two sides from two brothers

My brother and I were talking about church.

We talk about church a lot. We’re both always right so it’s good we are on roughly the same page. We talk about all aspects of church. Growing up as pastor’s sons and my brother now a pastor it’s been a part of our lives since the very beginning.

We talked a little about how to encourage people to live a more compassionate life. We agreed that there is a large portion of people who have the language (you might say missional, other centred, whatever) and but still don’t’ apply it.

I said it was priorities that hold people back.

He said it was time.

The more we talked about it the more we realized that priorities and time are two sides of the same compassionate life style blocking coin. It’s a big complicated coin.

I said it was priorities because people make time for what matters. They do what’s most important first and work their way down. I’ve written about this before.

He said that part of the problem about saying its priorities makes it sound like something else. Another thing that needs to be added. I’ve got work, soccer practices, church, Home Church, volunteering, date night and now you want me to add compassion into that too? Nope, sorry I’m just too busy.

He’s right (and so am I but we’ll get there).

Talking about it like a priority makes it sound like more. The idea is that you live a life of compassion. It’s not something you add it’s how you go to work, soccer practices, church, Home Church, volunteering, date night and the way you spend your time while you’re there. Is the way you live your life.

Not something more, a change to how. So he’s right. That’s the call of Jesus in our lives.

But that’s big and scary and for a lot of people who are working towards the life style, the all-encompassing nature is too much. It’s all or nothing. So he’s right.

And that’s why I often start with priorities. Changing the way you live is hard. It will take commitment and effort and a struggle. So I ask you to start small. Prioritize this new way of living over a few other things in your life by engaging in timed events to get started. Planning to meet with your neighbours, plan to go out to the pub with a co-worker. Prioritize relationships as a start.

In the end it won’t be a priority but rather a way of living. For me though, I think prioritizing some time for relationship is a good first step to that changed life.

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am I doing this right?

I like metrics.

I like when I can quantify things. I suppose this stems from the fact that I am a huge nerd.

One of my favourite past times is fantasy sports. It’s just as cool as it sounds.

Basically, a person who could never play professionally sports, me, picks people how actually play professionally sports and puts them on their ‘team’. Then, whenever the real athlete does anything I get points on my fantasy team.

Just as cool as it sounds.

But this leads me deeeeeeeep into number crunching, building tables and spread sheets. I’ve even created statistics on relative value of players to know how and when I should pick the player.

Just as cool as it sounds.

I love numbers and metrics.  

But life so often doesn’t work like that. Life isn’t’ charts and tables and life is often grey not black and white. Over the years I’ve grown way more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. I’m actually really comfortable with it now.

But when it comes to compassion I think people want yes and no answers. Does this count? Am I doing it right? Did I do enough?

We want hard answers, metrics to show if we are the compassionate person we want to be. We want a formula or ratio that says “if I volunteer 2 nights a week for 4 hours that’s 27% of my free time. If we compare that to the normative persons volunteering and factor in tithing 10% of my time I’m actually a good person because I give an extra 17%.”

But it’s not that at all.

I do have something that might help. It won’t tell you what to do but it will tell you how to do what you’re doing.

The question to ask is ‘does this lead to relationship?’

Is what you’re doing building new or strengthening old relationships?

So does helping out at the soup kitchen count? Well, are you building relationships while you’re there or just handing out soup?

Does what you do at work count? Well, are you building real and honest relationships?

Does helping my neighbour shovel their driveway count? You get the idea.

It’s not perfect. But it’s a good start.

The cool part is this doesn’t mean to you necessarily have to start or stop doing anything. I just might mean you do it with a purpose and intent you didn’t have before.

as they are because they are

Now comes the hard one. We’ve been building to it.

Loving your community. That’s your neighbours, your co-workers, the man experiencing homelessness you pass every day. This is the hard one but in all honesty probably the most important. This is the one we’re called to. This is the space to which Jesus teaching should take us to. This is the great commission.

We will spend a LOT of time in this space.

To step back for a moment, I don’t think this is new. We know who Jesus hung out with. We know who he’s called us to connect with. That said, this is the space we so often struggle in. This is the space we make excuses in. This is the space we wish we knew HOW to do.

As we do here, a story.

