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.

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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.

budgets and priorities

Now comes the possible controversy.

Last week I asked you to look at your bank statement. Did you do it? Seriously go look.

I was talking with my mother the other day about budgets. Both of us work with them. We have budgets to manage and work with. It’s just a part of our jobs.

We talked about how our budgets show our priorities. We talked about how some people may disagree but that it’s simple a fact.

The conversation reminded me a sermon Sarah’s steph-father gave years ago where he claimed that we should look at our budgets as moral documents.

This reminded me of a conversation I was having with Sarah’s step-mom about economics and the idea of revealed preference. If asked people about their preference that are likely to give the answer they think they are supposed to. They’ll lie. Would I rather apples or chips? Apples. But their spending reveals their preference. They buy chips. Don’t ask them what they prefer just look at the money.

So if we bring the ideas together that budgets are actually moral documents that share your priorities and preferences, what did yours say when you looked at it? Are you living a life of compassion?

Mine says I have a lot of work to do.

If you came to me today and said “Phil I have this great work that God is doing and we some consistent support” or “would you consider sponsoring a child?” or “I know this amazing charity doing really impactful community work, would you consider donating?” I’d probably say I can’t afford it.

That’s not really true. I do have the money. I just choose to spend it on my satellite so I can watch NCAA March Madness basketball.

It’s not true because I choose to give myself discretionary spending every month so I can buy coffee or go out for dinner with friends.

It’s not true because I choose to save for my future and not invest in someone else’s.

None of those things are bad. None of them are wrong at all.

But I do have the money. I just prioritize TV, dinner out and my retirement more than good work, sponsoring a child or a new charity.

My purpose is not to make you feel bad here but to make sure your honest with the choices your making. If you’re picking TV over a charity and that makes you feel bad then maybe God is saying your budget needs some more compassion in it. Maybe God is saying you need to look at it again with His eyes.

Next time there’s an opportunity to give be honest. Do you really not have the money or is that just an excuse you use to avoid the priorities your money is truly showing. Is it that you honestly wish you could or you can’t stomach the fact that you just don’t want to more than you want a cell phone with data?

If you want to live a life of compassion then God needs a say in your budget and space for His love to be displayed. Maybe it’s finally worth that look at your bank statement I’ve been asking you to do.