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…

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I don’t want to do that

This one ended up being more polarizing than I anticipated.

You could just see it in people’s faces when they heard what it was.

“Oh……that’s a neat idea, within reason.”

What if some knows?

What if someone takes advantage of me?

What if I don’t want to?

What if I can’t afford to?

Yup!

The idea this week is to choose a time block, the morning, 4pm-6pm, every day this week and say yes to every request that comes.

You can see why the within reason statement comes in now.

I’ve listed a bunch of what ifs that can run through your mind. But I think it ultimately boils down to one.

What if God wants me to do something I don’t want to do?

And now you know why I picked this activity.

pain, scars and the life we chose

I didn’t know of to start this post.

I didn’t have a good story or clever intro. I realize that you’re probably thinking “that’s different than most days how?”

It all just felt forced and contrived. So I’ll be blunt.

The life of compassion is one without rights.

That’s not a little thing.

That’s a gigantic, massive, life shaking thing.

I think for those of us who have grown up in the West is hard to understand the idea of a life without rights. We have a right to everything. And if we don’t have a right we’ll fight to get it.

Our culture, the church included, has taught us a lot about all the rights we have.

We have a right to happiness.

We have a right to be heard.

We have a right to have stuff and to get to keep our stuff.

We have a right to comfort.

We have a right to not be offended.

We have a right to justice.

But we’re called to give them up. It’s not that they are bad or that we shouldn’t strive to create a society where everyone has these rights. We should. We should strive for equality.

It’s just that these rights are not for us keep. We give them up, freely.

Yes we have a right to happiness, but we give it up to put others first.

Yes we have a right to be heard, but we give it up so others are heard and valued and seen.

Yes we have a right to have stuff and to get to keep our stuff, but we give up our claim to generously bless others freely with all we have.

Yes we have a right to comfort, but we give it up to create spaces comfortable for others where they can be and express who they are, free of judgment.

Yes we have a right to not be offended, but we give it up so others can share their hearts and their pain.

Yes we have a right to justice, but we give it up to seek restoration and wholeness.

This isn’t hyperbole, this is the hard reality of the life of compassion. Everyone comes before us. Sure there will be times when we give up our right to happiness and in putting others first find a fulfillment and happiness that deeper and truer.

Then there will be times we just get yelled at because of the pain Christians and the church have caused. We don’t get to offer reasons or take offence. We gave up that right. We will be wronged so many times and we keep responding with grace.

It’s not fun, it hurts. Sometimes it scars. But we keep responding with grace.

Other centred living costs.

But I see the value in that cost. I see what my sacrifice can and will do in the lives of my friends, family, community and my own. I think it’s worth it. I hurts, but it’s worth it.

we gave it up

I want you to live a life of compassion.

I honestly and truly believe it’s the life we were created to live. It’s the way we are the best versions of ourselves. We find the greatest depth in life when we live an other centred life. Life lived in community is best. Groups of people living lives marked by grace and love for each other and their neighbours creates a communities people want to be a part of.

But it’s not without its costs.

This week I want to look at what some of those costs are. I’m big into transparency. I try my best to be open and honest about every aspect of my life. This space is littered with my failures and flaws. I don’t hide how and what I am, at least I try not to.

In the same way I don’t want you to start into this life not realizing what it may cost.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned cost, but it bears reminding.

When thinking about cost if can’t help but come back to Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he wrote “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” This resonates with me in a way that’s hard to describe.

It almost haunts me.

I understand it, I believe it, I just didn’t realize it when I started down this path. I knew that God called all of us not just parts but I didn’t grasp the extent to which all means….well all I guess.

I wonder when it will end. When will I have given enough?

“God wouldn’t ask me to give up ____ would he?”

And that’s the point of this week. Not to discourage you but that you know what you’re in for.

One of the things you’ll need to die to is the approval of others. Not everyone, but most.

