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.

it just works

I was struck again by how much I like this idea.

There have been loads of times I’ve said “let me know if you need anything” and then I can’t do what the person needs. I’m to busy, not skilled and at times just don’t actually want to. But by making a list I’m forced to consider what I’m honestly prepared to do. It forces me to think about the person, our relationship, what I have to offer.

I like that it doesn’t force the person your trying to support to do one more thing. To worry about if my offer was sincere, which some times it wasn’t. To consider all that needs to be done or all the ways they need support and judge what they feel comfortable asking for. No concerns about asking to much or asking when the offer wasn’t real.

You offer what you can honestly do and the person you’re supporting simple has to pick and choose, no thinking or worrying.

It just works.

 

don’t get me wrong prayer is important…

Prayer is important.

I worry every I write about prayer that people will get the impression that I don’t see it as important. I do. I value it a great deal. If you’ve been following along here you know that I wrote three prayers (here, here and here) and then reflected on them the following week (here, here and here).

Prayer is important.

But so often we stop there. I’ve written about it before. The temptation to just pray. To see or know someone in need and just pray. We are so much more than that.

That’s why this week’s challenge is for you to think of someone who you have recently said or have been tempted to say “I’ll pray for you” and go the next step. Make sure you pray for them, but also draft a list of the things you’re really and honestly prepared to do to love and support them. Then give it to them.

Most of us truly mean it when we say “let me know if there is anything I can do” but I’ve found this to be more impactful. It shows time, caring and thought. It wasn’t something that just slipped out or was said out of duty.

They’ll know you’re serious and that’s the point.

To be serious about our love and to not just pray for support but answer that prayer with tangible support as well.

no true Christian

People love a good controversy. I love a good controversy. I love to debate.

It’s like a logic puzzle to me. Looking at all sides, taking in the information, probing and testing the ideas and their implications. I find it all fascinating.

And it’s a good time for controversy. At times it seems like the internet was built to create and perpetuate controversy.

You could look at what’s happening in Toronto with the mayor or in Ottawa with white poppies or the senate if that’s more you thing.

But if like me you love controversy the church may be the best place in the world to find it. We’ll argue about anything.

Love vs. judgement.

Saving money vs. trusting God.

Hymns vs. chorus’.

Big churches vs. small churches.

I remember being in a discussion about music and if it was possible for specific beat patterns to be demonic.

Not the words or ideas, the actual sound of the music.

And those are off the top of my head with no real thought. I didn’t even hit the big media ones!

We so often require either or. We so often want a clear definitive answer.

But life is so much harder than that. We push people to choose an answer. Pick and defend your side. And to do that we start to build these mutually exclusive perspectives. It’s like one giant no true Scotsman argument, “no true Christian would believe that.”

Rob Bell in his video Everything is Spiritual looks at these mutually exclusive perspectives and when asked “is it this or that?” he answers “yep.”

Not what I was expecting.

Watch it here.

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If you didn’t watch it Bell is talking about the shift from two dimensions to three. When you shift from two dimensions to three everything changes. He holds up a marker and notes that from the side the marker is a rectangle but looking at its end it’s a circle.

The answer then to the question of is it a rectangle or a circle is, yep.

So often we create division and disconnect with either or. And as we go out into community it is often the easy response. We need people to affirm that the marker is a rectangle and not a circle before we can love and connect with them.

Controversy and debate are fun but not when we use them to keep people away. Not when we use them to keep God to ourselves and not shared. Not when they are used to divide. Not when the controversy is at the centre and not Jesus.

Hymns vs. Chorus’, yep.

Big church vs. small church, yep.

Love vs. judgement, yep.

Saving money vs. trusting God, yep.

We have our beliefs and our understanding and that’s ok. But so often we take one stance and extrapolate it out.

“You think God calls us to love everyone? So there is no judgment? You’re not a real Christian.”

And worse

“You’re interested in connecting with God? Well you must believe in only hymns, the King James bible only and a God of wrath and judgment. If you don’t you can’t be a Christian. You can’t know Jesus.”

When we go out and share the God we know, share a God with space for the answer to be “yep.”

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.

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.

worth standing in the rain

We have really screwed up the message of Jesus.

A young lady comes to my door and asks me to help support Amnesty International and their work in Syria and I don’t think it’s strange.

This young lady was not embarrassed at all.

This was a cause worth standing in the rain for. This was a cause that would change people’s lives not just now but in a fundamental way for generations. The work to end a genocide resonates through history. She wasn’t embarrassed to say she believed in the universal rights of people. She didn’t shy away from asking me to get involved. She was cryptic about what she was asking.

People are not being treated like people and we have the means to help. We must help.

And sometimes I don’t want to even tell people I go to church let alone that I’m a committed Christ follower (note how I won’t even write Christian down. Serious cognitive disconnects going on).

We have be invited into a life of depth and meaning. I’ve written about it before. But somehow we’ve become embarrassed to share that life. We’ve made it so complicated with rules and politics. We corrupted it a point where the church becomes the oppressor.

But the message of Jesus is love.

A radical,

life changing,

live giving,

undeserved,

unprecedented,

over the top kind of love that changes not only people today but generations. Families and their children’s children.

There is nothing embarrassing about being a follower of Jesus. There is nothing embarrassing about living another centred life marked by reckless love and grace.

But if your faith is church on Sundays, do’s and don’ts, and judgment then I can see why you’re not as excited to share it. It’s just too bad we haven’t been able to find the same Jesus.

door to door

I had someone come to my door yesterday. They were from Amnesty International. They were going door to door asking people to support Amnesty International in their efforts in Syria.

As she left I said “try to stay dry” and she responded with “I’m out here trying to help with human rights, what’s a little rain?”

This brought three things to mind for me so I thought we’d work through them this week. It’s amazing how something so small can make you think so much. That or I’ve just got some sort of cognitive problem that I should see someone about.

It’s probably the second one.

The first thing I pondered on after she left was “should I have given her some money?”

I didn’t.

Was I wrong?

For someone who talks about generosity I was strikingly ungenerous.

I’d made up my mind when she came to the door. I don’t have money for this.

I didn’t consider it might be an opportunity from God. I didn’t pray or search my spirit to see if this is something God was leading me in. It was someone at the door soooooo be polite and get out of the conversation as fast as possible.

Just like Jesus would do.

But the larger question is do you have to give every time? How do you know when to give?

I said that we already have charities we support. They work building community and capacity. They are organizations that speak to our hearts. When I started to speak I made up my mind not to argue. I wasn’t going to get into if one was better or worse. I decided I wouldn’t discuss which was more deserving. Luckily she didn’t’ push.

The point isn’t to judge which is better. Aiding those in what will probably soon be classified as a genocide, that’s always good.

Taking those shunned by their community and giving them a chance to be productive for the first time in heir life? Also good.

Giving someone who’s never had the resources to support their family that chance? Good choice.

See it’s all good. There is so much good working going on.

Back to the question of action.

It starts with a wiling heart, which mine was not when that young lady came to the door. It starts with a sensitivity to the ask and the heart of God.

So back to my response. No is entirely ok, if you at least consider the question. I didn’t. So I was wrong this time.

That said, all your resources are going to other meaningful work? Great, thank you for getting involved.

But if that young lady comes to your door and not only do you say no to her you say no to all of the calls to support justice, love, peace and the work of God?

Point blank, you’re doing something wrong.

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.