Sarah and I wanted to be more involved in our community. We actually sat in our living room and said ‘so what exactly do we do?’. Sure we wanted to love people and get involved but HOW do we do it?

We decided on a community party. We’d go door to door and personally invite all our neighbours to come to a neighbourhood party. We’d have all the food, all the drinks, everything. All they would need to do is come.

To be honest we were worried.

One, going door to door makes me feel outrageously uncomfortable. But we thought it need to be personal and not just a letter in their door if we could. So we did it. I felt super uncomfortable the entire time but we did it.

Two, I was worried that everyone would think there was some ulterior motive. And not just some ‘thanks everyone for coming. If it’s ok I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about an investment opportunity…’ type ulterior motive.

No I was worried people would think ‘I think that’s that Christian couple. I bet they’re going to try and convert us or tell us we have to go to church or that we’re bad people or something. You know bait us in with free beer then tell us we’re all sinners going to hell for drinking the beer.’

I don’t know if it sounds ridiculous to you but I was honestly worried.

I was worried because the church has really screwed this one up. People are projects not people. People are a means to an end, a gold start for saving a soul. I was worried people wouldn’t believe that we honestly just wanted to get to know them.

I was worried that people wouldn’t believe that for Sarah and I they are our end. Getting to know them, building an honest, real relationship was our goal. Not to convert them or tell them how they should be living but to just get to know them enough that we could start actually loving them.

So the day came and despite it raining we had a good turnout. It was good enough that we did it again at Christmas. Was a super awkward start?

YUP!

But we met new people, shared some drinks, laughs, stories and had a ton of fun!

Yes this compassion in community is big and there’s a lot more to see but it looks like action. It looks like love. The life of compassion in relation to our community is us in relationship with our community. Not set apart but embedded in. Not distant but close. Not judgement but love and grace.

We get into the messiness of our community, our neighbour, co-workers and the man experiencing homelessness on the street. We do it because we’re disciples. We do it because we want to love everyone like Jesus loves us, as we are because we are. Not a project to be fixed or some goal to be accomplished but a person to be loved just as they are with no expectations of anything in return or any change from them.

We do it because that’s our call and our commission.

We do it because we are striving to live a life of compassion.

home church in action

This should be easy right? The church, for all its flaws, cares about those in its community really well, right? We love and share and comfort really well, right?

Well I think we can all agree that our call to love each other in the church is clear. We know it. I doubt anyone is surprised by the statement ‘you should love and care for the people in your home church’.

Moreover if asked I suspect we all think we do.

But be honest, it’s not always there is it? You’ve gone home and said ‘wow, I really thought they would care more about me losing my job/ family member passing/ tough week at work/ frustrating child’.

There is nothing wrong with those feelings. I bring it up to say that despite our best intentions we fail some times. We don’t love those in our community that we see in need the way we maybe should.

Sometimes we just don’t get it.

I found one of the greatest supports to me when I lost my job a few years ago were other people who had lost their job. They got how embarrassing it was. They understood how emotionally difficult it was to send out resume after resume and hear nothing back, essentially being reject 10, 15, 20 times a day. No one wanted me and only people who had been though it saw that pain right away.

So yes, we will miss, we won’t understand and we won’t love maybe the way we should. It happens even though it shouldn’t. I don’t want to focus on that this time though. I just wanted to say to those who feel it, I understand. But all we can control is what we do. All we can do is be the ones to start the love.

This story isn’t about the times we didn’t know better, understand the situation or act the way we should. This is a fantastic story of love.

Like I said I’m going to share stories I hear from different places about how amazing our community is. This is one.

A home church was sitting chatting near the end of a meeting. It was an unexpectedly small group of people that evening. The conversation drifted here and there. How do we love others, what does it look like, etc.

Then someone said ‘look it’s all fine and well, but we have lots of need here, in this group. I was talking last week with one of our members and she mentioned how they wouldn’t be having much of a Christmas this year. Moneys to tight and the kids may not get anything.’

And in that moment the group understood. Weather they knew it or not they chose to live the life of compassion. The conversation quickly turned to, well then what do WE do. Not some conversation about the theology of God providing or praying for someone to come and help. What do WE, her community, do?

‘We have some gift cards’ one family said.

‘I could run to the bank and get some money’ said another.