The approval of my wife matters a great deal to me, as it should. We’re a team doing life together. If she doesn’t approve of what I’m doing or who I am, it’s because I’m doing something stupid. But I can’t live my life in search of the approval of everyone.

It might be odd to talk about the approval of others when we started with the idea of being other centred but it’s very present and it’s subversive to what we’re doing.

Ironically one of the ways we can strive for approval is one of the biggest parts of this entire journey, sharing our story.

Ever hear someone tell a story about what they’re doing and walk away not feeling encouraged that you can do the same but rather that the story teller seems to think rather highly of themselves?

It’s not hard to boast in our compassion.

It’s not hard to talk down to people who are new to the idea and the life style.

It’s not hard to judge those who don’t agree with you or do as much as you think you do.

It’s not hard to share all the amazing things you’re doing hoping to hear “wow that’s amazing. I don’t think I could do that” or “I hope I can be more like you” or just simply so that everyone knows how good you are. Specifically how much more good you are than them.

So what do we do? How do we share stories but not boast and seek approval?

Two steps.

First, whenever possible share someone else’s story.

Talk about this amazing person you’ve meet and what they are doing. Share stories from people in your community doing something cool. You don’t have to share names, it’s about the story not the person.

“I was talking with this guy who…”

“A heard about this family in my church who is…”

If you don’t have one from a friend, share yours but don’t say it’s yours. Tell it as though it’s someone else’s. Let it be about the story and not you.

The second, which is admittedly more difficult, is to quickly reflect on why.

Why are you telling this story? What are you hoping will happen? Will this build up the listener or build up you?

This means there will be times you don’t share your story. It means there will be amazing things you do that no one knows about.

And it’s not because what you did isn’t worth sharing. It just means that in certain situations with certain people sharing becomes boasting and we shift from other centered to ego centred.

It’s the times you hear others boasting all the good work they do and you want to jump in.

It’s the times you hear someone talking and you want to put them in their place because they aren’t as good as they say they are or really doing all the much.

It’s the times you force in a story about how great you are when the conversation never allowed it.

It’s the times that you are the center.

We don’t get to be the center anymore. We gave it up.

And sometimes when you haven’t’ heard a thank you in months, you are struggling to keep putting others first, you are biting your tongue and responding with grace you just want to shout:

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH I GIVE OF MYSELF!

WHY DOES NO ONE CARE!?

IS THIS WORTH IT!?

I think it is. I think this is the life we were made to live.

It’s not the easiest life, but it is the life of greatest depth and the one I think Christ has called us to.

you don’t have to change

People say change is inevitable.

It can’t be stop and it’s going to happen.

While that may be true for the greater world you can choose not to change. Sometimes that’s a really good thing. I will love my wife and my children every day for the rest of my life. I’m made that choice and I will make that choice every day. I refuse to change.

I shouldn’t eat hot dogs. They are all kinds of terrible and even I would struggle to say with a straight face that are anything other than horrible for you. But I refuse to give them up.

I will not give up hot dogs.

Some change is good some is bad.

Giving up hot dogs would be good.

Not loving my family bad.

So on principal there is nothing wrong with the concept of saying I will not change. But how do we know if we’re making the right choice when we refuse to change in an area?

This drifts back to one of my favourite spaces and one of the odder stories about myself I’ve shared.

I think this is the time for the hard self-reflection I think Jesus has called us to. The difficult process of saying “who am I really?” Not who do I want to be or who do I wish I was or who do I tell everyone I am but who am I really.

I’ve talked about this before. It’s a horrible process.

But how can we talk about change in our life if we don’t even know where we are starting from?

How can we decide if we need to be more loving, generous, and gracious if we don’t know how those elements of our lives manifest themselves NOW.

One of the ways you can do this is to start with who you think/say you are and work backwards.

Go ahead give it a go now.

Who do you say you are? Write it down with each note of who you are on a new line.

