they need time to soak

I had another not so spectacular week.

I did better than last week. I didn’t find myself looking for ways out of conversations or rationalizing why a certain instance didn’t count like I did last week. I like to talk so it wasn’t hard for me to keep talking.

A few times I was about to stop a conversation but didn’t.

But like last week it wasn’t like God showed up in some unmistakable way.

I didn’t get the chance to be a part of someone’s life changing. No one broke down in tears bearing their heart because I gave them time. Just a lot of really nice conversations.

And that’s not good enough is it?

Not in this world where we need to constantly achieve and a healthy church is measured by the number of people who attend or how big the building is.

Nope we need to see change we can stick on a marketing pamphlet. We need lives to be changed and if that chance doesn’t present itself we need to force it to happen.

These projects aren’t just going to change themselves. We can’t miss an opportunity to work on the projects in our lives.

Nope we can’t just have really nice conversations with people in our lives. If all we do is have nice conversations;

How will we know when our project is done?

How will we know if we’re a good Christian or not?

How will we let other people know how good of a Christian we are?

How did we get here?

In some way or another all of those crossed my mind this week.

I was worried about what I would write on Friday as more and more conversations were just conversations.

I was worried about why God wasn’t using me.

I was worried that I wasn’t being pushy or direct enough.

I was worried that no one was closer to God this week because I tried to invest in them.

Maybe old habits die hard. Maybe I’ve been a part of church for so long I can’t help but think back to some of the ways church has been done or the way I thought church was done.

It’s not a maybe at all that I need to grow a lot more yet. I need to remember that so much of compassion is relationship. Honest, real relationships motivated by love not some ulterior motive. And if I’m able to be loving to someone. If I’m able to share love with someone, then God was there.

God showed up and was in our conversation every time I’m able to love someone. A nice conversation is more than enough, if love is what makes it nice.

So when I talk about video games, or budgets, or family it can be entirely soaked in God. As long as I choose to soak that conversation in love. And giving every conversation the time it needed is a really good way to put a little love in every conversation.

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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.

to long

 

Writing about expectations the other day reminded me of story.

It was a Sunday morning and my father was preaching. I have no idea what he was talking about. I’m sure it was stirring. At the close of the service, I’m not sure how it happened but a group had gathered at the front to pray for my dad. He’d been ill for years at this point.

It was a passionate group. They prayed with depth and hope and cried out for God to move.

After they were done a wise friend came up to my dad and said “there’s a lot of pressure on you now isn’t’ ere?”

Didn’t see that coming.

I have a very close friend who deals daily with a persistent illness. She told me that she no longer ask for prayer at her bible study. She did for a while and people were full of passion and hope for her, but as she continued to not get better she started to feel uncomfortable asking.

She felt that everyone was tired of praying the same prayer and frustrated with HER that she wasn’t better.

I’ve felt this way a bunch. You can see the eyes roll before you even ask. Somehow the choice of God not to move slowly became the result or choice of the one being prayed for.

It goes like this.

Pastor teaches people to pray. Pastor tells people that God is good and full of grace and hope.

Pastor gets ill. People pray.

Nothing happens.

People pray. Nothing happens.

How long until people get frustrated? How long until they not only question but question the pastor?

How long until the bible study stops praying with passion and hope for the ill. How long until they are frustrated and tired of the same pain and same despair every week? Seriously how long can someone expect us to keep praying for them and supporting them when they’re ill? Life and people have to move on, right?

Your life and focus might change and shift and to be honest the ill person’s life has changed too because once they had community and support and now by simply being ill for too long they lose community too.

it’s not always them

 

So Quinn doesn’t sleep as much as I’d like him too.

I suppose I may be expecting too much of a 5 week old. Is it too much to want him to sleep 8 hours at night? Or 4?

But expectations are a funny thing aren’t they.

I remember years ago I was helping with a discipleship weekend where we took a bunch of teenagers and had them stay up all night and engage with God in a bunch of different ways. Pray, reflection, art, music, the whole gambit. The idea was to create some kind of a right of passage. A mark to look back on.

It’s probably 3 in the morning and one of the guys comes and sits with all the leaders for a moment. We ask how he’s doing and in the twilight of the night he shares with us one of the most insightful things I’ve ever heard.

He says “I think I know why I’m so angry. You see I have the expectations of people. I want to them to be this or do that. But I don’t even tell them. I get mad at people for not meeting MY expectations that they don’t even know I have! I’m gonna stop doing that.”

And he got up and walked away.

The kids brilliant.

He understood so clearly that his actions were being dictated by himself and not others, despite feeling it was the other way round. How often do we do that?

How often do I get frustrated and upset with people stuck in their ways or going to church but not being church? The answer is roughly always. But that’s on me. That’s me not seeing where they are and helping them take the next step as opposed to trying rushing them to some arbiraty finish and being upset they don’t see everything the way I do.

Or as a father (if you’re not then a friend, co-worker, son, daughter, etc) how what I want my son to be will shape how I see him. What I wish for him will impact what I see as ‘success’ or ‘failure’. I have these hopes and dreams for Quinn that he’s had no say in. They aren’t even based on his personality or the man he is. They are just some things I hope for me.