And that was it. They gave it all to one of the ladies present to pass along.

Love in action.

That’s a life of compassion. That’s how we love in community. A need was seen and a need was met.

How do we live a life of compassion in home church? Honest real interactions, bearing our joys and difficulties and as a family coming around our members to love them. Not talking about it but doing it.

Actions of love.

That’s how a life of compassion works in home church. Like all other spaces, in action.

compassion at home

This week we’re going to look at three areas that we hope this life of compassion will begin to work in; family, home church, community. I’ll come back to this gimmick often because I think it’s helpfully to look at how this works in the many different facets of life.

Today we’re looking at family and we won’t go any further than my own home for this one.

My wife Sarah is a great example.

What does compassion look like in a family? It looks like Sarah.

Here’s what we try (a far heavier emphasis on the try for me than Sarah but I’m getting better).

Sarah puts me first. Not just in certain things or in small things but in basically everything Sarah puts me first. As opposed to it being the oddity it’s the norm.

I try to do the same but I honestly don’t think I’m anywhere close to as good at it as she is. But because we love each other we try really hard to always put the other first.

Again what does that look like and why is it important?

It’s important because if the other members of the family are always trying to put you first you don’t have to ask or demand for what you ‘deserve’. You don’t have to say things like ‘I work all day long I just need a break’ or ‘I wish someone would just help me with this.’

Instead you’ll get what you deserve and more.

It’s Sarah saying to me ‘you’ve had a long day go watch TV’ even after she’s had a long day too. It’s Sarah collecting the garbage, even though it’s my job (we’ve divide up the house work so nothing get missed). It’s Sarah saying ‘I’ve got Nolan tonight’ even after she’s had him all day long.

But why the system works is because I clean the washrooms, even though it’s her job.

I don’t have to demand or state how deserving I am of a day to sleep in. Sarah graciously offers them to me. But it works because I do the same back.

It works because when I hear Sarah tidying I help. I could not help and Sarah wouldn’t be upset at all. But I try to put her first so I go and help.

And it’s a balance. You have to be willing to accept the grace and love from the others. I may get up to and help Sarah tidy but she may also say ‘it’s ok I’ve got this just sit’. We’re both putting the other first. I may be doing the dishes after dinner and tell Sarah ‘go read I’ve got this’ even after she’s started to help. Neither takes advantage of the other. We know what each other needs and we put those needs before our own.

Or at least that’s the goal. I’ve got more than a few stories of miss steps on this one.

If everyone is trying to always put the other members first it’s a loving, gracious, generous home to be in.

Try as a whole family to put everyone else before yourself. You worry about them and they’ll worry about you.

stories are great but what do I do?

Stories are great.  They connect, inspire and challenge us.  A good story can cause us to see the world differently. That’s why we tell them and share them. Someone gets up in front of the church and shares and we’re all changed and different than when we walked in.

Sometimes.

But sometimes I step back and say ‘but that’s your story and I can’t do that’. Oh, you gave up everything you own – great!  But I still really like my stuff.  Yes I do think that breaking down the system of oppression is an amazing goal.  I’m just not really there yet.

We often get to hear from and meet these amazing people do thing these things that we know are from God, but we also know that’s not where we’re at.

Someday I hope to be able to make huge systemic changes and impact the entire world. But where do I start so I can build up to that? Where do I start to change my life from the one I live now to the life of compassion? There has to be something I can do in my current workplace now with the people I see day by day.

Well, look no further then right here … unless you want to hold on to the idea that you don’t know what to do or can’t do anything where you’re at now. In that case, keep ‘looking’ elsewhere.

It’s a big list.  Pick something. Commit to do one thing this weekend.  Commit to do one compassionate act a day. Commit to do the same act of compassion every day for a week.  Sit with your Home Church and have the group choose one. Let the whole Home Church commit to try every day for a week to do ___________ and then talk about it next week. What happened?  Did it work?  Did it fail?  Did you even notice?