It may look like this:

A father

A Christian

A friend

Someone who cares about community

Someone who cares about the environment

Someone who is healthy

Someone who is gracious…

Now write beside everything you’ve written what a person, not you, but a person who is a “someone who is healthy” would live like.

Do you do that? Are those really that person?

I remember the first time I did some of this type of reflection one of the things that stood out was a claim that I am a healthy person.

Problem was I wasn’t.

I love pizza, hot dogs, beer and sitting on my couch.

So I had to decide am I a healthy person or not?

This led me to make changes. I started riding an exercise bike in my livening room every day. But I also refused to give up parts of the old me.

So there I am sitting on an exercise bike, playing video games, drinking a beer.

Can you picture this?

My mother in law walked into our home and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone more confused.

But that was who I am. I’m someone trying to be healthier who still loves video games and beer.

But it was honest and real. I wasn’t lying to myself anymore.

So maybe none of this compassion stuff is really interesting to you. Maybe you don’t change because you are actively refusing to like I actively refuse to change when it comes to loving my family. Maybe you don’t think this is really what your life is supposed to be or what Jesus has called you to.

Just make sure that the things you refuse to give up aren’t the hot dogs of your life.

Or at the very least be honest that you’d rather have hot dogs than be compassionate

but change sucks

I talked on Monday about a change to this space.

I’m hoping the change to this space will in turn make a small change in you.

I think when we talk about change and growth and goals it can get really scary really quick. It may just be me but when I start to think about change my mind goes all the way.

Jesus called us to be generous with all we have soooooooooo do I have to sell my house?

Jesus called us to connect with those who are marginalized by society sooooooooooooo do I just go sit on the streets at night to find some marginalized people?

Jesus calls us to a life of grace soooooooooooo do I always have to let everything go?

It gets so big so fast.

It gets so daunting.

It gets so impossible.

I think it’s a strategy I’ve developed so that I don’t have to change. It’s a tool I use to justify my lack of change.

I’m just not in a place where I can give up my house yet so I’ll pray and connect with God and hope I can be there one day. All the while I’m doing nothing. I’m not really praying and connecting more and because the idea of generosity leads, in my mind, to giving up my house I do nothing.

It causes me to be stagnate.

And then I come and write here that I want to live a life of compassion. That I want to be more generous and build relationships and share God’s amazing grace.

Soooooooooooo what do we do? How do we reconcile our minds to our hearts?

We start. We start with small things that are direct and attainable. We start with things that are totally achievable. We share our experience in community to be encouraged and to be challenged.

We stop making excuses about being ready and how much it’s going to cost in the end. We stop making it so much bigger and impossible. It’s and act of will. A choice that say’s we control our actions and I’m purposing myself to be the person I tell myself and others I am.

We find something we can do and we do it. We trust to the process and believe that there is value in effort and that God honours our hearts desire to be close to Him and the life He’s called us to. We understand that small steps are part of the process. We look at the next step and not the big scary end.

So if I didn’t convince you yesterday, go say Hi to some people.

is 10% a taboo number?

I think more than the idea of tithing the amount one tithes is where it gets tricky. Frame a tithe as “we as members of the church should support the local church” and people are on board. Set a number and they get weird.

No one likes to be told how to spend their money. And for all the talk about how all we have is God’s, they are still the gate keeper. Everyone has their interpretation of how God wants their money spent. It’s a deeply personal thing which people often don’t want any input on.

And since I’m a man who respects and understand how deeply personal this is…I’m going to tell you how much you should give.

Start at 10%.

The big key in the sentence is START at 10%. It ties into the why we tithe from Monday, but if you commit to giving as a way of breaking money’s hold on you and showing your support for the local church I think just how I encouraged you to start with giving to the church we start at 10%, then go up.

Yes it’s Old Testament and yes we’re not forced to do it but I think the plan Jesus had when He abolished the law and called us to live by grace was not for us to regress to less than the law.

