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.

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a chance easily missed

This space is heavy with things to do.

It’s a lot of ideas and actions to integrate and try in your life.

Your busy, already full life.

Rest isn’t something that’s valued in the West. We value drive. But rest is such a Godly thing.

Don’t miss it.

Don’t miss the need to stop. Don’t miss the need to connect with God. Don’t miss the need to be silent and listen. Don’t miss the chance to let God speak. Don’t miss the chance to just be quiet.

Commit to rest. Don’t let the busyness of life and doing good work push rest out of your life.

And if you’re not the type who has ever rested, today is a great day to start. I know a prayer you could say.

come and see my brokenness

Did the prayer of brokenness resonate with you?

Are you aware how broken you are?

We talked yesterday about what Jesus has actually called us to. What we often say we want to be about. I really believe that for there to be a connection between the people we say we want to be, the one Jesus talks about, and the person we are takes hard self-reflection.

Sometimes we really need a prayer like that when we start to reflect.

Honest, full of real pain and worry. One where we don’t lie to ourselves or God. From the heart. The head has been told God is coming, but the heart worries. He may never come. This persistent darkness may be just that, persistent. One where God doesn’t just show up and fix the world at the end. No “I know you hear me and all will be ok.” Because if you’ve ever been there like I have you don’t know that.

God may not come.

But we still praise God.

Not because He fixes us but because He is worthy.

I think this honest reflection on our pain, brokenness, and doubt is important. Its important when we reach out to community. It’s important in our own lives. How can we expect to connect when we answer everything with “don’t worry God’s going to fix it” when there is a distinct possibility that what the person is praying for, broken because of, or pain they are feeling won’t just go away.

Life is too complicated for insincere or simple answers.

It’s all a part of Gods plan.

God is in control don’t worry.

You just need to trust more

Maybe you need to have a little more faith.

Placing God as some kind of fix all solution cheapens who God is and starts people down a path that can often lead to hatred and resentment of God. If you’re told that if you believe in God he will fix everything. And then you go to church and sings songs every week that reinforce how God is in control and see nothing but people who appear to be super happy and full of joy that makes a very clear statement that if you know God you should be happy and whole.

But your real struggles continue, what do you do with that?

You can start to think what you’re doing wrong. You go to church, you sing the songs, participate in home church, read your bible, pray, you do everything your told you should to make God come and fix your pain, brokenness, doubt.

And a year, 2 years, 35 years later it’s all still there and you just start to wonder.

Maybe God doesn’t love me.

Maybe God isn’t real.

Maybe it’s all been a lie.

That’s why we have to be honest when we’re sharing our experience, good and bad.

We hide our doubt despite the fact that it’s part or humanity. It resonates with those who haven’t found God yet because everyone has it.

But we hide it making it seem like we are different, better than they are. Fixed and whole.

We are different but different because we have seen our brokenness and said God I need you. It’s our honest response to brokenness that is different not the experience of having it.

And it’s that response, Jesus that we need to share.

prayers, songs and hollow words

Did you think about these at all?

We say so much without thinking. We sing a song because it’s on a screen. We repeat a prayer because we’re asked to by the pastor. So much of this Christian experience has us doing and saying things we often never stop to think about.

This week we’re going to look at each of the prayers from last week. See what they are really saying and how that relates to our life of compassion.

First, a prayer of compassion.

Did you think about the words at all? Do you have any idea what you’re saying when you say you want to love like Jesus? How about your actions being your worship not your thoughts or ideas?

Those are not small statements. Those are huge life altering statements.

But so often we don’t see them like that. Of course I want to love like Jesus, I’m a Christian, that’s what I’m supposed to do. And we even know that it’s harder than it sounds and that Jesus loved those forgotten and abused by society. And we still say we want to do that.

But it often doesn’t translate. We don’t then go and love. The words ring hollow. Loving like Jesus loved is something you say and think about how hard it is, few go and do it.

Or how about letting your actions be your worship. If you’ve spent any time in church you’ve heard how our worship is more than the songs we sing. But most don’t even believe what they sing!

We trust God.

We love Him with everything.

God is all we need.

Then we go back to our homes, full fridges and savings accounts to worry about how we can afford to pay for whatever we want to buy next.

I know it’s overgeneralized and you may be the exception. But are you really the exception or do you just not want to face that it’s all more talk than anything else? That you sing those songs because they are on screen not because you really believe it.

How many time have you heard/read the call to a different life and known for sure that’s what Jesus has called you to and done nothing about it? The prayer, this post, just another in a long list of times you said you’re in and then stopped short of change.

A house isn’t wrong, saving isn’t wrong but so often we talk all this great talk about living the life Jesus called us to. We even talk about how hard it should be.

But we keep going back to a life that’s not that hard. Not full of sacrifice and love and grace for others. Just full of more reasons why we can’t and quiet hopes that Jesus wouldn’t really ask you to give this up.

He wouldn’t really ask for everything, it’s just something we say right?

Like the prayers we just say, He didn’t really mean it right?