Okay, so the list:

–          Ask your neighbour to do an Aids Care kit with you, donate to your kit, help with the cost of the card;

–          Community party – go door to door to invite your neighbours;

–          Take food to a neighbour as an easy intro;

–          Make dinner for someone in your neighbourhood who is in need, and eat with them;

–          Find a worthy community group and volunteer consistently with them;

–          Invest in a neighbour simply to build a relationship with them (watch sports, go out for drinks, must be done with no ulterior motive);

–          Walk at the same time each day with an open invitation extended to neighbours to join you;

–          Always have time to talk, and never be the one to end a conversation;

–          Be generous once per day to someone you feel doesn’t deserve it;

–          Say ‘yes’ to all requests for an hour, day, week, etc.;

–          If you know of someone in need, instead of saying ‘let me know if there is anything I can do,’ draft a list of all the things you’re actually willing to do and give it to the person;

–          Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone, and tell someone who you’ve chosen so they can hold you accountable;

–          Shop consistently at the same stores, hair dresser, etc to build relationships;

–          Serve with an organization that works with a population that is unfamiliar to you;

–          Support people in your Home Church to go and do compassion (offer to watch all the kids, give them a ride, etc.);

–          Offer free child care at the same time once a week so parents can shop, drink a coffee, etc. without the distraction of their kids;

–          Start to mentor someone in your life and share the experience at home church so you can be held accountable;

–          Plan time or have margins in your life so you can go deeper with some of your current relationships.

There you go. There are a lot of options there.  Don’t try to do them all.  Pick one that resonates, and when you think you’ve integrated it into your life pick another.

Do it in community with your Home Church.  Talk about the struggles and the victories.  Leave a note in the comments below or send me an email letting me know what you’re going to try.

Please pick something. Don’t go away from this saying ‘wow those are some great ideas’ without picking one to try.

Got more ideas? Leave a comment, the bigger the list the better.

come and listen

‘Come and Listen’ by David Crowder Band

Come and listen, come to the water’s edge, all you who know and fear the Lord.
Come and listen, come to the water’s edge all you who are thirsty, come.

Let me tell you what He has done for me.
Let me tell you what He has done for me,
He has done for you,
He has done for us.

Come and listen,
come and listen to what He’s done.
Come and listen,
come and listen to what He’s done.

Praise our God for He is good.
Praise our God for He is good.
Praise our God for He is good.
Praise our God for He is good.

He has done for me,
He has done for you,
He has done for us.

Come and listen,
come and listen to what He’s done.
Come and listen,
come and listen to what He’s done.

I love this song. I’ve used it before. I’ve you’ve never heard it, go check it out on YouTube. This isn’t going anywhere. There’s just something about the invitation. It’s so gentle and feels to me to be honest and real.

So what are we doing here? We’ll maybe ‘we’ is a bad choice of words. I know why I’m here but I suspect you’re not entirely sure.

I have some hopes for this space, this community.

I hope it becomes a community, a two way conversation.

I hope it creates growth, change. I hope it creates movement.

I hope you are able to find, see, and connect with God.

I hope that connection with God is so great that – for all of our flaws (and I do mean ‘our’ because as you’ll see on this journey here I’ve got enough for the both of us) – you won’t be able to keep God from spilling out of you into all the people you know.

Here’s what I want to do.

I want to tell stories. I want to tell good stories. And when I say ‘good’ I mean ‘well told,’ not just positive.  There’s going to be some pain in this space.  We are going to struggle.  Yes, I have and I will share stories of triumph.  There will be stories from my life and the lives of people in our community – stories of people stepping out and chasing after the call God has on them and things actually work out.  A coffee that leads to a relationship that leads to support in love in the darkness. I promise we will have that.

But I also promise struggle, pain, doubt and darkness.

You may not see the value of both, but it’s all a part of my life.  I do what I feel the spirit leading me to do and sometimes it’s nothing spectacular – failures and awkwardness are part of the journey.

We’re going to have it all because our lives have it all.

This space will be honest.

I’ll have my thoughts and my opinions, and I’d like to hear yours as well.  I even welcome your thoughts on why you think I’m wrong.  I hope that you come with a listening heart to see what God has here for you.

This space will have teaching.

I hope to share how to live a compassionate life … how to work through the struggles and difficulty … how to start the process.

We’ll look back at some of my old writings I’ve done on giving and how it applies to a life of compassion.

So come and listen. Listen to what He has done for me, for you, for us.

Come and share.

Come and find God in a way you may not have before.