Often when I talk with folks about how we don’t have to tithe 10% because we are called to live by grace and not law it segues in to them not giving. It’s the reason why they don’t have to give. It’s the little gilt valve release that lets them hold their money.

“Well I haven’t felt Jesus call me to give recently so we’ve just been waiting for God to speak.”

“I’m just in a season where I can’t give and you know I think God has placed me here. I’m being faithful to the commitments (read debts) I have and God will honour that.”

I can’t recall a case where someone has argued that they are not tied to a tithe and then followed that statement up with how they are now giving more. If your giving more you won’t argue over if you must give 10%. You’ll probably say while it’s not a rule it’s probably not a bad idea because you get that it’s not about the number but the heart and that discipline helps the heart.

Bruxy made the point that grace calls us to deeper and greater commitment. Love your enemy kind of stuff. So wouldn’t it stand to reason that grace would call us to deeper generosity, or MORE than 10%?

Giving and generosity is a discipline. It’s hard to do sometimes and needs to be worked at and committed to. It’s not something we do when convenient. I think the commitment of a tithe sets our hearts and actions in line to the discipline of generosity. A tithe is the starting point of a generous life. We start there and go forward with more generosity. It is a good start to break the hold money has on us and our excuse making over why we can give.

For context, shortly after my wife and I got married we ran into some tricky financial times. I got laid off from my full time job and Sarah only worked part time while in a full time master’s program. We had two cars, a mortgage and all the expense of life.

So I get not being able to afford it, I really do.

But it still needs to happen to keep your heart and your actions in line with this life Jesus has called us to, which generosity is an important aspect.

We could have stepped back and said “God has blessed us with this house and these cars. We need to stop giving so we can afford the blessings God has given us. We will in the long run waste so much more of God’s money if we give up our home or car and have to buy it back. We wouldn’t be good stewards of what God has given us. This is a season where we can’t give but when it gets better we will.”

But we committed to giving back to God what He’s given us. We were blessed in such a way that we didn’t have to give up those things, but that was by no means a guarantee. We could have lost a car or our house. And admittedly that would have been a far harder discussion about tithing at that point. I’d like to think I’d have kept tithing but I don’t know.

Maybe you’re in that spot between giving and heat. I don’t have an easy answer for you. It’s a cop out on my end. I think you should give but I’m not you in your place. I’d love to hear your side about it.

But more than likely if you’re reading this on a computer with internet things might be tight but it’s not a choice between giving and paying your hydro. It’s between do we keep eating out or give? It’s between do we buy new clothes because ours are tired or give? It’s between do I have cable or give? It’s between fulfilling your desire and fulfilling the desires of Jesus.

I think Jesus is clear that as a follower of Him giving and generosity must be a part of your life, poverty or not.

you can’t go home again

You can’t go home again – Thomas Wolfe

When I got married I found it really difficult to leave home. I was so excited to start my life with Sarah, but I’d lived in the same house for my entire life. I didn’t move out for university or even go away for a whole summer. I was a huge change for me.

Some of the stuff I missed was dumb. I missed not having satellite to watch sports. I missed not having loads of food just there.

But some of it was more.

I missed not hearing dad yell down to our living room “good night boys.” I missed the comfort and routine.

I also knew that this change was important. I knew I wanted, and still want, to spend the rest of my life with Sarah. I knew we wanted to start a family and do life together. That took me leaving home.

And once I left it wasn’t the same to go back. I remember one night I had stopped at home and dad said I could stay and watch the baseball game if I wanted. I’d missed not having it at my new place so I plunked myself on the couch and started watching.

It was different.

That’s one of my honest goals for writing here. I want you to grasp what a life lived the way it was designed looks like. I want you to try it. I want you to see that there is a better way to live and you to have the tools to get there.

What I really want is for you to see that you’re suppose to live in relationship and community. It’s messy and tough and it’s easier to just stay where you are and tell yourself “I’m a good person who cares about others” than it is to be a good person who cares about others. I want to draw you past the easy.