And if he never becomes them?

Or what if I set out to change a person? A friend or a neighbour who become a project. What happens if the ‘project’ is never finished?

Relationships ruined by OUR expectations.

This all isn’t to say don’t’ have them but we do need to be mindful because more than we would like to admit the problem is with us and not them.

attention attention

 

On July 28th at 2:14pm our second son Quinn was born.

He’s awesome.

He doesn’t really do anything but he’s still awesome. If you ever meet him you’ll agree.

People look at babies in a really specific way.

There’s the “awwww he’s so cute!” and the “look how delicate he is.”

But in everything they are intriguing to most. There is something about a baby that draws people in. The can just snatch people’s attention.

Attention is a tough thing to get these days.

Business pay million’s try to get our attention and babies simply exist and they are granted undivided attention of the entire group.

Attention is something we control but often don’t think about. We don’t consider the implications of our attention and how we share or give it.

Much like a business all of us push for attention. We want our friends to like our Facebook post and retweet our 140 character thoughts. We want attention in all facets of our lives. I want Sarah to care about my baseball team and my work.

Have you ever met someone who gave you their true undivided attention? There was a doctor my dad had that did this. The man was busy but when he was with us he was WITH us. Never rushed or checking his phone. Just a deep caring look as he listened to our fears and responded with grace and support.

It’s a real skill.

Where is your attention going and where should it go if your life is to be marked by compassion?

the uncomplicated can still be hard

Today’s post was not coming together.

I started and stopped 4 times and changes topics 3 times. It just wouldn’t write.

My ideas wouldn’t come together. I’d get half way through and say “what am I writing about? Are these even sentences?”

I was sitting at my computer telling myself to just tell a story, any story, get something out. But then I’d step back and look and realize that I was rambling in what may or may not be sentences with absolutely no succinct thought. This post was far from perfect and I was wondering if it going to do all the things I wanted it to?

Then I thought about how we approach relationships.

For something so central to our existence sometimes they’re just hard and especially at the start!

I’ve been asking you to engage in relationship. I’ve been asking you to talk to your co-workers, neighbours, those who come into your life.

So what do I have for you today?

Sometimes it’s going to be hard, kind of like a post that won’t write. There will be looooooooong awkward pauses. You’ll say something silly and think about it for the rest of the day wondering if they’ll ever talk to you again. You’ll make mistakes, over step the depth of the relationship, talk when you should listen, and push when someone needs support to stand.

But relationships, like this post, take work. You might have to push through some tough spots, apologise for mistakes, go back to the start and try again.

Is it extremely insightful to say that relationships are hard? No.

But sometimes I need someone to tell me that it’s just a part of the process. They make mistakes too and that’s all a part of honest real relationships building.

Give yourself a break. This stuff isn’t complicated but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.

I just cannot handle more people

People are tiring.

I love community, I love spending time with friends and family but people can be tiring.

I was chatting with a lady who works all day with marginalized communities. We were talking about compassion and she said “I just can’t do it after work too.”

Fair enough.

I think this is a common problem. You spend alllllll day working with people and then go and volunteer with more people and by the end you’re just done with people. This isn’t’ everyone. Some people just go and go with people. But there are LOTS who have a finite amount of people time.

So they ask “how do I do relationship when I’m burned out on people after work?”

Well, compassion takes on a bunch of different faces and I think there are two major ideas to work through here.

The first is that work is not divorced from your compassionate life style. A life style encompasses all you do. Your healthy lifestyle is not only at home, neither is your compassion. You eat healthy at work and you love people at work.

For some reason people feel like work that isn’t in a church doesn’t count as compassion.

Ridiculous.

If you’re where God wants you then there is compassion to do there. There are people to love and compassion to share. There are opportunities to be generous and chances to show grace to those who just don’t deserve it.

You can live the life of compassion at work. Don’t discount all you do at work, but be there with purpose and intent. Let your story of love and redemption and grace permeate all that you do and share it organically with all the relationships you build.

The second thing worth touching on here is why I said yesterday that asking “does this lead to relationship” is good but not perfect.

Back to this lady I was talking with.

She said she was peopled out. She felt like she wanted to volunteer and serve but just not more activities like work. I asked if she had ever considered doing something that supports others building relationships?

Would you consider sitting on a Board of Directors, or maybe you could help with some administration, or you could organize activities for others to be involved in.

It was different than work but still so vital. The front line relationship of so many volunteers needs the back end support of others.

You may be peopled out but you can help others build relationships.

Now, let me be very clear. This is not an excuse to avoid relationships. This is on top of and in addition to your relationship building. This is so you don’t burn out and this allows you to continue in the relationships you have.

Relationship is a part of compassion. There is no way around it. But everyone has a different capacity for relationships and beyond that everyone has different skills. If you’ve got skills to sit on a Board of Directors, do it. Just don’t forget the relationships.

So maybe there are three questions to ask not one.

Does this lead to relationship?

Does this lead others to relationship?

Am I doing enough of both?