He did.

My point isn’t to shame or guilt you into change. I hope that’s not what you see here. My point is for you to reflect. To be honest with where you’re at when it comes to the life Jesus called you to. Maybe you’re not ready, maybe you’re not sure this is really where you want to go. That’s fine. Maybe this is the time you finally make the change. That’s great too.

It’s about being honest with where you’re at and honest with God. Honest with how far you’re willing to go at this point. Honest about what’s really Gods. Honest about how much you really want to give up and what small step you’re ready for.

And maybe you’ll be a little more careful next time you sing a declaration or repeat back a prayer that you have no intention of fulfilling.

Because you’re not just lying to yourself are you?  I’m not just lying to myself am I?

marked

I’m up late.

I’ve always been a person who likes to stay up late. If left to my own devices I would stay up until 2am every day. I don’t because I’d also like to get up at 10am every day. That was my schedule when I went to university.  Two kids make that kind of hard.

That and my work expects me to show up.

But with Quinn I’m up late again. I’ve got time.

Time is one of those things no one ever has. At least that’s what we tell everyone. There’s some kind of a stigma I think if you’re not super busy. If you tell people you’ve got all kinds of time they start to wonder.

We are supposed to be busy.

I’m not going to get into if that’s the way of compassionate living or not. That’s for Wednesday, we’ll talk about begin busy.

Today I’m interested in how we use or time, busy or not.

I’ve now got more free time. It’s not totally free. I’m watching Quinn who may be up, may need to feed, may need to be changed, etc. But when he’s sleeping as long as I keep him with me my time is rather open.

And with it I watch a whole bunch of terrible movies and internet videos of people playing video games. I’m not even playing video games anymore, I’m watching people play video games. Some times at 1:30 in the morning I ask myself what I’m doing with my life.

I was talking with my wife about some of the programs that we run here at the community centre I manage. We have a big Muslim population in our community and she asked about what we do for those members of our community. It’s tough for us. A large portion of the community we serve is Muslim but a large portion of that community spend hours a day studying the Quran.

And I watch people play video games.

It’s not that cut and dry, or maybe it is, I’m not sure. Maybe it would be easier if there was a discrete activity that I was to engage in for a finite amount of time every day. If it was as simple as “Read your bible for 1 hour, pray for 30 minutes and sing worship songs for 30 minutes to be a good Christian” I think I could nail that.

But that’s not how it is.

We are called to live lives marked by love and grace. They will know us by our love.

And that’s why this space is here. How do we live so that instead of finding 2 or 3 hours a day to make myself a “good Christian” I live every hour as a person who is marked by and constantly exuding love? How do  love so deeply and so frequently that people want to know why and how I can live like this so I can say “because I’m a disciple of Jesus and this is how we’re called to live and it’s a deeper and fuller life than the life I had before.”

So I hope to use more of that time to become a better disciple which will help me to live a life of love that will exude out of me. My time becoming a better disciple will include praying and reading my bible as well as find ways to love and be in relationship.

And if all goes well in some of those relationships I’ll be able to make more disciples.

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.

you’re already broken

I’m not trying to make you depressed, I’m saying you already are depressed. – Peter Rollins paraphrasing Kierkegaard

I was thinking the other day about brokenness.

I do this a lot.

I was thinking about community and how we can have community that allows for brokenness. I was thinking about it because I think, to be blunt, the communities most of us are a part of and have built are unable to connect with those who are overtly broken.

And it has nothing to do with them. It’s alllllllll us.

I was sitting in home church and it was the time of the night where we ask for pray requests.

Silence.

This was a room of 6 adult men, mature Christians, and there was nothing. To me this is the problem that our communities face when we invite in people with overt brokenness. We are so good at hiding our damage that 6 of us can sit in a room and say with our silence “I’m good.”

I am not good, I’m broken.

I think as church folk we’ve been taught to hide our brokenness because our happiness and our completeness ties directly to how well we know God.

If we are a good Christian we will be whole and complete, so when we say we are broken we are saying “I’m a bad Christian” or “I don’t know God”.

Think about it. Look at the songs you sing at church. God is great, God saves, God fixes, etc. So if you have been in community for years and are still not great, saved, fixed, etc. then you must not know God.

So we hide.

But what does that mean for someone overtly broken?

My dad was disabled. He walked with crutches, then a wheel chair. He was in constant pain. He couldn’t hide it. His brokenness was out there for everyone to see and I guarantee that’s part of why he connected so well with people as a pastor. There was not façade or mask. You could go and share your brokenness because you knew he understood.

For me that’s what our relationships and community need to look like. Open about our struggles, sharing our brokenness so that the people we are in relationship with can share theirs. Setting the precedent that you’re not perfect and your life is messy so that other will feel safe inviting you into their messy lives. Give space for those who feel like they can’t hide their brokenness to connect and feel like they aren’t the only one whose life isn’t perfect.

This starts with us. It’s long beyond time we stop hiding and saying everything is ok. Your already broken, it’s just a matter of how long you want to run from it.