My hope is that you’ll slowly put into practice some of these things and realize you can’t go back. You can’t go home to a comfortable life with you at the centre.

You’ll step into real relationships and build honest, open, supportive communities, brokenness and all. I hope you’ll draw others into this new life you’re finding .

My hope is you’ll embed this life of compassion so deep into your life you won’t be able to go home, and that revelation will excite you.

You know, just in case you were ever wondering why this space is here.

they don’t deserve it

At 6:45 this morning I was driving in to Cambridge where I work thinking two things.

I HATE the morning.

I don’t have enough coffee.

If you know me you know I need a very specific level of caffination to function properly. It also needs to not be 6:45 am.

It’s become an ongoing joke now for a committee I sit on. At the start of the meeting half as a joke and half as a request to know if I’m going to be productive yet they ask “how’s your caffeine level?”

If you didn’t know me and meet me at 9am you’d probably think I’m kind of distance, disinterested and perhaps a little cold. The reality, I hope, is that I’m not those things but in the morning I need a long while to get going. I need some coffee and I need some time.

The people I work with are so gracious. They know I may not seem super engaged or be offering a lot of helpful insight to start but that it’s coming.  They offer a lot of grace.

And most of us are good at being gracious with people we know and especially people we like. It’s easy to be gracious when they ‘deserve’ it.

But we’re trying for more.

And it is sooooo frustrating.

Who honestly wants to give up their right to be upset or just be right?

Who doesn’t like it when people owe them?

Who choose to not make people see all they did wrong and get what they deserve?

Who honestly shows grace to that person who yelled/ cut us off in traffic/ should know better/ is an adult/ went to school for this/ choose this as a job/ or whatever else that means they truly don’t deserve grace?

We try to.

Every day, in ever relationship.

Good luck, I know I need it.

only if

We make an awful lot of choices in a day. We probably don’t think too much about most of them.

Should I go the same way to work I always do? Yes.

Should I drive on the right side of the road? Yes.

Do I want coffee this morning? Yes.

Do I want 5 coffees this morning? Of course!

Do you wish there was a faster way to make the 5 morning coffees? How could I not?

I may be drifting but I think you get the point.

We make lots of choices that just happen without a lot of thought.

What I want to look at is WHY we make choices. What are our motives and do we gives them any real thought? We make lots of choices without thought but when we do think about it do we graze over some important parts of the process?

I was chatting with someone about an interesting experience they had with motives and compassion.

They we’re going about their work day as usual. During the course of the day a person they came across noted how much they wanted a cup of coffee. He tucking this in the back of his mind he kept on with his day.

When he returned later that day he brought with him a day saving cup of sweet dark nectar (or however you see coffee).

“Thanks.”

That was it.

Just, “thanks”.

It was almost a passing thanks. Almost a no-existent thanks. It was as if he didn’t care at all.

The man I was talking with carried on with some exceptionally clear self reflection. He talked about how his mother would be so over the top any time he did anything. Praise upon praise for doing the right thing.

The conversation continued and he noted how he didn’t WANT to do it for that reason and didn’t even THINK that the praise and validation he didn’t get was at all  part of why he did it.

But he noticed its absence. Almost upset that it wasn’t there.

How often do we do this? How often do we get upset, become jaded, and vow to never do something again because the person we were trying to love didn’t react the way we wanted them to?

Did we do it to just love them or did we do it as a means to the end of a reaction/change/growth that WE chose for THEM.

I think we stop because we don’t get what we want. I think we often don’t even realize that’s why we stop or why we’re upset. I think we don’t act compassionately and actually hold back our love because the other person won’t do what we think they should with it.

Our motive isn’t what we think it is. We make a choice to not love without even thinking about the true reason why.

What are your motives?

Why do you love?

And perhaps more importantly, honestly, why don’t you love?