who is my neighbour?

This is it.

It’s finally here.

This is the first week I’m asking you to dip into your normal everyday life. To not change the way you interact with people in your life but to actively seek out a new interaction.

I want you to have dinner.

Or coffee, wine, cookies, hotdogs, whatever you want.

I want you to connect, probably over food and drink because it’s easier, with your neighbour.

Invite them over if you don’t know them well or accept their invitation to coffee you’ve been avoiding.

Connect with your neighbour this week.  And this not some sort of deep theological question around ‘who is my neighbour’? it’s the person who lives near you, in geographical proximity.

Go knock on somones door and say “Hi, I’m your neighbour. I was wondering if you’d want to come by for dinner/drink/cookies sometime. We’ve been neighbours for _______ and I thought it’d be nice to know who’s around us.”

No agenda.

No ulterior motives.

Just get to know your neighbour for who they are, as they are right now.

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fair, earned and the choice of generosity

It wasn’t going to be fair.

Well I suppose it had the potential to not be fair.

I was out with my volleyball team after our game. We had gone out the week prior and got the split of the bill wrong. Nothing big, I needed to have left another $3 or $4. Instead of giving over the money this week I just covered the beer of the guy I owed the money too.

If you don’t drink you may not be aware that $3 does not get you a beer.

He said, like most would “Thanks, I got it next time.”

Perfect!

It all worked out. I was short her covered. I pay more this week and next time he’ll make up the difference.

But what if it doesn’t happen?

Or if next week he gets drinks, then I get drinks, then he gets drinks, then I get drinks, then our season is over. When will I get back the drinks I’m owed?

Because my mind does crazy things like that process I just described I need to be intentional. This week I suggested you be generous once a day. I suggested you try to pick someone who hasn’t earned it. This case isn’t’ a great example because I actually owed him money.

But it shows why I need intentionality.

Without it my mind wanders in to fairness.

Without a decision to just be generous I start to think about how fair or unfair what I’m doing might be. I start to worry that he may not follow through next week or that I’ll end up on the short end of the deal at the end.

I start to think about me.

Maybe you’re not the same. Maybe you’re really good a just keeping others first.

I find it so easy to just slip back to me getting what I need. Me getting what I think I have earned or deserve.

So what do I do?

I should probably just buy again next time. I should just stop thinking about me getting what I deserve and being the generous person I keep telling you I want to be.

But the idea is the easy part. The hard part comes when I need to put down more money next week while my mind tells me I’m actually owed something.

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.

a simple warning

This will cost you money.

Like I said yesterday, I try to be up front and transparent. Sometimes I get ranty and long winded. I get complicated and intricate.

Not today.

A life of compassion will cost you money.

You are going to put yourself in relationships that will cost you. You are going to connect and engage with your neighbours and those who have been marginalized by society.

Money will come up and you will give.

And it’s FANTASTIC!

Giving is amazing. It’s like exercise. It hurts and you often try to find ways not to do it but it’s rare that after you’ve been generous you regret it.

Sure there will be times you get taken advantage of just like there are times you pull a muscle at the gym. And it holds you back. It makes you tentative. You start out small and build back up to where you were.

I’ve said it before and I really mean it. Generous people get taken advantage of. So if you’ve never been taken advantage of you may not be a generous as you think you are.

Don’t think for one second you can live a life or compassion, a life of love, a life of grace and it not affect your bank account. It will cost you money, of that there is no debate.

So don’t be taken aback when it happens. Don’t be surprised when the request comes and God says “give.”

You’ve been warned.

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.

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.

this might suck

This week we’re looking at what holds us back. Why we don’t live the life of compassion that Jesus has called used to.

There will be themes that you will hear over and over and over and it may be super repetitive, but it’s important and I’m writing so I get to choose. Most of these probably won’t be new to you if you’ve been following along with past posts.

Over the past number of months I have begun to grasp to the idea that our actions are our beliefs. That what we do says more about what we believe than what we say. That all the right words and thoughts in our mind only matter when we action them out, when we live them out.

That is over used theme number 1, action. Love is not felt but acted, compassion is not thought but done, grace not wished but given.

Think about it like this. If I tell my wife everyday that I love her deeply but my actions continue to show something different which would she believe? At some point she’s going to stop trusting my statements of love and look for me to actually LOVE her. She would look for me to be patient and kind. To not be jealous or boastful or proud or rude. To stop demanding my own way. She would watch for me to not be irritable, and to stop keeping record of being wronged. She would want me to stop giving up on her, to never loses faith in who she is and what she can accomplish. She would want me to be always hopeful, and to not let the circumstance dictate the way I act towards her.

It’s those actions that will bring meaning to my words of love.

So moving forward with the idea that actions are belief, to know what we believe requires over used theme number two, self reflection.

Reflection, action, reflection, action, etc.

So let us reflect.

Who are you? Or better put, what do you think you believe? What did you come up with on Friday when you thought about where you were at and what you believe?

What do you tell yourself you believe?

You’re a good Christian, you love your neighbour, you care about the poor, your family matters most etc.

Ok, now look at your actions.

Seriously, step back and take an inventory. Pull your calendar and actually look, I got nothing but time.

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That was quick.

Now pull up you bank statement.

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It’s a process, just trust me. Go look.

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What do you actually believe?

Where has all your time actually gone? Where has all your money gone?

Do you believe that work matters more than family?

Do you believe that your new TV matters more than the work of the church?

Do you believe that sports/reading/Pintrest/Facebook are more important than your spouse?

I’m not asking do you THINK these things I’m asking do you believe (your actions dictate your beliefs) these things.

Self reflection sucks.

It sucks a LOT!

But we have to be honest. We can’t move forward if we don’t even know where we are or what direction we’re facing.

I’ve done this a lot.

It sucks.

It sucked the time I sat at home and realized that despite all the years I said it, I didn’t care about my community or neighbours.

It was brutal the time I sat at home and learned that I can place TV before my son.

Self reflection requires us to look at our brokenness, our deficiencies, the places we are weak. But it’s our mind set that all that matters are our thoughts that holds us back. Our understanding that belief is in the mind. That thought that we can love our neighbours without getting into their lives, without their messiness becoming our messiness.

But since we are in control of our actions, we can change our beliefs.

I can see that I have placed TV before Nolan and decide that I will never do it again. And then never do it again. Telling myself I’ll never do it again doesn’t matter to Nolan. Me never doing it again matters. Me spending time with him with my undivided attention matters to him.

Do we slip back, sure.

Do we choose not to love, of course. But sometimes, and hopefully a growing number of times, we can choose to share God with someone. We show them love they’ve never known.

We commit to and set out plans, lots to come on ways to do this, to love people. Love our co-workers, neighbours, the waiter are your favourite coffee shop.

Look back and be honest. Be honest about where you’re at.

Then spend some time thinking ‘what do I WANT to believe’ ‘what does GOD want me to believe’?

You want to believe that the poor matter and we should love them?

FANTASTIC!

Now we have a direction and action/belief to work towards. We can start to find, define, purpose ourselves to actions that show the belief that the poor matter and that you do love them.

But let’s not run ahead of ourselves.

For today find where you are and give some thought to where you wish you were, where God wished you were. Like I said at the start, action is a theme that you won’t be able to miss.

This time don’t miss the call to look at ourselves.

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.