know that often that isn’t’ the case. There are so many reasons why church isn’t welcoming and we’re not going to fix them here. We’re not addressing structure here.

We’re addressing you.

There’s a strong perception with people I know who don’t attend church that churches are harsh spaces filled with judgment and cliques.

This week we’re going to work on that.

This week talk to a co-worker, neighbour, etc. you’ve never had a real conversation with before. Try to speak with them more than once. Go outside the norm of your relationships. Go outside the church.

You’d be surprised how many people don’t know a Christian or even worse don’t know a Christian they like. The only Christians they know are ones they want nothing to do with and we know all the reasons why.

No more cliques, no more inward focus, no more rampant judgement.

Love and grace will be our mark.

We will be transparent and honest.

We aren’t perfect and we won’t pretend to be, or have the answer to make them perfect.

We will connect with people where they are.

People will know us by our love.

So go connect in some new relationships. It’s very possible you’re the first loving Christian they’ve ever meet.

peace in her hands

Today was not fantastic.

Points of the day were good, but there were some less than ideal portions.

While I was on a rather difficult phone call one of my co-workers quietly appeared in my door. She was holding a coffee. If you’ve been reading here long you understand my deep connection to coffee.

She had heard part of my call and could sense how frustrated I was and how much I was struggling with the call. I didn’t have good answers for the person on the other end and they needed good answers.

It turned my day around.

She just appeared with peace in her hands. “I could tell you needed this.”

Relationships allow for this kind of love. Knowing how I work and who I am and being able to tell right away I was frustrated. But more than just reading the situation, knowing how much a coffee would mean and how much something so simple changes my entire day and then doing something with all that information.

It’s that kind of love we strive for.

Love, in relationships, in action.

who is my neighbour?

This is it.

It’s finally here.

This is the first week I’m asking you to dip into your normal everyday life. To not change the way you interact with people in your life but to actively seek out a new interaction.

I want you to have dinner.

Or coffee, wine, cookies, hotdogs, whatever you want.

I want you to connect, probably over food and drink because it’s easier, with your neighbour.

Invite them over if you don’t know them well or accept their invitation to coffee you’ve been avoiding.

Connect with your neighbour this week.  And this not some sort of deep theological question around ‘who is my neighbour’? it’s the person who lives near you, in geographical proximity.

Go knock on somones door and say “Hi, I’m your neighbour. I was wondering if you’d want to come by for dinner/drink/cookies sometime. We’ve been neighbours for _______ and I thought it’d be nice to know who’s around us.”

No agenda.

No ulterior motives.

Just get to know your neighbour for who they are, as they are right now.

Phil says yes

A life of compassion is not one that is marked by saying yes to everything, but it says yes to way more than a life not trying to live like Jesus has called us.

Its amazing how much you can do and what you can offer when you commit to it. When you choose too.

A lot of us really honestly want to help. We want to give and want to be involved.

But we miss the chance. It presents itself and we start to process and think about all the reasons why it’d be too hard and talk ourselves out of it.

I have a buddy named Phil. He is arguably the busiest person I know. The man is a farmer and can without exaggeration work 70-80 hour weeks. In 6 days no less because his boss, a great man of God, shuts the operation down for rest on Sunday. They have to squeeze 7 days of farming into 6.

If anyone has an excuse to be busy and not say yes its Phil.

Phil always says yes.

He showed up at my place around 8pm the Friday of the weekend we were moving. He’d been out working all day and was going back out the next morning. But he help me move our GIANT outrageously heavy fridge to our new house in the rain. I think he got home at midnight.

But that’s Phil.

Compassionate living just pours out of him.

And if you ask people who know Phil no one will be surprised. Everyone who knows him knows him as one of the most generous people they’ve ever met.

His answer is yes.

That’s the kind of person I want to be. I want to be like Phil. I want people to know they can count on me. I want people to know that I will love them with my actions not just my words.

That my busy life isn’t’ more important than my relationships, my friends and family.

I want people to know that if they need me I’m there.

It isn’t about saying yes every time. I’m sure Phil has said no, I just can’t remember it because Phil is a consistent person who consistent answer is yes. It’s who he is. He gives of himself and his time and his resources and he does it by saying yes.

I want to be more like Phil and lucky for me I’ve got a head start since we already share a name.

a chance easily missed

This space is heavy with things to do.

It’s a lot of ideas and actions to integrate and try in your life.

Your busy, already full life.

Rest isn’t something that’s valued in the West. We value drive. But rest is such a Godly thing.

Don’t miss it.

Don’t miss the need to stop. Don’t miss the need to connect with God. Don’t miss the need to be silent and listen. Don’t miss the chance to let God speak. Don’t miss the chance to just be quiet.

Commit to rest. Don’t let the busyness of life and doing good work push rest out of your life.

And if you’re not the type who has ever rested, today is a great day to start. I know a prayer you could say.